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−

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Directed by Damiano Damiani
Dino De Laurentiis Corporation

Ordinarily I have some inkling of how to start these pieces, but I confess, for this title I am somewhat at a loss. A prequel-of-sorts before such a thing became to a degree de rigueur for the horror film franchise – and not blameless in the rise of the horror film franchise itself, come to think of it – this ridiculous would-be epic shamelessly borrows from its, um, successor while also brazenly aping The Exorcist (or any of its already plentiful ripoffs). Along the way, it manages to toss in some hilarious disrespect to Church figures, the least believable courtroom scene since Night Court The Bonfire of the Vanities, a complicated incestuous relationship between siblings, spousal and child abuse, body horror, schlock FX, a priest kidnapping a patient from a hospital with police assistance, evil voice instructions, an “Indian burial ground,” and nearly everything else you could think of except red herrings and space aliens. An impressive accomplishment, really.

Why Did I Watch This MOvie?

I wish I could recall … something I was reading about another film led me to a synopsis of this one, and it provoked me. Because it sounded so lurid, I should add.


Should You Watch This MOvie?

It plays the way I figure a spoof of the “Scary Movie” ilk would. Fewer laffs, probably.


Highlight and Low Point

In what I can only term a dubiously satisfying twist, this picture’s fairly shameless imitation of possessed-person tropes from William Friedkin’s 1973 original offering is repaid fully by Exorcist III‘s borrowing of this flick’s jailhouse colloquies. Burt Young’s patriarch refers to the priest as “Priest,” as though it’s his name. At times, the house and “Sonny” seem simultaneously bewitched, enhancing the (everything-but-the) kitchen-sink undertakings. Kitchen sink included!

Rating From Outer Space:

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−

Land of the Dead (2005)

Written and Directed by George A. Romero
A Mark Canton-Bernie Goldmann and Romero-Grunwald Production

While I enjoyed this relatively lavish Romero film, by the end it was nagging at me that what I had sat through was more or less an action movie. But then I started thinking about it, and realized that at heart, many zombie pictures basically are. This one, however, includes a ridiculous military vehicle – not to mention paramilitary forces – suitable for a Schwarzenegger flick, as well as a revenge plot against a devious criminal plutocrat. Ah, but the allegorical possibilities abound nearly 20 years after this film’s release. Masses in the cities crowded into hardscrabble Hoovervilles! The rich safely ensconced in their fortresslike tower! The undead inhabitating the vast wastelands that once were civilized! Or would those examples be parabular? Maybe Romero just had the touch of prescience.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Having just finished the initial “Living Dead” trilogy, and having found Day of more interesting than expected, I figured I might’s well tackle the more modern set.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Dunno … gotta watch the other two chapters before I can say. (As a standalone, I’m not sure it rates.)

Highlight and Low Point

The acting’s more convincing in this rendition, certainly as compared to the previous installment. It reminded me that John Leguizamo existed, for one thing … and also reminded me that CBS had a show called The Mentalist that I always thought looked utterly idiotic (and which ran for seven seasons). I suppose it’s intriguing that while the military theme carries over from that underground bunker in Florida, it’s now a private concern. I’d like to know more about how the other uninfected human survivors managed to last long enough to form have/have-not parallel societies.

Rating From Outer Space: C+

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−

Creature aka Titan Find (1985)

Directed by William Malone
Trans World Entertainment

A fairly shameless ripoff/amalgam of Alien and The Thing – I mean, you’ll be thinking this long before one of the characters actually mentions the latter damn movie herself – this picture also has the dubious distinction of being yet another low-budget would-be space epic, hampered at many a turn by the hokey FX, budget sets and blatant matte paintings. (The spacesuits themselves are nearly unbelievably ersatz; they’re the cinematic equivalent of those packaged drugstore Halloween costumes with the vinyl one-piece tunics and molded plastic masks.) Despite such shortcomings, however, it’s a not-ineffective thriller. Even with its shameful title monster, which I neglected to mention in my list of detriments up there. Add all of those ingredients and you get a “cult classic,” which status allegedly has accrued to this flick. Hey, why not. Fun fact: There’s a Director’s Cut, and I plan to watch it. Eventually.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

It looked and sounded both preposterous and intriguing … especially the whole “director’s cut” thing. That’s ONE way to pique one’s interest in an underfinanced production of which one otherwise never has heard.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Clearly, my taste is highly questionable, but I did already admit I intend to watch another version of this film. So it must have something going for it.


Highlight and Low Point

Klaus Kinski appears in this, and I’ve had a difficult time enjoying his acting since reading of allegations at least one of his children has made – so it’s especially alarming that he first makes his presence known by graphically groping and assaulting one of the female crewmembers … purportedly an unscripted, um, ad-lib. Oh, and the alien itself is a somewhat hilariously unintimidating letdown, given the mostly effective buildup.

Rating From Outer Space: B

Invaders From Mars (1986)

Directed by TOBE HOOPER
Golan-Globus

Surprisingly entertaining despite some significant drawbacks – chief among them the extremely subpar performance of the lead child actor and some pacing/editing issues – this remake of a 1950s film I haven’t seen showcases director Tobe Hooper’s flair for understated comedic touches, although as usual I have less than no use for the references, homages, and tips of the cap to other movies and/or genres and/or directors. (Which is why I only know about them from online “research.”) What little plot there is – Martians think a NASA/SETI launch is an invasion, so they travel to Earth to preempt it – largely managed to evade my notice, as the few moments of expository dialogue aren’t exactly Pulitzer material. Decent creature and FX work abound, alongside some dependable B-movie performances from the likes of Karen Black, Louise Fletcher and James Karen. Incidentally, the hints of creeping/creepy conformity would in the original have predated those in Invasion of the Body Snatchers by several years.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

I’ve always heard that this was an above-average offering, especially given its somewhat dubious provenance.

Should You Watch This Movie?

Sure, if you’d like to relive the experience of watching a network television “Movie of the Week” or late-night basic cable.

Highlight and Low Point

The FX really are fairly exemplary, notwithstanding the somewhat absurdist design of the majority of the Martians themselves. Hunter Carson is a severe detraction (if not distraction) as David Gardner, though in his defense, he was 10 when the film was released and his mother’s also in the cast. (That being Karen Black, who plays the credulous school nurse.) I mean, look, it’s a Cannon Films remake of a 1950s B movie. That statement more or less sums up the overall experience.

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

Innocent Blood (1992)

Directed by John Landis
Lee Rich PRoductions

It’s a good thing I’ve recently reviewed a couple other productions that engendered my wondering about classifications or motivations, because they may have helped prepare me for this doozy. Part vampire flick, part mob/police drama, part comedy of manners, part romcom, Blood is hampered sporadically by an insistence on hammering home its farcical elements, but this Pittsburgh-set tale of an ancient huntress and the special agent who stumbles onto her trail after infiltrating the local crime family is highly rewarding at times, too. It’s also drenched in frankly unintimidating gore, liberally sprinkled with nudity and “sexual situations,” and its most assaultive moment features Don Rickles meeting his fate. All in all, It is somewhat hard to envision why or how the producers thought this endeavor would be successful. (Note: it very much wasn’t.) Oh, and there’s a recurring motif of famous monsters of filmland being screened in various locales, along with cameos or other appearances from revered horror directors.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

Somebody mentioned it in an online discussion of something completely unrelated, and I felt compelled to look into it due to that commenter’s unbridled enthusiasm.

Should You Watch This Movie?

It IS basically a farce, so if you feel like watching a bloody, violent farce about vampires and the mob, you’re all set.


Highlight and Low Point

Anne Parillaud commands attention throughout this romp, and not just because she’s frequently unclothed and her accent is inviting. Her character, Marie, probably deserved a more compelling vehicle, one absent some of this affair’s more cartoonish elements. That may be a shade too critical a stance, but this flick doesn’t seem focused enough to know what it’s trying to achieve, and frequently undercuts itself to boot.

Rating From Outer Space: C+