Darlin’ (2019)

written & directed by pollyanna mcintosh
hood river entertainment

Oh, man, THIS is why sequels have such a bad reputation. Wilfully destroying the disturbing mythos and gripping power of Offspring and The Woman (not to mention Off Season, the Jack Ketchum novel that started the series), Darlin’ is a dispiritingly transparent and simplistic reexamination of some of the same themes as Lucky McKee‘s “Woman,” only without much of anything to recommend it in any way. Oddly, it was created and helmed by Pollyanna McIntosh, who one would presume to have more of an investment in extending the character’s draw. Poorly conceived, unconvincingly executed, predictable, and incongruously sentimental, I am really at a loss as to why on earth this movie was produced.

why did i watch this movie?

I‘m a sucker. for some reason thought a follow-up to The Woman would be a fascinating study of the ongoing attempts of primitive cannibals to survive in modern society, plus who hasn’t pondered how former members of that society might adapt to devolution in the aftermath of all they’d experienced?

should you watch this movie?

It does not address any of the above concerns.

highlight and low point

The word that springs to mind for this film’s treatment of religious institutions and the priesthood is “facile.” It’s maddeningly stereotypical, and the main target is two-dimensional and untrustworthy from his first moments onscreen. Also, the only sympathetic male character is gay, just in case you were somehow missing the incisive social commentary. Such lack of nuance really detracts from whatever the hell the point is supposed to be. Furthermore, the structure of the film very closely parallels that of The Woman, only with an extremely dubious subtheme of awakening or self-reliance or self-preservation or some such. Ridiculous.

rating from outer space: d−

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

written and directed by christopher landon
blumhouse productions

Okay, so, many/most of the same characters from the initial offering appear in this chapter because it reprises some key events, and increases the ramifications of the whole time warp thing. With a clever twist, of course. But in the tradition of sequels, it’s ramped up to service an unforeseen plot development, this time with dialogue noting storyline similarities to Back To the Future Part II. If that sounds dismal, you may be heartened to learn that it basically works despite those compromising factors, though I’m not sure it qualifies as “horror.” A little uneven, a little convoluted, and possibly a little too long, but the first half or so is good enough to make it worthwhile.

why did i watch this movie?

Its existence bade me rethink skipping the first one.

should you watch this movie?

As mentioned, it’s less frights, more Doc-n-Marty than the original.

highlight and low point

SO, this picture cost around 9 million USD to make, and has grossed at least 64 million USD to date … which considerably dampened studio interest (read: Jason Blum) in producing another. (Think about that the next time you watch some big-budget piece of absolute garbage from Hollywood.) Anyway, the biggest issue this flick has besides general superfluity is that it gives short shrift to what is a fairly important topic, that of the so-called “butterfly effect.” See, it becomes kind of a thorny problem to figure out why only certain details change when Tree is otherwise allegedly reliving the same day over and over again. That concept is introduced and then immediately forgotten for the rest of the film. Personally, I vote for a third part to be made – as a bleak existentialist drama. Take that, profitability.

rating from outer space: b−

Happy Death Day (2017)

directed by christopher landon
blumhouse productions

Yeah, I didn’t go into this flick expecting a lighthearted feel-good romcom, but that’s kinda what’s wrapped up somewhere in its gooey, nougat-filled center … along with a whole lotta other stuff. If that sounds unduly negative, I apologize, but this film really has a little bit of everything in it. And of course it’s self-aware enough to note explicitly that its storyline sounds a whole lot like that of Groundhog Day, saving me the trouble of having to point it out. (Personally, I didn’t make it through the latter picture. Maybe it needed some slasher scenes.) Social conscience, coming-of-age, inclusion, check check check. This is one proudly progressive kill-crazy fright flick, I tells ya. I am extremely discomfited to note that the sequel contains many of the same characters (some of whom should, finally, have been dispatched).

why did i watch this movie?

I had no intention of eyeballing this production until its sequel appeared and I noticed this one had gotten a lot of positive ink.

should you watch this movie?

The whole “Groundhog Day” aspect may nag at you a bit, but as I note, they (eventually) address that. Not your traditional horror, but worth it in my esteemed opinion.

highlight and low point

The humorous touches are well played, and the main character’s wavering demeanor deteriorates nicely as events continue to recur. Of course, I enjoyed greatly that the dorm wall we see most often proudly displays posters from not only They Live but Repo Man (and Back To The Future Part II, but just ignore that for the nonce). The mass-produced-mask-wearing killer isn’t the most original concept, but I’m not altogether sure it’s not intended for meta effect. Attention to detail is laudatory.

rating from outer space: B+

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

written and directed by jim jarmusch
animal kingdom/film i väst

When I heard about this one, my initial reaction was, “Why’s Jarmusch doing a zombie picture?” Then I remembered that prior to Paterson, his most recent non-documentary project (which reminds me, I wanted to see that), he made a vampire film. (“Only Lovers Left Alive.”) So maybe he’s on some sorta retro monster kick, or maybe he’s Tarantinoing his way through vanity projects. Whatever (maaaan) the case, this likable but lightweight romp appears to be a Statement film, and it becomes a bit explicit toward that end as it approaches its finale, largely thanks to Tom Waits’s expository. It also refers to the existence of its own script (or lack therof), flogs Sturgill Simpson’s title track, links Adam Driver’s character to Star Wars, and of course mentions Cleveland. Bill Murray is better in this than he was in Dead Flowers, as if that means anything.

why did i watch this movie?

Jim Jarmusch has made some damn good movies. I’m partial to Down By Law and Dead Man myself.

should you watch this movie?

It’s quite amusing throughout, but it’s kind of a trifle, to be forthright.

highlight and low point

Well, Larry Fessenden‘s in it, and I got a kick out of that, and RZA’s entrance is priceless. Honestly, though, a lot of this feature feels pretty lazy, and few of the characters are given much of any chance to establish themselves. The basic premise is a good one for anyone who believes in Science, but the analysis of the zombies’ behavior becomes a little too obvious. The dialogue writing is mostly sharp, though, and the cops play their parts with aplomb. A deus ex machina, meanwhile, is out of this world.

rating from outer space: B-

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

written and directed by lucky mckee and chris sivertson
modernciné

Though troublesome in several ways – thematically, I mean – this unforeseen remake of the mostly unseen original kicks off with panache and fairly quickly vaults to a highly entertaining level before coming back to ground somewhat. But even as it slips gears a bit, it also manages to generate more tension than expected, deftly melding its comedic and horrific elements (mostly, anyway). Built on the framework of the earlier edition, it improves on the formula not only by dint of its professional production values, but also by revamping the script to make it less derivative. A worthy part of the McKee-Sivertson film family, definitely.

why did i watch this movie?

Look, man, I like most of McKee’s stuff, all right? Plus I had read good stuff about it.

should you watch this movie?

It’s a little slick, and carries a bit of the ’90s meta horror vibe, and I suppose that may dissuade some of you.

highlight and low point

The witchcraft angle in this version is a lot more front-and-center than in the first take; one of the characters is an out-and-proud witch, and that works well for both the high-school setting and a nice moment of self-actualization later in the picture. It also adds not a little fun ‘n’ games to the mix. The interplay between the cheerleaders is also entertaining, although the sapphic teensploitation is dubious, to say the least. The film also eventually touches on the uncomfortable topic of acquaintance rape, after having portrayed male-on-female battery and indicting a willful cultural ignorance of its import. (Remember, folks, this is a horror comedy!) The closing credits play over a hodgepodge of tunes, as they did in the premier version.

rating from outer space: B

hmmm … or IS it

Matriarch (2018)

written and directed by scott vickers
new light films

For a picture with nary an original idea, this production set in Scotland ended up being a taut, gripping, well-paced story, with a twist here and there – some interesting, some incredulous, and some superfluous – to differentiate it from the pack … slightly. Overall, however, very little happens in this flick that you haven’t experienced before, except for maybe the nearly impenetrable Scotch accents of a pair of extremely minor characters. (Seriously, I could have used English subtitles for their dialogue.) On the plus side, it’s very well filmed, acted and directed and all that. But c’mon, this is the synopsis: “An expecting mother and husband crash their car in the countryside and are offered shelter by a farmer and his wife. Soon they realize,” etc. I suppose the intense Christianity of the rural family qualifies as an innovative attempt, but let’s face it, twisting the orientation and bearing of religions and the religious isn’t exactly a brand-new concept for a horror movie, either.

why did i watch this movie?

Well, it didn’t seem to involve demonic possession, so that was a plus.

should you watch this movie?

I mean … it has its moments, but it just kinda follows the template, really.

highlight and low point

a tense and gripping scene

The isolated family is very effectively creepy, particularly the taciturn father played by Alan Cuthbert, who expresses malevolence with naught but his baleful silence at times. What could have been an overwhelmingly terrifying sequence was mostly spoiled by a dire lack of acceptable realism, however, and what may have been intended as a SHOCKING twist at the conclusion just falls flat. One minor unexpected revelation manages to be humorously chilling, and the dismal ambience is effectively sustained.

rating from outer space: B

Pet Sematary (2019)

directed by kevin KÖlsch & Dennis widmyer
di bonaventura pictures

To its credit, here are some things this unbidden remake of an unloved movie doesn’t contain:

Song-and-dance routines
Postmodernism
Dragons
Folksy narration
Superheroes
A blaring “modern rock” soundtrack
Auto-Tune

That it also lacks any explanation for its existence is unimportant, since isn’t that the linchpin of the plot? The … CEMETERY PLOT? (creepy laugh)

Seriously, I have no idea why someone filmed “STEPHEN KING’S TERRIFYING NOVEL” again or why they made some of the choices they made in revising key elements (and some trivial ones as well, which is just odd). The exposition is rushed, the backstory truncated, and the voiceovers ridiculous. But credit where it’s due: once the dead little girl shows up, she’s really spooky. Altogether, however, it kinda feels as though someone had the idea for the final quarter of this flick, only to realize they’d have to adapt it to the existing framework. Is it “better” than the first go-round, probably. Is that any sort of quality claim, well …

No.

why did i watch this movie?

I had no intention of seeing this, but its schlock-ridden FINAL TRAILER defeated me. (Had I known its helmsmen also made 2014’s Starry Eyes, I woulda been interested much earlier. And greatly disappointed.)

should you watch this movie?

Hundreds of movies have yet to be made from heretofore unfilmed S. King output, and pix made from presumably original stories also abound.

highlight and low point

This flick is almost completely worthless until the dead little girl comes home. Then it’s not that bad, especially when she hints at an unimagined diabolical secret. The last scene is also pretty twisted. But extraneous distractions abound, some amateur touches provoke laughter instead of frisson, and the penultimate scene is largely shameful.

rating from outer space: D+