Friday, October 11, 2019

Chills & Thrills: In the Tall Grass (2019)

Movie Name/Year: In the Tall Grass (2019)
Genre: Horror
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Copperheart Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Vincenzo Natali                         
Writers: Vincenzo Natali, Stephen King, Joe Hill
Actors: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Harrison Gilbertson, Tiffany Helm, Rachel Wilson

Blurb from IMDb: After hearing a young boy's cry for help, a sister and brother venture into a vast field of tall grass in Kansas but soon discover there may be no way out...and that something evil lurks within.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was looking forward to seeing In the Tall Grass. After all, what could be better for some serious Halloween watching than a bit of Stephen King (It, Cujo, Pet Sematary)? At the very least, you know there’ll be a decent plot. If the movie creators stick close to the book, the writing shouldn’t be that bad either. Right?

If only.

If I could sum up what I just watched into one thought it would be that the film was made as an excuse to show tall grass in various perspectives with everything else as an afterthought. I can appreciate unique camera angles and interesting lines in a picture, but none of the artistic choices for cinematography seemed to enhance anything in the movie – except for one near the end that heightened the terror aspect. It’s like the director opted to use the pointless grass shots as padding to make In the Tall Grass longer.

I believe this film is going to disappear into my memory completely. I’m not going to remember it at all in about a week.

Quite frankly, you could watch it or read it and still not spoil the other method of taking in the story. I can only recommend the book though. It’s a novella, so it won’t be a huge project to undergo.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was very excited that this movie was released in time for – and made it onto – our Chills & Thrills viewings this month. The trailers alone gave me the heebie-jeebies… but that’s also partially based on my own phobias. Amplify that feeling and tension by 100… or few… and you get the level of dread that permeated this movie for me. It was exciting!

As I was watching, I thought to myself that the feel of the story was much like a Stephen King (Under the Dome, It, Gerald's Game) story. Lo and behold, the film is actually based on a novella King wrote with his son. I’m going to have to look that up. Seriously. I’ve been a longtime fan, but haven’t read this one yet. I can’t wait to see how the feel of the tale is different on the written page vs. the screen.

I’m actually a bit glad that I’ve experienced this story in this order. I’ve encountered several of King’s works this way – inspired by a movie or mini-series to find out what elements of the story were left on the cutting room floor. Considering this movie was based on a novella, I imagine that it’s in the vision of translating the page to the screen and how the story was interpreted that will make the difference. For instance, when The Stand (1994) mini-series hit TV, it broke a roughly 8 hour movie into 4 parts, and there were entire chapters left out from the final version that audiences enjoyed.

I digress…

Based on the trailer, I was expecting something more along the lines of Children of the Corn (1984), and was pleasantly surprised that the story didn’t replay that theme to its full extent. You can see shades of influence throughout the film, but it’s on par with common elements within King’s stories. I also got a little bit of the feel from The Tommyknockers (1987) – though I’m referencing his book, and not the 1993 TV mini-series. That property has recently been optioned by Universal, so I’m hoping it will get better treatment in the future… but that’s beside the point.

Aside from the fact that the movie truly felt like one of the great masters of horror had his hand in it, the story stands alone rather well. It’s a bit of a crazy head-trip with elements that spin you around as everything unfolds. We normally see the typical horror trope of campers in the woods getting scared by noises made by things unseen. This movie flips that by throwing the characters into a seemingly unending sea of monstrously tall grass. When tensions are high and visibility is next to nil, one would imagine your mind starts playing tricks on you. From a personal standpoint, that’s terrifying. Though, I have literally no basic sense of direction to speak of. I sometimes get turned around in my own neighborhood – and I’ve lived here 95% of my life.

The cast was solid in their performances. I believed every minute of their bewilderment and fear. I also have a great appreciation for the practical effects here. While there were some effects necessary to communicate some of the underlying nuances, it didn’t require anything super flashy to get the point across.

Though, there were some flashes within the film that were a little odd and took me out of the moment on a few occasions, I don’t feel like the overall movie suffered for it.

I would definitely give this film a solid referral, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the e-book.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 46/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 5.5/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating - R
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Chills & Thrills: A.M.I. (2019)

Movie Name/Year: A.M.I. (2019)
Genre: Horror
Length: 77 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: 1160594 B.C., IndustryWorks Studios, Southpaw Productions, Motorcycle Boy Productions, Greendale Productions, Bounty Films, IndustryWorks Pictures
Director: Rusty Nixon   
Writers: James Clayton, Rusty Nixon, Evan Tylor
Actors: Debs Howard, Philip Granger, Sam Robert Muik, Havana Guppy, Bonnie Hay, Veronica Hampson, Lori Triolo, Andrew Coghlan, Laura Mitchell

Blurb from IMDb: A seventeen year old girl forms a co-dependent relationship with an artificial intelligence on her phone and goes on a murderous rampage.

Cat’s Point of View:
This seems to be the year for exploring the concept of misbehaving AI. I’ve got to say that it’s an interesting concept. Many people rely on the likes of Siri or Cortana to get through the day. What if the answers from these digital helpers had a sinister ulterior motive? In this era where an increasing number of items in our day-to-day lives are ‘smart’ – what could happen if the AIs took control?

While Jexi (2019) is currently on the big screen showing us a humorous take on that very scenario, A.M.I. has a far more serious tone. I was really interested in how a straight horror theme would turn out.

It could have been better.

A.M.I. failed to deliver enough believable punch for me to take it seriously. I was so disconnected with what was going on that I spent a good amount of the movie marveling on how much Debs Howard (Even Lambs Have Teeth, Mingle All the Way, Deadly Match) resembled Debbie Gibson (Rock of Ages, Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, Summer of Dreams).

I just couldn’t buy into the psycho Barbie-doll main character here.

While there were some good moments within this film, overall it doesn’t live up to its potential. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 4.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5

Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating - R
Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 7, 2019

Chills & Thrills: Await Further Instructions (2018)

Movie Name/Year: Await Further Instructions (2018)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Goldfinch, Premiere Picture, Shudder Films, Trinity Filmed Entertainment, Dark Sky Films, Begin Again Films, Interfilm, Amazon Prime Video, Movie Cloud, Njutafilms, Tema Distribuciones, Tiberius Film
Director: Johnny Kevorkian
Writer: Gavin Williams
Actors: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Abigail Cruttenden, David Bradley, Grant Masters, Holly Weston, Kris Saddler

Blurb from IMDb: A family's Christmas takes a strange turn when they awake to find themselves trapped inside and begin receiving mysterious instructions through the television.

Selina’s Point of View:
I remember this film from the trailers. I came across it when I made one of my Top 20s and it made the list.

A few things immediately cross my mind now that I’ve seen it. 

The most important thing is that the trailer has some spoilers that don’t look like much out of context, but once you’re watching the actual film, you immediately know what’s going to happen. Because of that, I can’t recommend watching the coming attraction if you intend to watch the movie. If you’re fine knowing stuff ahead of time, then go for it – otherwise? Avoid it at all costs. (I have, however, included the trailer at the bottom.)

Secondly, the majority of the big scenes in the film are all shown in the preview. A good portion of the rest of it is filler.

With that in mind, you might be wondering if I regret adding it to my Top 20. In general, the answer is no. It mostly felt like a British Black Mirror (2011-) episode and the idea behind it wasn’t bad. A lot of the filler wasn’t even bad. 

That said – I do regret putting it as high as I did. Looking back, it seems I put it at number 8 and… no. It didn’t belong there.

Although I didn’t outright hate this horror flick, my rating is a little closer to the audience score than the critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

I get what the creators were trying to accomplish, but I think a lot of it wound up feeling heavy handed on the lesson. By the time it was over, I felt preached to. I don’t want to feel like someone just lectured me at the end of a horror film. I want to feel properly creeped out.

I wouldn’t outright steer someone away from Await Further Instructions, but it’s never going to be the first movie that comes to mind when someone asks for recommendations.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 84%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 24%
Metascore – 64/100
Metacritic User Score – 3.0/10
IMDB Score – 4.7/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating2.5/5

Movie Trailer: