Friday, October 19, 2018

Chills & Thrills: Before I Wake (2016)

Movie Name/Year: Before I Wake (2016)
Tagline: Fear your dreams.
Genre: Drama, Horror, Fantasy
Length: 96 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Production Companies: Intrepid Pictures, Demarest Films, MICA Entertainment
Producer: Mali Elfman, Sam Englebardt, Brian Flanagan, David S. Greathouse, Lew Horwitz, Michael Ilitch Jr., Dale Armin Johnson, William D. Johnson, D. Scott Lumpkin, Trevor Macy, Julie B. May, Glenn Murray, Melinda Nishioka, Matthew Berkowitz, Marianne Culbert
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Actors: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, Topher Bousquet, Dash Mihok, Jay Karnes, Lance E. Nichols, Antonio Evan Romero, Kyla Deaver, Hunter Wenzel, Michael Polish, Natalie Roers, Courtney Bell, Justin Gordon, Rigby Flanagan-Bell, Kelsey Phillips, Thad Watkins, Heather Rogers, Ben Jacobs

Blurb from Netflix: Still mourning the death of their son, Mark and Jessie welcome foster child Cody into their lives. Soon they discover he has a strange ability.

Selina’s Point of View:
I found Before I Wake to be predictable and very slow. In fact, it was a horror movie that didn’t remember to horror until about an hour in.

Granted, there was some significant need to develop the characters for this story to hit the emotional notes it needed to. I just feel that they went about it wrong. The small attempts they made to weave thrill in with the character building felt forced and ineffective. Some of their background story for certain characters didn’t feel quite right, either.

The death of the couple’s original son, for instance, is shown through memories. The death of a child in any film can be absolutely heartbreaking, but in Before I Wake it feels so overdone that it has almost no effect. I have no doubt that the director opted to have the death exaggerated due to the way the parents remember it, but that choice took away all the realism for me. I just kind of wound up looking at my screen weird.

I’m upset that it’s specifically the directing I had an issue with. I’m actually a huge fan of Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald’s Game, Oculus). Hush (2016) is one of my all-time favorite horror/thrillers. I’m not dissuaded. I’m still looking forward to watching his future, and current, projects.

Out of all 96 minutes of footage, I really enjoyed about 20 minutes of it.

There was one truly amazing aspect to this film: Jacob Tremblay (Wonder, Room, The Predator). I believed his haunted performance. He may be young, but he showed a lot of emotional understanding in his performance. If he continues on in the business, I believe he can become a household name.

Cat’s Point of View:
I think most of us can relate to the feeling of dreams manifesting to reality – that’s effectively where de-ja-vu comes from, is it not? I know that’s the source of mine.

When I was little, it was a frequent thing for me to have a dream which had an echo in reality at some point later. You can bet I’m glad that the reverse wasn’t true for me. The nightmares, thankfully, remained in the realm of dreams. 

I’ll never forget the gobsmacked feeling I had the first time I watched dream events unfold before me while awake. Of course, as I got older; such dreams have been fewer and further between.

But, I digress.

I think Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald's Game) brought some really disturbing ideas to the table with this movie. I’m really not surprised that I liked it, given that I have also thoroughly enjoyed other projects of his such as Hush (2016) and Oculus (2013).

There were a few bits here and there that knocked me out of the movie’s spell a little bit, but it was generally a creepily solid offering. This is definitely one to add in the category of my own nightmare fuel.

The plot was a bit deeper than I expected, though I didn’t quite feel right about the way things play out in the end. The movie leaves the door open for viewer interpretation to some degree.

All in all, this was a solid spine-tingling addition to our spooky view-fest for the month of October. 

Speech Available: English
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 61%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 45%
Metascore - 68/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.0/10
IMDB Score – 6.2/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 3.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Chills & Thrills: The Babysitter (2017)

Movie Name/Year: The Babysitter (2017)
Tagline: Dream girls can be a nightmare.
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Boies / Schiller Film Group, New Line Cinema, Wonderland Sound and Vision
Producer: Devin Andre, Steven Bello, Alexander Boies, Brian Duffield, McG, James McGough, Zack Schiller, David Siegel, Mary Viola, Jimmy Warden
Director: McG
Writer: Brian Duffield
Actors: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Emily Alyn Lind, Andrew Bachelor, Doug Haley, Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino, Samuel Gilbert, Zachary Alexander Rice, Miles J. Harvey, Chris Wylde

Blurb from Netflix: When Cole stays up past his bedtime, he discovers that his hot babysitter is part of a satanic cult that will stop at nothing to keep him quiet.

Selina’s Point of View:
The Babysitter looked like it was going to be a trope-y, corn-fest of a film. I was positive that the only reason I could possibly be amused by it at all was because it was one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ movies. I was super wrong. This is 100% a case of don’t judge a book by its cover.

I was shocked by how good the film actually was. I was a little distracted when I started watching it, but by the end I was completely invested.

On the surface, a lot of the characters seem to fit their little profiles. But it’s almost like The Cabin in the Woods (2012) in that the creators KNOW the characters are all trope archetypes and they play around with that. They turn things on their head and change well-know motivations into something else.

I’m not saying they completely subvert the expected – but the majority of the tropes they tease are actually avoided and make it more shocking or funny when a trope actually lands.

My brother-type actually recommended it to me a few months ago, and now I see why. It was completely up my alley. It was horror and comedy – split almost right down the middle. It struck a perfect balance between gory suspense and dark humor.

There really wasn’t anything I disliked about The Babysitter. Sign me up for the cult. I’m in.

Cat’s Point of View:
I had a feeling I was going to like this movie, but I underestimated how much. I laughed, I was horrified, and I was exerting much willpower to not talk to the screen or shout when I got startled. (I generally end up watching movies for the blog after everyone else in my house is in bed – when it’s not something they want to watch, that is.)

Now THIS film was immensely successful in the horror-comedy genre blend. I didn’t have to struggle to find the laughs – it was blissfully effortless. At the same time, there was no less connection to the characters for it. My heart went out to the soft-spoken main character who just wanted to be taken seriously in spite of his age.

I have a special place in my heart for 80’s slasher movies. Back then, I wasn’t allowed to watch R ratings, so any time I got a chance to watch one on the sly, it was extra enjoyable. Horror and babysitting seems to be quite the pairing, honestly. One of the scariest ghost stories ever is the one where the killer is calling the babysitter from inside the house, after all. There’s a pair of movies based on that story, even… but I digress. When I used to babysit, I would wait until the kids were in bed and then turn on HBO (or MTV…but mostly HBO) so I could catch Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996).

Getting back to the point – this film felt like someone reached back and snagged one of those screen gems and brought it into the present day. When you add to that a few standard horror movie tropes getting flipped on their heads, it’s bloody brilliant.

Let’s talk cast. I promise I won’t go gushing about shirtless Robbie Amell (The Hunters, Max, ARQ). Promise. (Ahem. Moving on.) Surprisingly, one of my favorites of the antagonists was played by Hana Mae Lee (Unleashed, Patriot, Love Beats Rhymes). This role was a far cry from her whisper-mumbling character, Lilly, in the Pitch Perfect (2012) trilogy.

Another stand-out for me was decidedly Samara Weaving (Mystery Road, Bad Girl, Monster Trucks), as Bee. She had the down-to-earth, yet badass girl-next-door thing really dialed in. There’s some nuance to her performance that seems to allude to a deeper story. I might just watch this again to see if I can piece it together. Of course, it might be nothing – but then, that’s half the fun, right?

My hat goes off to young Judah Lewis (Demolition, Game of Silence, Summer of '84). His resume might be on the short side with only 9 current acting entries on IMDb, but this kid is really going places if he keeps up this momentum.

All in all, I think this is an excellent choice for some spooktacular fun leading up to Halloween. It was aptly released on Friday the 13th a year ago, to this very month. Just keep in mind that while some of the main characters here are kids, like It (2017), this is not a kid-friendly movie. 

Speech Available: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles Available: French, English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 72%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 60%
Metascore - 24/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.7/10
IMDB Score – 6.3/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5

P.S. Short scene in the middle of the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Chills & Thrills: Train to Busan (2016)

Movie Name/Year: Train to Busan (2016)
Tagline: Life-or-death survival begins.
Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production Companies: Next Entertainment World, RedPeter Film
Producer: Woo-taek Kim, Yeon-ho Kim, Dong-Ha Lee
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writer: Sang-ho Yeon, Joo-Suk Park
Actors: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Su-an Kim, Eui-sung Kim, Woo-sik Choi, Sohee, Soo-jung Ye, Myung-shin Park, Gwi-hwa Choi, Seok-yong Jeong, Hyuk-jin Jang, Seong-soo Han, Do-im Woo, Hye-Yeong Moon, Jae-rok Kim, Chang-hwan Kim, Joo-sil Lee

Blurb from Netflix: As a zombie outbreak sweeps the country, a dad and his daughter take a harrowing train journey in an attempt to reach the only city that’s still safe.

Selina’s Point of View:
Train to Busan is easily the most requested film we’ve gotten from readers, and I can see why.

I truly enjoyed this film. On the surface, it’s a pretty typical zombie flick. A few times, especially in the beginning, I called scenes seconds before they happened. However, when you start to get absorbed by what’s going on, the sum of the parts becomes much more.

It has fast zombies with quick transformations that are reminiscent of World War Z (2013), but you also have a lot of the claustrophobia and cinematography that went into Snowpiercer (2013). It’s an interesting – and often harrowing – combination.

I wasn’t surprised that the movie itself was good. It has an insane reputation – even from people who don’t like subtitles. In fact, my horror-film-hating husband actually sat down to watch this with me because of how good everyone says it is.

The ratings are not off, at all. The acting was spot on – even little Su-an Kim (Memories of the Sword, Gyeongju, The Battleship Island). The script was honest and somewhat original.

I need to specifically talk about the visuals, though. Some of the visuals used were absolutely unique to this film. There was one scene near the end that was so suspenseful, and yet still honest to physics – I couldn’t look away.

This is easily one of my favorite zombie movies ever.

If you’re looking for something terrifying to get you into the Halloween mood – Train to Busan could be just the flick you need.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ll admit, right off the bat, that this wasn’t my first viewing of Train to Busan. I had been so captivated by its trailer that I snuck a watch-through in shortly after it arrived on Netflix. It was still nice to get a fresh perspective of it. I was not unhappy about watching it again, at all.

Even though the film is set in South Korea, complete with foreign language; there are some things that you don’t need subtitles to translate for you. I’d even bet you could turn them off and still understand the core of the movie. Of course, then you’d miss out on a few plot nuances, so I wouldn’t recommend doing that for a first viewing.

I’ve got to tell you that Train to Busan has made my ‘short list’ of favorite zombie movies. I appreciated the choices that were made in ‘bringing the undead to life.’ I like that we get to see different aspects of their behavior in relation to environmental stimuli. I really have to give kudos to the effects team for this one – and the stunt people, too. Particularly, I was digging the ‘zombie physics’ as it applied to large numbers of them. The stunt people really got a good workout in for this one, I tell you.

For all of the rapid pacing of the film, and changing angles of perspective; there was only one instance where the camera goes a bit loopy. There’s no shaky-cam in general, thankfully.

I was absolutely floored to learn that this is the first live-action feature for director Sang-ho Yeon (The King of Pigs, RedaKai, Psychokinesis). His projects prior to this film were all animated, including the film that is a prelude to the events in Train to Busan - Seoul Station (2016). When I looked the director up, I was also excited to find that IMDb shows that a sequel is currently in pre-production. Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t take too long to hit Netflix when it’s finally released.

All told, I believe this is an excellent addition to the zombie-horror genre, and I certainly wouldn’t mind giving it my glowing recommendation as well as another watch-through. 

Speech Available: Korean
Subtitles Available: Korean, English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 88%
Metascore - 72/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.9/10
IMDB Score – 7.5/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5

Movie Trailer: