Friday, June 26, 2020

Suspiria (2018)

Streaming Services: Amazon Prime Video
Movie Name/Year: Suspiria (2018)
Genre:  Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
Length:  152 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Frenesy Film Company, Videa, First Sun, MeMo Films, Mythology Entertainment, Amazon Studios, K Period Media, FilmNation Entertainment, Anticipate Pictures, BF Distribution,, CGV Mars Dagitim, Capelight Pictures, Cinemania Group, Cinetel, Cinéart, Diamond Films, Elevation Pictures, Filmarti, Filmware International, Finnkino, GAGA, Gussi Films, Kino Swiat, Koch Films, Lark Films Distribution, Lev Cinemas, M Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, NOS Audiovisuais, Norsk Filmdistribusjon, OctoArts Films, PlayArte Filmes, Polyfilm Verleih, Seven Films, Transmission Films, Volga Film Ukraine, Volga, Lionsgate Home Entertainment, MUBI, Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Nordic
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writers: David Kajganich, Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sylvie Testud, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Angela Winkler, Lutz Ebersdorf, Ingrid Caven, Alek Wek, Elena Fokina, Malgorzata Bela, Doris Hick, Jessica Batut, Vanda Capriolo, Clementine Houdart, Fabrixia Saccht, Christine Leboutte, Renée Soutendijk, Vincenza Modica, Sara Sguotti, Iaia Ferri, Gala Moody, Olivia Ancona, Anne-Lise Brevers, Halla Thordardottir, Stephanie McMann, Majn Van der Schot, Maria Bregianni, Josepha Madoki

Blurb from IMDb: A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Cat’s Point of View:

I am fairly sure that the first thing that will come to mind whenever, or if ever, anyone mentions Suspiria to me in the future is that it was seriously bizarre.
I am quite a fan of dance in many forms. Shows such as So You Think You Can Dance (2005-), World of Dance (2017-), and Dancing With the Stars (2005-) are among my favorites. I’ve seen and adore all the Step Up (2006) movies. I even enjoy the more serious classics like White Nights (1985) and Black Swan (2010). I even took a little bit of ballet when I was very young. I could go on.
I have little aptitude for dance, myself, but I enjoy it very much. As a result, I do like a good movie with a heavy theme of dancing in the plot. When you pair that sort of story with a horror intent, you really have my interest piqued.

Suspiria is actually the remake of a 1977 film which is considered by many to be a classic of the genre. That version of the film has quite a bit of color contrast and uses ballet as its dance form. This new version of the film is focused on modern interpretive dance set against a backdrop of rather bleak colors and a snowy landscape. That’s not where the differences stop, from what I gather.
I haven’t watched the original, unfortunately, so I am unable to note differences beyond what is mentioned on IMDb’s trivia and the like. Apparently, there are some pretty big ones, so you’re watching this as a fan of the original – keep that in mind with a grain of salt.

I’m a little confused, however, why this is listed as a mystery. I found the arc of events in the film rather telling, and it was clear rather early on what exactly was transpiring. In fact, I thought the movie was fairly brazenly upfront about it all. The only part of the film that was a shocking reveal in any remote sense was the fact that the film actually came to an end. I felt every minute of the two and a half hours of this film. While I was generally invested enough in the plight of the characters, it didn’t have me guessing and engrossed enough for the off-putting strangeness to feel like anything other than listening to runners huffing and puffing through a marathon.
The production team should get kudos for casting, however. The dance company was believable as a unit, the ‘old biddies’ running the company truly fit their roles in manner and aesthetics, and then you have the brilliant Tilda Swinton (War Machine, The Dead Don't Die, Uncut Gems), whose roles are almost synonymous with ‘strange.’ She was perfect for Madame Blanc. Further, I was impressed that Dakota Johnson (Bad Times at the El Royale, Wounds, The Friend) took two years of ballet in preparation for this role. I could really tell in her quality of movement that she had invested well into the part.

While I’d figured out the general idea of what was going on, I wasn’t quite prepared for the movie’s climax. It was a bit jarring and disjointed from the rest of the film, as well as highly disturbing.
I am fairly certain that I do not desire to watch this movie again. I am, however, quite curious about the original now and may watch that just to see how the two films compare and contrast. It’s not likely to be among my recommendations to anyone looking for a good horror movie.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 66%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 66%
Metascore – 64/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2.5/5

P.S. – There’s a very short scene after the credits.

Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Into the Dark: Uncanny Annie (2019)

Streaming Services: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Into the Dark: Uncanny Annie (2019)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 90 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Hulu
Director: Paul Davis
Writer: Alan Blake Bachelor, James Bachelor
Actors: Adelaide Kane, Georgie Flores, Paige McGhee, Jacques Colimon, Dylan Arnold, Evan Bittencourt, Karlisha Hurley, Camden Toy, Liam Graham, Avery Bagenstos, Bloom Li

Blurb from IMDb: On Halloween night a group of college students get trapped in a mysterious board game that brings their darkest secrets and fears to life, where they must play to escape...and win to survive.

Selina’s Point of View:
I actually kind of enjoyed this horror version of Jumanji (1995).

For the most part, I’ve found the Into the Dark series to be difficult to predict where quality is concerned. It’s more like a Black Mirror (2011 -) kind of thing than Twilight Zone (1959-1964). It’s still technically a TV series (distributed by Hulu), but each ‘episode’ is about an hour and a half long horror film. You don’t need to watch them in order and they have nothing to do with each other.

However, sometimes some of the writing or acting can feel a little overdone.

Where Uncanny Annie did have a few moments that made me roll my eyes, it was still decent. It didn’t just act as the horror version of Jumanji, it acknowledged what it was and paid homage. I don’t hate that.

I didn’t find the character of Annie, played by Karlisha Hurley (Nightmare Tenant, Time Being, Do You Mind?), to be all that scary, though. I feel like they could have done better with her. The concept itself was fine, but even on a low budget, they could have made her scarier.

The story did follow the recipe of a truth or dare film. It had the same conflicts and followed similar rules. It’s not where your going to find the most original content, but it’s the kind of film you could throw on during Halloween and use for background noise at a party.

Uncanny Annie didn’t reinvent any wheels, it followed a recipe, and it paid homage to one of the great movies from my childhood. Honestly, I enjoyed it. I’d watch it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
The beginning of the movie felt a little awkward and clunky, but that was short-lived and likely attributed to the character-driven awkwardness within the story. That being said, it doesn’t really count against the overall movie – especially considering the manner with which we learn exactly why the characters are acting that way.

At first, there didn’t seem to be anything unique going on within this college party-gone-awry horror recipe. As the story unfolded, however, I found myself invested in the plight of these kids and admiring the horrific simplicity of the game they played.

There have been quite a few party-game-gone-bad horror films in recent years, but this didn’t feel like it was recycling everything I’d seen before. I also appreciated that the movie didn’t turn into a full-on gore-fest or torture-porn. 

There was blood, but it wasn’t gratuitous. I was also grateful that there weren’t jump-scares around every corner, either. It was imaginative and even had decent effects for the supernatural shenanigans.

When you add in overall well-rounded performances by the ensemble cast to that equation you come up with a really solid Halloween horror flick which I am looking forward to sharing with my teen when the holiday rolls around this fall.

Into the Dark: Uncanny Annie opened the door into quite an interesting packaging of horror for me. We’ve watched anthology films before, where the feature contained multiple stories. This is the first time, I believe, that I’ve watched a movie-length episode of an anthology series. I’m actually excited to see what else the Into the Dark (2018-) Hulu original series has to offer.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3.5/5

Movie Trailer:

Monday, June 22, 2020

Seoul Station (2016)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Seoul Station (2016)
Genre: Animation, Horror, Thriller
Length: 92 minutes
Rating: NR
Production/Distribution: Finecut, Movic Comics, Studio Dadashow, Broadway, Clover Films, Copiapoa Film, Golden Village Pictures, A Contracorriente Films, Finecut, N.E.W., Splendid Film
Director: Sang-ho Yeon
Writer: Sang-ho Yeon
Actors: Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede, Joon Lee, Sang-hee Lee, Eun-kyung Shim

Blurb from IMDb: Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul.

Selina’s Point of View:
Back in 2018, Cat and I reviewed Train to Busan (2016). If you look back at that article, you’ll see that we were both absolutely in love with the film. We were using a slightly different format for choosing the movies for our reviews back then, so we had to wait for the prequel to come up randomly for us. By the time we altered the format, we’d forgotten about it. At least, until we started poking around Shudder.

I was super looking forward to seeing this film, and I’m pretty happy with what I got. It wasn’t as good as the first one, but it was still pretty decent.

The first thing I have to note is that I don’t like this style of animation. Let me be clear, I love anime. It’s not that. I just don’t like this particular style. To be fair, I’m simply not going to factor the style into my overall opinion.

We knew what the plot was going to be going in. Even more-so than just through blurbs and trailers. It’s a prequel to a zombie apocalypse story so, it was easy to figure out that we’d be following someone through the story of how it all started. I made some assumptions, also, based on the start of Train to Busan and who we followed there.

Even with that said, Seoul Station had some tricks up it sleeves. There were twists that I never saw coming – though I see the foreshadowing when I look back. I was really shocked that this film came with so many surprises, despite the fact that we know what comes next.

I was also impressed with the subtle social commentary. Since elementary school I’ve taken an interest in the needs of the homeless population. It’s absolutely criminal the way the homeless are dehumanized. It’s very easy for people to forget that few bad months could put them in similar situations. Or maybe it’s hard to forget, and that’s why people rail against them so hard: misplaced fear and anger.

Either way, this film does a good job of showing the way the homeless are ignored, yet still blamed for things.

Seoul Station was a very thrilling zombie story. It never got into the science behind why zombies came about, and we never actually see patient zero, but it still served as a commendable story in the Train to Busan universe. I think it’s a worth a watch.

Cat’s Point of View:
Train to Busan (2016) is one of my favorite zombie horror movies. With that said, you can imagine that I was rather excited to get a chance to watch the animated prequel. While Train to Busan is said to actually be the live-action sequel to this animated film, Seoul Station wasn’t released until after the live-action film hit screens.

Honestly, I don’t think it matters what order they were released in. It works, regardless. Seoul Station is an excellent setup for the events in Train to Busan, and vice versa. Of course, one reason that works both ways is the same feel for the story carries across both due to sharing the same writer/director, Sang-ho Yeon (The King of Pigs, The Fake, Psychokinesis). I’m even more impressed with Train to Busan after learning it was Yeon’s first live-action film.

Let’s get down to the actual review.

Seoul Station had everything one could expect from the zombie genre. It had a slow but steady build until the story reached critical mass – then the edge of my proverbial seat became my perch until the final credits. The relentless desperation of the characters scrambling for their lives in the face of classist discrimination and a zombie horde was palpable. 

Like most offerings of the genre, it showcased both the best and worst humanity had to offer.

This story was crafted so well, I am nearly at a loss for words in explaining its impact. I was invested in the characters and even felt irked that I was rooting for the ones I didn’t even like very much. Then there’s a twist that just had me staring at the screen with mouth agape in shock.

The only remotely negative thing I have to say about the film would be that it was a little annoying that the subtitles didn't translate whatever was shown as plain text on the screen before the animation started. Since I don't speak Korean, I couldn't tell if it was simply the pre-movie credits extended or if it was prologue text. Even without knowing what it said, it still doesn't change my opinion about the film over-all.

I will likely want to re-watch both this animated movie and the live-action before the next movie in the series, Peninsula (2020?), is released. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic’s effect on cinema releases, it’s unclear when that will actually hit screens – but I can’t wait.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 36%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5

Movie Trailer: