Smile (2022)

Written and Directed by Parker Finn
Temple Hill Entertainment

Don’t misconstrue what I’m about to say – but this film was kind of a letdown. See, it has one of the most effective and audacious pre-title sequences of anything I’ve seen any time recently (or ever), the kind that left me babbling aloud incoherently. If the entirety could somehow have sustained that, well, it would’ve been an all-timer. It couldn’t, of course, and so it isn’t, but regardless of its well-noted weaknesses, this picture remains an effective and intense depiction of one woman’s deteriorating mental space (and relationships, and existence). That there were many possibilities for what direction this production could have gone added to its impact, even if the route it chose was less than satisfying … though that’s open to interpretation, befitting the story. Feel free to ascribe to it your preferred symbolic framework.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I saw a commercial for it – you know, with the creepy woman. That’s all it took. Sometimes I’m an easy sell.


Should You Watch This MOvie?

Those who are less forgiving than me may find it too derivative at times, or too predictable at others, and yes, it leans very heavily on jump scares. (Despite all that, it sustained my interest.)

HIghlight and Low Point

I don’t think it’s out of the question that this pic could be read as being all in its protagonist’s mind – and indeed, it seems as though the filmmaker wants to encourage that suspicion with his prolific use of skewed or inverted camera angles. (Upside down equaling CRAZEE, etc.) The main character’s name is “Rose,” and when she finally meets the EVIL in its penultimate form, it looks a lot like “Marilyn Manson.” You can call that a coincidence, sure.

Rating From Outer Space: B−

Halloween Ends (2022)

Directed by David Gordon Green
Trancas International Films/Rough House Pictures/Universal Pictures/Miramax/Blumhouse

You remember in the remake of Friday the 13th how Jason had that underground lair? Well, Mikey Myers sorta has one of those in this idiotic picture, which additionally curries some Final Chapter/New Beginning zest. Which I guess is fitting, since this rebooted trilogy tried so hard to make “Michael” into J. Voorhees anyway. Most of Jamie Lee Curtis’s scenes are borderline unwatchable in this edition – allegedly the last of these, so we don’t have to pretend we’re interested anymore – and the voiceover narration of her (terrible) “book” is embarrassing. (Her minimal interactions with other cast members seem largely perfunctory as well.) Even for an endeavor that at best was going to be derivative and pandering, this release feels insipid, just one pat scene after another. And as usual, if you bother to think about any of it, it only gets dumber.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Title, date, obstinacy.

 
Should You Watch This MOvie?

The afternoon of the 31st, I listened to the Dead Kennedys album Plastic Surgery Disasters, in tribute to recently deceased drummer D.H. Peligro, because it contains the song “Halloween.” Coincidentally, a bar-party scene in this film features the two main characters dancing to that very same song.

Highlight and Low Point

I presume the (FOUR!) “writers” didn’t intend any anti-bullying message, especially given the namby-pamby transference BS they include. Reconfiguring the whole conceit of “The Shape” may be a halfway decent idea, or it just may be my transposition of their muddle. That Mike is something of an enfeebled afterthought here could be considered incisive commentary on the bogeyman-as-cipher … but isn’t played that way. The bottom line remains: no matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.

Rating From Outer Space: D−

They/Them (2022)

Written And Directed By John Logan
Bh/Desert Wolf

You know, if you’re a horror movie kinda person, you might make some general allowances for films made in your preferred idiom. For example, imagine, oh, I don’t know … maybe a “slasher” flick that takes place at … oh, let’s say a “camp.” With such a familiar setup, you therefore might reasonably expect certain motifs, themes, tropes, what-have-you. And when all the stuff you more or less expect happens, it’s more or less what you’re willing to accept.

Except familiarity breeds contempt, and in this made-for-TV “Peacock original,” there are multiple problems. After the not-unforeseeable reveal is, well, revealed, it just doesn’t pass muster, a literally unbelievable gaffe that’s a disastrous last choice for Their underwhelming genre attempt.

I had higher hopes for this picture. I did appreciate the mild pronoun joke (poorly aped just above). And though I’ll grant that one must start somewhere in working out how to approach broadening the scope of flicks like these, this attempt mainly just shoehorns orientation/gender topics into an unimaginative template. I began this piece by pointing out my willingness to play along, but – ironically enough – this production mainly comes across like it’s not sure what it really wants to be.

Uninspired even by stock horror standards, it feels as though it was written around its cliché bonding moment – a musical number.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

In another review, I suggested a “slasher movie where the trans character breaks the usual archetype,” and imagined that potential addressed here.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Spoiler alert: It doesn’t come close, but one character (“Jordan”) takes a tentative step.


Highlight and Low Point

HEY DIDJA KNOW THE TITLE’S PRONOUNCED “THEY SLASH THEM”


That attempted witticism’s not even an accurate synopsis!

Rating From OUter SPace: D+

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022)

Directed by David Blue Garcia
Legendary Pictures/Bad Hombre/Exurbia Films

Goddamn, will somebody tell me why they keep making these movies. Battling itself for its first 30 minutes as to whether it preferred to be more inane or more annoying, this mess produced by the once-promising Fedé Alvarez is said to have taken its modernist cues from the ongoing rebooting of Halloween. Sure, I guess “Hey, you know that thing that sucks? Let’s double down on it” is a possible approach one can take, but ideas like that haven’t held as much appeal for me since I quit drinking 10 years ago. But at least there’s a bona fide chainsaw massacre in this one! For about ⅔ of this picture’s mercifully brief running time (barely 75 minutes) I was angry my intelligence was being so demeaned, but then I just started laughing at the idiocy (mine perhaps included). This is a deeply stupid and lazy undertaking, and really tips its cap to its inspiration by giving ol’ Leatherface a Voorhees factor of at least 40. Way to go?

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I didn’t even know this garbage existed until my brother asked me about it on NFL Football Championship Sunday. Then I unwisely looked into it.

Should You Watch This Movie?

This film proudly trumpets that it’s been “50 years” since the original events … yet good ol’ Leatherface appears to be barely older than 50 himself. His fountain of youth is not mentioned. And his chainsaw looks fine and is rip-roarin’ ready to go despite … you know what, don’t
even bother.

Highlight and Low Point

“Sally Hardesty” carries around an allegedly old Polaroid of her long-lost chums and brother. The producer claims this storyline can encompass all the rest. Sarah Yarkin and Elsie Fisher are somewhat unconventional leads.

 
Rating From Outer Space:

Scream (2022)

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Spyglass Media Group/Project X/Radio Silence

Half tired and half inspired, this not-a-reboot (wink, wink) is not exactly too clever by half, but its orientation seems to want it to be. An amusing discussion of the good and bad of the modern horror film and the rules involved – you know, all that “Scream” stuff – works well enough, but the endless diatribes connected to the final reveal are tedious – and present one of the most egregious examples of the trope wherein the evildoer(s) just keep talking and talking about their brilliant plan and motives and so on and so on and so on. Scorecard: someone you won’t expect to die does, the identities of the killer aren’t a terribly big surprise (and the movie itself points out that you know there’s more than one), the convoluted ties established between the characters’ roots and pasts and their relationships to the “Stab” franchise probably push past acceptable levels, and yeah … it’s a Scream, what else would you expect.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I mean, I’ve seen the rest of ’em. And a shload of the raft of those that followed in the wake of the original to boot. (My “favorite” was The Faculty, should you be wondering.)


Should You Watch This Movie?

You’ve certainly got your choice of “legacy” titles these days, don’t you.

 
Highlight and Low Point

I don’t wanna spoil nothin’ for ya, but not for the first time in the franchise is it off-putting that “Ghostface” is always the same size no matter who winds up having been portraying “him.” (It especially beggars belief during the hospital confrontation.) Whether the guilty characters actually could have been responsible is another question, but I don’t care enough to investigate.

Rating From Outer Space: C−

Boys From County Hell (2020)

Directed by Chris Baugh
Six Mile Hill/Blinder Films

A vampire yarn … or IS it. Well, yes, only it proposes a mythological Irish malevolence that doesn’t appear to align precisely with ye olde folke tales, but what the hell do I know. At heart – of course – it’s really a fable about family, about fathers and sons and mothers. There’s also a lot of drinking, foul attitudes, and an amusing side story about the forces of progress and who’s in opposition to them and who’s aiding and abetting. In fact, that’s how all the trouble begins. I mean, after two buddies have a drunken fight in front of a locally legendary cairn. The relationships between the friends and family members are coarse, rude, and revealing. And as usual, I couldn’t decipher some of the dialogue through the brogue.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Hey, let’s see how many times I have to replace this embedded video!

(Sometimes, it’s just that simple.)

Should You Watch This Movie?

You know, it has come to my attention that some folks don’t particularly LIKE horror comedies … but as for me, I usually do, and as I’ve pointed out before, I also usually seem to enjoy Irish pictures as well. Is this flick groundbreaking? Aside from some of the onscreen action, no. It’s a mildly suspenseful diversion.

Highlight and Low Point

It’s nice to have a new perspective on vampirism, even if the creature itself ends up being somewhat more bark than bite, so to speak. Slapstick elements briefly threaten to become overwhelming, and the tearjerker motifs don’t pack quite enough heft. I might have preferred a little more attention be paid to the underlying theme of unwelcome development, but that probably would’ve put too much of a damper on things.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Directed by Jason Reitman
Columbia Pictures/Bron Creative/The Montecito Picture Company

Okay, I swear to Gozer the Gozerian that I was all set to praise this feature’s overbearing multiculturalism in a smarmy, backhanded manner, by snarking that it was a shame they couldn’t find a way to shoehorn a trans character into the mix, because that would have been the ultimate triumph of this era/age … but after I watched it, I found out that Celeste O’Connor, the performer portraying Finn Wolfhard’s (nonwhite) potential love interest, identifies as non-binary, so scratch that – Afterlife wins after all. Oh, and it’s acceptable as a movie, too, despite – as noted elsewhere – basically devolving into a reprise of the original, and despite its suspicious paucity of, you know, ghosts. Plus, since I don’t pay much careful attention to entertainment media, I was surprised when Ray, Peter and Winston showed up to do battle. (That was far from the worst “franchise”-related pandering the producers did, but more on that in a bit.)

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Man, I was 11 when the original came out. It was an immense cultural phenomenon (as noted by this flick’s script, which treats it like documentary footage).


Should You Watch This Movie?

It’s better than Ghostbusters II. Make of that what you will.


Highlight and Low Point

Seriously, the fan service herein reaches the point where it ceases to be evocative of actual audience identification and instead seemingly exists only to assure said audience that fan service is included in the package. It’s not as incestuous as the Spider-Man ouroboros (or that of Star Wars) … but this is just one picture. As for inclusion, Spengler’s granddaughter is depicted as being “on the spectrum.” Meanwhile, the Asian stererotype kid’s only given name is “Podcast.” That’s progress.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Claw (2021)

Directed by Gerald Rascionato
Just ONE More Productions/The Adventurers Club/Exit Strategy Productions

A tough offering to judge, given its brevity (barely over an hour) and its clear, uh … evolution … as a minimally cast mini-feature – by which I mean, normally I’d presume such choices were made to keep costs low, but there’s a lotta FX necessitated by the plot, which I can’t imagine being all that cheap. They don’t look particularly cheap, you dig, and I am ordinarily no fan whatsoever of CGI and its affiliated chintz. Overall, this is a fairly impressive featurette, with the strongest evidence of its “highly independent” …  nature … being the dialogue too often presenting as just exactly that. (A script being performed, that is, rather than the output of naturally occurring conversation.) And as you may have guessed from my lame hints – or if you’ve seen the trailer or any of the promotional materials, such as the poster pictured here – this film is centered around a large, dangerous creature that is not exactly appropriately situated in a modern setting.

Okay, fine, it’s a dinosaur.


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

The trailer executed its function well, apparently.



Should you Watch This Movie?

You’ve probably got a spare hour or so.


Highlight and Low Point

This film’s biggest drawback was that I found myself thinking, “you know, there’s only three or four people in this to save money for the FX” and so forth. Granted, that didn’t exactly take me out of the moment or anything – it’s not as though reality was at issue. Characters and raptor alike are cleverly envisioned and deftly handled, and the endeavor succeeds without gore, nudity or crudity. That’s pretty remarkable, honestly. What appears to be a very amateurish false ending leads to a slightly predictable conclusion.

Rating From Outer Space: B+

Black Friday (2021)

Directed by Casey Tebo
MFW Manufacturing/Warner Davis Company

I selected this picture because it figured to be light entertainment, and because it was appropriately holiday-themed … and when you set your aim that low, it isn’t hard to hit your target. I mean, presuming the target is also low – which in this case, it was. Laid-back for the most part – I mean, considering it concerns devastating destruction visited upon a toy store – and somewhat reminiscent of The Banana Splits Movie, it doesn’t feature anything visceral enough to make it too interesting. It isn’t particularly scary, or bloody, or funny, despite the presence of Bruce Campbell as a retail lifer. I guess if anything is supposed to be its calling card, it’s the “revelatory” exchange of personal information among staffers deciding how to cope with their situation. Ironically – given the tension among the employees and the setting – it does its job. I guess.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

As you may be aware, I relish the opportunity to watch holiday-themed horror flix at their designated times – and I watched this Thanksgiving week, despite my tardiness in posting this review. It’s been a time, I’ll just say. (Just for the record, I wrote the entry for Halloween Kills on October 17.)

Should you Watch This Movie?

I mean, there aren’t a lotta Thanksgiving-centered horrors.


Highlight and Low Point

Does ripping off the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man count as a highlight? Here’s the deal: this picture isn’t terrible, but the best thing I can say about it is that it’s suitable for those occasions where you don’t want to be too engaged in anything. It’s just sorta there, and once again I find myself wondering how anyone decided it was worth the effort to produce something with such little resonance.

Rating From Outer Space: D+

Halloween Kills (2021)

Directed by David Gordon Green
BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS/MIRAMAX/TRANCAS INTERNATIONAL FILMS/ROUGH HOUSE PICTURES/Home Again Productions

I don’t really have anything positive to say about this picture, so let’s go ahead and make that one fact nice and sparkling clear. What I have, instead, is what may pass for a philosophical question, especially within the realm of a blog dedicated to horror flicks. See, as you may remember, the most recent reboot of this hoary franchise reestablished what constitutes “canon” from amongst the many, many different films that have borne the titular holiday’s name. Thus, in essence, THIS chapter is now part 3, supplanting “Season of the Witch” – which, of course, never fit the storyline as imagined beginning with the first “Halloween II,” a storyline which continued in Halloweens 4 and 5, and on into installments 6 (“The Curse of Michael Myers”), 7 (“H20”) and 8 (“Resurrection”). Now, none of those movies are supposed to count any longer, and yet, in the eternal name of fan service, this flick is littered with flashbacks and referents to … most of them, apparently. You figure out what that’s supposed to “mean,” especially in the context of yet another unimaginative rendition of a generic slasher, one whose most notable accomplishment is transmogrifying “Michael Myers” almost completely into “Jason Voorhees.” Almost makes one want to reconsider Rob Zombie’s take on the reboot-sequel thing. (Almost.)


Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Desperation to procrastinate.



Should You Watch This MOvie?

Don’t be foolish.


Highlight and Low Point

That “philosophical question” I alluded to earlier is, basically, how can one invoke that which has been officially erased? Shouldn’t that negate the existence of this very production? (Judging by the results, it does!) Another variant: why bother rebooting something if you’re just going to make it worse, and stupider besides? What’s to gain?

Rating From Outer Space: D−