The New Mutants (2020)

Directed by Josh Boone [Other horror films: N/A]

Filmed in 2017 but not released until 2020, The New Mutants had a somewhat troubled production, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I loved pretty much every second of it, and as a fan of the 80’s comics this film is based on, I’ll go in depth as to exactly why and how I enjoyed this so much.

I don’t own all one hundred issues of the original run of The New Mutants, but I do own quite a lot of them (at the time of this writing, I just bought another issue off eBay to help fill in a gap), and I’m very familiar with the characters of this movie. I 100% expected to be overly critical of different aspects or missed opportunities, but I was so pleasantly surprised with virtually all of this that such negativity won’t happen.

Generally, I’m not the type to squee. Nothing against squeeing, it’s just not me. But I squeed a lot in this movie. That opening with the unseen growling – I knew instantly we’d get some Demon Bear action (and I was not at all disappointed come the ending). Then that Lockheed hand-puppet. Then some Limbo. Sam’s accurate accent. Comic-based origins all around. Illyana’s fantastic reply to “It’s magic,” as she says, “So am I.”

OH MY GOD IT’S SO GOOD

And it doesn’t end there, because we got a fantastic reveal about an hour in that I loved, and we got to see Illyana and Lockheed (IN THE FLESH!!!!!!!!!!!) kick some Demon Bear ass and Wolfsbane going badass on that bitch Reyes and Roberto’s and Sam’s friendship.

Absolutely. Loved. It.

I will now talk about each of the five central characters and why they rocked.

Dani Moonstar (Mirage) was never a favorite of mine from the comic books (primarily because I thought most of the other New Mutants tended to be more interesting), but I think that Blu Hunt did fantastic with the character. Her growing relationship with Rahne was cute, and watching her come to confront her fears toward the end was oddly inspiring, soothing the Demon Bear into submission with confidence unforetold by humanity. A+.

A favorite of mine from the comics is Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), who was younger than all the other New Mutants and had a lot of religious baggage due to her upbringing. Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) does fantastic with her character, and while the same-sex attraction (which wasn’t present in the comics) threw me off, I really think it helped flesh out her character. Also, that accent. Loved it. A+.

From The VVitch, we get Anya Taylor-Joy, playing Illyana. Making her the cold bitch was an interesting choice, but story-wise, it makes sense, especially given her comic book history and time spent in Limbo. Those Smiling Men were a new addition as far as I am aware, but they were creepy, so no complaints. Magik (as Illyana is sometimes known as) isn’t a character I often focus on in the comics (though her friendship with Kitty, or Shadowcat, always warmed the heart), but she was done great here, and Taylor-Joy was fantastic.

And that line? I’ll set it up and repeat it, because life isn’t often filled with such pleasures:

“Are you crazy, that thing will kill you,” Sam shouts out.

“He’s right, it’s magic,” Rahne passionately agrees.

With supreme confidence, Illyana replies, “So am I.”

Quality dialogue from the film

Fuck. Yeah. A+.

Lockheed didn’t get much screen-time, but as both a puppet and a living being, he was cute, and I’ve always loved him in the comics. Loved how his eyes matched Illyana’s at the end – just heart-warming.

Roberto da Costa (Sunspot) was cast fantastically as Henry Zaga. I don’t know who Henry Zaga is – just heard his name for the first time tonight – but he got down Sunspot’s characteristics as accurately as one could. The CGI with his mutant power was a bit off at times, and I would like to think the design could have been done more comic-accurate, but regardless, Zaga was great here. A+.

Charlie Heaton played Sam Guthrie (Cannonball), the Kentucky-born coal miner. Heaton himself was born in the United Kingdom. I literally couldn’t tell. Fantastic job with the Kentucky accent (because let’s be honest – Cannonball without his accent is Wolverine without his healing abilities and claws), and his rather depressing background was done fantastically, as were most things regarding the characters in this film.

Cecilia Reyes was never a big comic book character – I have a handful of her appearances in the late 1990’s – so she was an interesting choice to be the doctor overseeing the New Mutants, and I think that Alice Braga did great. I didn’t know where her story was going, so it was definitely interesting to see what they came up with, and though it potentially does a disservice to Reyes’ comic counterpart, I thought it was quite satisfactory.

While watching the credits (and confirming that Sienkiewicz was rightfully credited for his obvious contributions), I saw that Williams, Heaton, and Taylor-Joy had dialect coaches, and I think that’s a big reason why their characters felt so authentic to their comic book counterparts.

Williams’ dialect coach was Jan Haydn Rowles, and helped her achieve a quality Scottish accent (Williams herself was born in Bristol). Heaton’s Kentucky accent was assisted by Jamison Bryant, and for Taylor-Joy’s Russian accent, we have Howard Samuelsohn to thank. These three gave this movie a lot, and I think they’ll probably be overlooked, so I definitely wanted to give them a mention.

Now, for a horror movie review, I haven’t spoken about the horror aspects at all. It could fairly be said that some of the more tense and spooky scenes here were run-of-the-mill or, at the very least, merely passable. Personally, that didn’t bother me, as I thought that, while some of the CGI was a bit much at times (maybe the Demon Bear finale or the Smiling Men), it was good enough as to not detract from the story being told, and as I was engrossed already, the fact that some of the horror aspects weren’t as good didn’t matter in the slightest.

The New Mutants has gotten primarily lukewarm reviews. I get it. It’s not a movie for everyone, and I can sense that some were definitely disappointed. I wasn’t at all expecting much myself, and watched this more out of interest than anything else (I haven’t seen an X-Men movie since I stopped First Class a third of the way through due to my frustration with that movie), so when it turned out that this was a new-age classic, I was more surprised than anyone.

Ratings are about how movies made you feel, and this movie made me feel happy. I love the New Mutants comic books of the 1980’s (even the issues that weren’t as good still had those characters you’ve grown attached to in order to offset the less-than-enjoyable story arcs), and that love translated here in a way I never would have expected, but I stand by it.

10/10

I Think We’re Alone Now (2020)

Directed by Jt Kris [Other horror films: N/A]

This is perhaps one of the most mind-numbingly horrible experiences I have had in my life. I mean, I am no stranger whatsoever when it comes to amateur horror movies, but this has got to take the cake, and every other imaginable pastry.

The plot of this one is simple – a mother and daughter are driving on a forested road. There’s a car on the side of the road, so the mother gets out to investigate. The mother get her throat slit by a mysterious masked man. The man then proceeds to chase the little girl. And chase her. And chase her.

I just took a deep breath, because I’m already frustrated. Most of this movie is a little girl running through a forest, sometimes finding a new place to hide (be it the ruins of a cabin or an old barn), and then the mysterious assailant finding her. The girl sometimes screams, and then runs away again. And the guy finds her. Sometimes there’s another person around (a man walking his dog, an old woman driving by, some drunk in a trailer), but these are all distractions, as none of them amount to anything, and the man is back to chasing the girl.

We never find out who this man is. Toward the end, the little girl pulls his mask off and screams, but she’s probably just screaming because that’s what she does for a good portion of the film. Truth be told, I felt bad for this girl (Junie Liv Thomasson), because while she’s not a great child actress (she looks into the camera a handful of times), she still has to submerge herself in water and sustain herself off stale Oreos.

There’s almost no dialogue in this movie. That might be expected, but there you go. Never once does the little girl say “Why are you doing this” or anything along those lines, which I can understand, as she saw him kill her mother, but with almost no dialogue, this movie is just tedious beyond all words.

Oh, and the audio isn’t really in sync. Whether it’s a scene of the guy pounding on a car door with the audio of the door being hit off from when the physical contact is made to the little dialogue there is being delayed a noticeable second from when it’s said, this was amateur hour all day long (so I guess 24 amateur hours).

Camerawork too was something problematic. I don’t have the vocabulary to really explain what’s wrong with it, but it’s not good. There are these little cuts that happen quite often, some random dimming; I don’t even know, it’s just all around awful.

And to top all of this off, this movie was an hour and six minutes. Now, 66 minutes might not sound like that long of a movie, but this definitely feels it’s length and more. Like I said, large swaths of this film have zero dialogue, and the amateur cinematography and out-of-sync audio will just give you a headache, provided you didn’t have one already.

What I can give this movie props for is the music. No, not the movie’s score, which was generally awful, but the songs that pop up in the film. Early on, when I thought this might have potential, A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran (So Far Away)” played for a bit. Also, while I’m not a giant fan of the song, we also heard a little “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies.

Most of all, though, I Think We’re Alone Now utilizes the synthpop song “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany multiple times throughout the film. The killer listens to it in his car as he’s driving after the little girl. Now, I don’t know the song (it’s apparently a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ 1967 hit), but I enjoy 80’s music (why do you think I gave The Strangers: Prey at Night such a high rating?), so it was catchy enough to at least give me something.

Otherwise, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie as amateurly painful as this turned out to be. I mean, this was bad. You think you’ve seen low-budget horror before, and I know I certainly have, but if this isn’t one of the most amateur movies I’ve ever seen in my life, I’ll eat my socks and name myself Jim-Bob.

If you catch this free on Amazon Prime, I’m sorry.

0.5/10

Tokyo Home Stay Massacre (2020)

Directed by Kenta Osaka [Other horror films: N/A] & Hirohito Takimoto [Other horror films: N/A]

This was pretty much an abomination in every way.

For one, much of the movie is in Japanese with hard-coded captions, which is fine. Here’s the embarrassing thing – apparently half the time, whoever made the captions doesn’t know how to use an apostrophe without it causing a glitch in the text. It happened multiple times throughout the movie, and it was just hideously amateur.

But that’s the movie for you. For the first 45 minutes or so, the movie was bad, no doubt about it, but in the final 25 minutes that things take a really terrible turn. The film decides to go all-out, over-the-top comedy, with synchronized Japanese cop twins who use swords and are just 100% too goofy for anything that’s good. There’s blood splatter on the camera, something I’ve always hated. Basically, as soon as one of the characters has a stupid line about having a Green card, what little potential (and I do mean little) this film has goes out the window.

Obviously, they intended to go that stupid zany route at the end. That’s fine. That’s the choice of those involved in the movie. The thing is, while things were a little off at times, that humorous feeling isn’t present until the last third of the film, and for me, that was a very bad turn for the film to make, as that over-the-top goofy idiocy void of anything redeemable isn’t my cup of tea.

Playing the central characters, Alex Deryez, Diana G., and Will Harrell were all pretty bad, Deryez probably being the worst (his acting is legit terrible). Diana G. almost had something interesting going on with her character, but it didn’t really go anywhere, and given the context of the film as a whole, it wouldn’t have mattered if it did. Harrell was semi-respectable, but it doesn’t amount to anything.

Miyatani (who played the oft-exuberant father figure of the house) was sort of fun toward the beginning, and he’s perhaps the most consistent throughout the film, as even toward the end, I can dig what he was doing. Umiyushi (the sister) was under-the-radar and quiet, but okay. Umiyushi (the brother who acted like a rabid dog) was horrible. Kanta Nonaka and Yuuko Kawashima (the synchronized cops) made me want to kill myself.

That said, I almost never blame poor performances for bad movies, and despite how bad some of these performances were, I’m not starting now. Tokyo Home Stay Massacre had potential with some aspects (such as the torture sequences in which a hammer is used to remove teeth and a guy had some toenails pulled out), but they did so much wrong that I honestly just want to forget I gave this a watch.

At the time of this writing, this movie is available free on Tubi. If you’re interested in checking it out because my review can’t properly explain what a mess this movie was, please go ahead, because I just can’t anymore.

0.5/10

Run (2020)

Directed by Aneesh Chaganty [Other horror films: N/A]

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Run – I saw that it had a pretty decent rating (6.7/10 on IMDb as of this writing), and that was enough to get me starting a free trial on Hulu so I could check this out, and you know what? It’s actually quite a well-done film.

Though not perfect, this movie has a lot going for it. Certainly elements here do feel a bit like Misery and films in that vein (though the more personal connections here of the people involved lend to increased emotional scenes), but I think it uses those elements in pretty solid ways, with great dollops of tension and suspense. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a surprise thrown in toward the latter portion of the film.

This is only Kiera Allen’s second role (her first was in a 30-minute drama), which is amazing, as she does a phenomenal job. I won’t say that I loved her character in the final sequence, but I was rooting for her throughout the film, and she brought a lot (easily the most) to Run, and she has a bright future in acting should that be her desire. Fantastic performance.

Sarah Paulson does great too, playing Allen’s mother with, perhaps, a dark secret or two. While at times her performance can feel a bit on the been-there-done-that side, I think she did a great job, especially toward the end when things were spiraling out of control. I don’t know Paulson from many other things, but I did find it amusing that with some of the more popular movies and shows she’s been in, I recognize her best from the political drama Game Change. Lastly, though his role wasn’t large, I appreciated Pat Healy’s (The Innkeepers) role and his character.

As things were building up at the beginning, I thought they did a great job with the uncomfortable and dangerous position Allen’s character was in. The whole thing is all the more terrifying given her character’s medical problems, and that she’d have a harder time fighting back if need be than others may. I think it’s a large credit to Allen’s performance that so much of this movie was compelling.

I wasn’t a giant fan of the end, though. I’m not saying that the final scene isn’t potentially deserved or right, but it just didn’t strike me as satisfying as I otherwise would have liked. Certainly seeing Allen’s character walk through the metal detector was heart-warming, but the rest was sort of ehh.

That aside, though, Run had a lot of things going for it, and while it likely isn’t good enough to be a new-age classic, I do think it’s very much worth the watch, as both the performances and the tension throughout the film combine to make this a pretty solid and quality film.

8.5/10

Star Light (2020)

Directed by Mitchell Altieri [Other horror films: The Hamiltons (2006), April Fool’s Day (2008), The Violent Kind (2010), The Thompsons (2012), Raised by Wolves (2014), A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff (2016), The Night Watchmen (2017)] & Lee Cummings [Other horror films: N/A]

More than anything, I think that Star Light is a film with potential. The production looked quite professional throughout, and plenty of the performances left positive impressions on me. Problematically, though, the story here doesn’t gel with me, and because of that, despite how decent some aspects were, I can’t say this was a good film.

Filmed in Graves County, Kentucky, Star Light looks very nice for the lower-budget it was made on, and I think it’s a damn shame that the story can’t live up to the quality production surrounding it. Even the special effects, while not great, weren’t really that far off from what you might see in Hollywood films, so this isn’t some Michael Taylor Pritt film (which is also a bit of a shame, as his films generally have heart).

Much of the younger cast were decent, with only a few really stand-out performances. Playing the lead, Cameron Johnson didn’t do too shabby. Better was Liana Ramirez, and I wish that her character had been more of a focus than she was (and, on that note, I wish she had a better conclusion). Though his character didn’t amount to much, Garrett Westton had a suave aura about him I appreciated. Chandler Rachelle (in thus far her sole role) did good with a pretty terrible character, and Rahart Adams, while he had his moments, ended up somewhat forgettable.

Hagen Mills didn’t have a big role here, but I did appreciate his character if only because he was the only one that had a noticeable Kentucky accent, and seemed a good ole boy. Apparently Mills died prior to the release of this film at the tragically young age of 29 (I won’t get into the story, but apparently it was suicide after an attempted murder, based on what’s been reported). Regardless, like I said, Mills wasn’t a big focus here, but I did feel the need to mention him.

I don’t doubt that Bret Roberts is a good actor, and I’m sure he was given a very specific character-type to play, but boy, is his performance in this movie somewhat too much. He provides what little comedic elements this film has, and just feels a bit goofy at times. Perhaps of interest to some, Scout Taylor-Compton (of Wicked Little Things, Halloween, and Ghost House) takes a central role, though I can’t say I really get her character, and Tiffany Shepis (Dorm of the Dead and Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula) pops up a bit also.

Even toward the end, there are some things that I’m not understanding. I guess we sort of know the origin of Taylor-Compton’s character (though it’s never really explained well at all at any point, which was a bit annoying), but there’s unanswered questions (such as the nature of that old-woman-beast thingy that appeared-ish in two scenes) and to top that off, a really God-awful conclusion. I don’t know if the antagonists here were mutants, demons, or aliens, and that’s something I’d have liked, at some point, to be clarified, which never happened.

Star Light looked nice, and it really had a quality production, but the story really faltered past the first twenty minutes, which I thought was such a shame. If the story had been tightened up, this might have been a really solid film, but as it stands now, it was just a disappointment. A glossy disappointment, but a disappointment all the same.

5.5/10

The Cattle Farmer (2020)

Directed by Matthew Vincini [Other horror films: N/A]

A somewhat bleak film, The Cattle Farmer struck me as a movie with a decent amount of potential, and while the final product was somewhat palatable, a few things definitely could have been tightened up, and the execution on the story made this one end a bit drab.

The general story isn’t bad, and more so, while it’s not screaming originality, I thought there was a lot to like about how the mystery unfolded, though I’d have liked a few more creepy scenes before we’re presented with the answer. Even the final twenty minutes have a somewhat horrifying vibe to them (which falters somewhat with the execution, but the gist of the situation was definitely dark), though I do think a twist at the end is somewhat weak.

Philip Lombardo (as Gabriel) felt a bit too all over the place at times. No doubt he was a threatening guy (that scene in which he forces Konner to play Russian roulette was a quality case in point), but he felt a little bit ridiculous at times. I wasn’t entirely enthralled with Jake Blakeslee (Konner) either, but that has more to do with where the story took him than is does his performance, which I thought was solid during the finale.

I wish that Hannah Lullo (Astrid) had a bit more to do with things, and I guess more importantly, I felt like her character was misused toward the end, or at least as far as I could tell. Lastly, I wish we found out a bit more about Kathryn Milewski’s character (Claudia), but maybe there wasn’t a good place to throw that information in.

There are definite elements here that needed work, outside of aspects of the story. The audio seemed somewhat iffy at times, which I think had more to do with the delivery of some of the lines as opposed to equipment, but that’s outside of my league. Related, some of the lighting was, well, dark. Some really dim and hard-to-see scenes take place in this film, and especially toward the end when you want a clear-cut image of what’s going on, it can be a bit annoying.

While I do like elements of the movie, such as the darkly somber tone and finale (if they could have extended the suspense they had in the final twenty minutes throughout the whole film, that would have been a treat), The Cattle Farmer felt more like wasted potential than it did a good movie. This still may be worth a look, and I recommend doing so just so you don’t take my word for it, but as for me, it didn’t quite work out.

6/10

Wolfwood (2020)

Directed by Harry Boast [Other horror films: The Hollow World (2018)]

This British found footage film, alas, was a bit of a mess. And to be frank, probably a lot more than a bit.

About forty minutes in, something marginally interesting happens. Up to that point, we, the viewers, are watching along as there’s a lot of awkward attempts at conversation and remaining clueless as to what’s going on.

We know one of these guys (Harry Boast) knows the quiet woman (Rhian Williams), but we don’t really know how, and she doesn’t really seem that interested in interacting with him. Throw in the guy’s friends (James Bryant and Mandy Rose), who don’t know anything about Williams’ character, apparently, and it’s just awkward and boring.

Honestly, the most interesting thing about this film, and interesting is a strong word, is the fact it’s British. And sadly, that stands true as we finally learn a little more as to what’s going on. At the same time, though, while we do learn a few things, a lot of the information is jumbled and confusing.

These werewolves pop up, and I’m not sure if they’re the same thing as the aliens, and if that point of confusion befuddles you, just watch this and see what I mean.

Being a found footage film, a lot of the movie is a shaky camera being dragged along by a guy going through the woods with his increasingly annoying friends. Like, I get why Mandy Rose’s character would be a bit peeved, but she blames Williams’ character before Boast’s, which was just irritating. Also, she apparently trained as a nurse, but has no sympathy for those who self-harm, so that’s just grand.

It’s hard to fully explain how terrible a lot of this was. It wasn’t just that it was dull for a long period of time, or awkward (though it was both of these things) – I’m not one to get nauseated or disoriented during found footage movies, but damned if I wasn’t getting a headache watching this.

Guys, it’s not just one bloke and his camera – we get some cameras that were apparently in Williams’ house, Williams’ cell-phone camera, some highway camera footage (for god knows what reason – would that really be in the scope of a Freedom of Information request that apparently garnered this footage?), and all of this mixed in with a confusing story about werewolves, OCD people who don’t strike me as OCD whatsoever, aliens, and 28-year and 11-year schedules within schedules (dude, I was honestly lost during 90% of that explanation) made for a pretty terrible time.

I don’t place any of the blame on the actors – I think they all did what they could with what they had. Sure, Mandy Rose’s character irked me, and I thought that James Bryant’s character was an idiot for lugging that camera around everywhere (I love how every found footage character that’s a film student has to record everything), but none of that is on the actors or actresses.

Wolfwood had some potential given the British countryside and performances involved, but the story was just messy and confusing. Maybe I’m alone in thinking it felt off, even – certainly if more people see this one and end up liking it, I’ll be okay with admitting I missed something. For now, though, this was a very rough watch. The movie was only 73 minutes, but boy, what a tough 73 minutes that was.

2/10

Clownz R Us (2020)

Directed by Evan M. Philyaw [Other horror films: N/A] & Seth M. Philyaw [Other horror films: N/A]

This found footage film, inspired by the 2016 clown sightings that permeated the country, was a pretty simple movie, though not one without promise. It ran for just 46 minutes, and featured pretty much what you’d expect out of a lower-budget found footage movie. By no means groundbreaking, Clownz R Us still did a serviceable enough job with what they were going for.

And that may sound like faint praise, but it’s not meant to. The story here isn’t that involved, as a bunch of kids are terrorized by three clowns (not unlike Clownhouse, only this is obviously far more unpolished), and they run around the house and yard trying to get to a safe place. There are plenty of spooky clown scenes, some of which actually caused me to jump, but at the same time, there’s nothing particularly innovative here, for whatever that’s worth.

Seeming to star the Philyaw family (all five credited performances appear to be members), the acting was weak. I don’t much hold that against the film, especially given what they were working with, but it could be said that if anything hurt the film, that did.

Certainly there were some story elements that felt off (such as two characters arguing about who should have locked the side-door for half a minute as opposed to quickly locking it as soon as they realized they missed it, or the kids sitting around a dead body in a rather casual manner), but I think a lot of that could probably be hand-waved away as these characters were all pretty young, so of course they may not be the most logical of individuals.

I did enjoy the opening tone, as the film began with news clips from various creepy clown encounters (some of which were definitely creepy), and that set this up well as potential real footage, despite the shabby acting. Still, Evan M. Philyaw was decent as the main character (the one making the video), and I thought that, all things considered, Seth M. Philyaw did pretty well also.

Given the film is only around 45 minutes, it’s not too difficult to get through, and generally keeps a good pace, but I will admit that a few things felt a bit repetitive to me, especially during the frantic scenes in which it was somewhat difficult to tell what was going on (such as the scene in the closet, or any scene in which they were running in the pitch-black outside). Luckily it wasn’t as bad as other found footage films can get (the one that immediately comes to mind is Atrocious, a Spanish film from 2010), but Clownz R Us is not without it’s flaws.

Generally, though, I would say that they did most things right. Nothing here reinvents the wheel, but if you’re looking for an easily-digestible found footage horror movie, this may be worth looking into. It’s not special, and ultimately ends up around average, but I definitely appreciate what they were going for.

7/10

The Invisible Man (2020)

Directed by Leigh Whannell [Other horror films: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Upgrade (2018)]

As soon as I heard this story was being remade, I was pretty interested. The original Universal classic is a favorite of mine, so I was curious as to how such a story could be updated to fit into the modern times, and though I was moderately impressed with this adaptation, it was not enough to see this film as much more than average.

One pretty interesting idea that took me aback (in part, due to it’s simplicity) was the idea that the main character (played by Elisabeth Moss) would be taken as mentally unstable due to her claims that an invisible man was after her. This psychological approach isn’t really present at all in the original, and I thought they did nicely with the idea, and it did lead to some rather tense moments.

Elisabeth Moss (who I know best from her appearances on The West Wing, but she was also in the low-budget outing The Attic) did really solid as a battered yet strong-willed woman, and while I didn’t necessarily love where some of her story went, she did great here. Even better, though, was Aldis Hodge – I don’t know him from anything whatsoever, but he had a calming aura about him that I appreciated throughout the film.

More mixed was Harriet Dyer’s character. I loved how she stood up for her sister for much of the beginning, but once an angry email is sent to her (supposedly by said sister), she entirely shuts Moss’ character out, which just struck me as needlessly vindictive. I mean, I’m pretty sure emails have been hacked in the past, and more to the point, why anyone would think someone would send an email like that and then show up as if nothing happened is just beyond me. Dyer’s character was certainly decent, and she did a good job with that performance (and let’s not forget the rather surprising conclusion to her character), but that little bit of the film did bother me.

Lastly, we have Michael Dorman and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Dorman (previously in Triangle) consistently had that smug attitude that just made you want to punch him, and especially toward the end, you were likely just so done with his character (that scene in the mental hospital especially was just horrible, yet fitting, for him). Jackson-Cohen didn’t get a lot of screen-time, but I definitely felt that, while palatable, he didn’t give anywhere near as memorable a performance as Claude Rains.

And I think that’s the moderately problematic downside of the film. Certainly there were a decent amount of both suspenseful and emotional scenes (in a movie that clocks in at over two hours, including credits, you would hope so), but how many of them were memorable? Maybe that kitchen scene early on, just due to the way it’s filmed. That attic reveal about an hour in, and of course the dinner scene with Moss and her sister. Lastly, maybe the breakout, which was reasonably fun. But that’s not really enough to make the movie great.

I still think this version of The Invisible Man is decent, though. While I think it runs overlong, and some sequences don’t interest me as much (such as going back to the coastal house and finding the invisibility suit), and while the gas lighting aspect was suitable for the story, the whole of the conclusion just didn’t sit entirely right with me (though I don’t judge Moss’ character whatsoever).

Overall, I enjoyed the film. I don’t think it was great, and I honestly don’t think it’ll turn out to be memorable, but it still provided a decent time. Naturally, I prefer the 1933 original, which I find a much more fun and enjoyable time, but this adaptation had solid things going for it. I just pretty much think it broke even with some story issues and it’s unnecessary length.

7/10

The Dinner Party (2020)

Directed by Miles Doleac [Other horror films: Demons (2017), Hallowed Ground (2019)]

I had some qualms going into this one, among them, I admit, the two-hour run-time, but based on what little I knew (and more so, what I anticipated), I thought The Dinner Party could pull out a victory.

That is not what happened whatsoever.

For most part, I found large portions of the movie tediously pretentious. Certainly that may have far more to do with the characters within the film than the style of movie-making in of itself, but regardless, I haven’t seen a film with conversations as pretentious as this possibly ever.

And if you’re wondering what I mean, the set-up is such where a couple is invited to a dinner party with a group of wealthy elitists, who proceed to discuss, with passion, their favorite plays and operas, doling out plots and names that would make most working men cringe. Obviously, these people can enjoy whatever entertainment they desire, but listening to debates over operas felt entirely disengaging, especially as it’s not just a couple of minutes, but goes on for close to forty, and takes up a large part of the beginning.

Among conversations of Puccini’s Tosca (Sebastian’s second-favorite opera) and Verdi’s Rigoletto (apparently a play about the fickleness of women), we also get a rather lengthy (eight minutes total) tarot game in order to decide who gets to pick music. It’s not nearly as fun as it might sound (personally, it doesn’t sound fun to me at all, but different strokes for different folks, I guess), and just adds to the tedious nature of the first half. A five minute conversation about Bluebeard and his wives was okay, and I guess learning about Alban Berg’s Wozzeck was educational, but this type of conversation taking large chunks of time, again, made the film so tedious.

Unfortunately, the second half is little better, though certainly the quota of action is upped, which does prevent the movie from being, as the kids call it, a total borefest. The violence and related special effects aren’t bad – in fact, while lower-budget in some ways, the movie generally looks nice – but the story just doesn’t work. These elitists keep one of the couple alive and proceed to torture them psychologically, which doesn’t really go anywhere, and just becomes generic in it’s approach. There was an okay decapitation, though.

Sure, the movie tries to throw in a surprise or two near the end, much of it regarding Lindsay Anne Williams’ character, but it didn’t really make any impression on me because by the time she goes into her origin, I was probably too far gone to care. Also, I hated the ending, but I guess this movie has consistency in how much I just didn’t give a damn about it. Also, if that cop surprised anyone, I’ll eat sneakers up in this bitch.

I wasn’t really happy with anyone in the cast, but that really has more to do with the pretentious characters they play as opposed to their performances in and of themselves. I guess that Alli Hart does okay as the lead, and certainly both Bill Sage and Miles Doleac have some charm. Sawandi Wilson is just another pretentious douchebag. Mike Mayhall’s controlling character was pretty hateable, so I guess Mayhall did well. Lindsay Anne Williams was eh, and Kamille McCuin, while naked her first time on-screen, didn’t do much for me either.

The story wasn’t without potential – I even liked the small, interspersing scenes of Haley’s background scattered throughout the film, and the second half of the film definitely could have been something worth something, but The Dinner Party didn’t go that route. I mean, I guess the title wasn’t lying – we do get lengthy scenes of a dinner party, so kudos there?

If you like pretentious dinner parties, this movie may be for you. If you want a horror movie of quality, though, while this certainly had decent production value, I’d recommend you perhaps look elsewhere.

4/10