Friday, October 8, 2021

Ominous October - Detention (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Detention (2019)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller  
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: 1 Production Film, Filmagic Pictures Co., Gamania Digital Entertainment Company, Kaohsiung Film Fund, Lots Home Entertainment, Taichung Film Development Foundation, Truffe Holdings, Warner Bros. Pictures, Yi Tiao Long Hu Bao International Entertainment Company, Warner Bros., Mandarin Vision, Challan, Dekanalog, Encore Films, Golden Screen Cinemas, Golden Village Pictures, Mandarin Motion Pictures Distribution, Pop Entertainment, Twin Co. Ltd.
Director: John Hsu
Writer:  Shih-Keng Chien, Lyra Fu, John Hsu
Actors: Gingle Wang, Meng-Po Fu, Jing-Hua Tseng, Cecilia Choi, Hung Chang Chu, Yue-Ti Liu, Pen-yu Chang, Ching-Ting Hsia, Chung-Yueh Yun, Chin-Yu Pan, Kuan-yi Lee, Moon Lee, Ko-Yuan Wang
Blurb from IMDb: In 1962 Taiwan during the White Terror martial law period, Fang Ray Shin, a female student at the hillside Greenwood High School is attending counselling with teacher Mr. Chang, and they gradually fall in love. It was a dangerous period where sensitive books were banned and free speech were restricted, but Mr. Chang secretly organized a study group for banned books, together with fellow teacher Miss Yin and male student Wei Chong Ting.

Selina’s Point of View:
Detention was released in other countries, and made festival rounds, before – but it’s finally getting released in the USA on October 8. The moment I became aware of that, I was all over getting my hands on a copy. Sure, it’s great for Ominous October – but I was excited about it because I loved the game.
Don’t roll your eyes.
I know that the majority of gamers reading this just got a bad taste in their mouth when they realized Detention is a film based on video game. The rest might just be reading this to see how bad the adaptation is. If you’re looking for negative feedback, though, you’re in the wrong place.
Detention was the best video game movie I have ever seen. Not only that, it took over the top spot as the best horror flick of the year, in my opinion.
I’m unfamiliar with the work of director John Hsu (Your Spiritual Temple Sucks, After Dark, Intoxicant). It’s not all that surprising, since this is his first full-length feature credit. The movie I just watched, however, was not the work of a new director. Without doing any research, I would have guessed he had an IMDb page that put anyone else to shame.
Anything he puts out in the future, I’m going to be all over. I’m talking midnight showings, screener opportunities, etc. If his first full-length movie is this good, I can’t imagine what his work is going to look like as his career progresses.

Not only was the flick good. Even more surprisingly, it was a good adaptation. Fans should be happy with what they see.
I’ll grant that it wasn’t a shot-for-shot recreation. Honestly, I’d be upset if it was. What would have been the point of watching it, if it had been? That said, I’m a gamer and I know my finicky people, so let’s start there.
That said, it still stuck so incredibly close to Detention the game that there were some scenes that looked absolutely identical. The differences that were obvious, were for the better. Those alterations meant that the film explained more, erased some of the ambiguity, and left it on a more satisfying note than the original story did.
Of course, the game does have more than one conclusion, so take the latter difference with a grain of salt. I only played for one of the endings.
Detention also concentrated a bit more on Wei than the game did. The fact that they managed to do that without sacrificing any part of Fang’s story was insane. I’m completely baffled as to how they accomplished that.
There’s not a whole lot more for me to say. Detention is my favorite horror movie of the year. In fact, it’s pretty high on my ‘all-time’ list. If you have the chance to see it, definitely go for it.

Cat’s Point of View:
If I had to describe Detention in three words, they would be: heartbreaking, terrifying, and amazing. That pretty much distills my experience with this movie into its bare essence. I was creeped out, I went on a whole rollercoaster of emotions, and I loved every minute of it. 
Detention was based on a video game of the same name. While I haven’t personally played it, I have enjoyed the game vicariously through watching Jacksepticeye play through it on his streaming channel. The game is gorgeous and well-done with interesting artwork and puzzles…and the same horrifyingly sad plot. That being said, if you’re familiar with the video game, there aren’t going to be a lot of surprises for you in the movie. Detention’s film adaptation is fairly true to its source material. Knowing what’s happening didn’t take away from the pulse-pounding experience for me, however.
It’s one thing to witness the 2D game experience – even with its immersive creepy sounds and score – and another entirely to watch the story play out with actual people in the roles. Speaking of which, I have to give some serious kudos to the casting for Detention. Not only did the production team cast excellent actors for the roles, but they also nailed the character aesthetics from the game. 

They translated the creepy backdrop of the school and sundry settings brilliantly to the screen.

I feel the need to shift gears away from the video game aspect and onto the real-world source material behind Detention. The film and game’s setting of 1962 Taiwan is actually pretty scary all on its own. I wasn't aware of how bad things were, or for how long. Either my history classes didn’t cover this post-World War II situation or it’s just been a while and it slipped my mind. (Either is plausible – my mind is occasionally a sieve.) 

The period of time Detention takes place was called the White Terror. Thousands of people were killed or imprisoned during the nearly 40 years of martial law in Taiwan following an incident in February 1947. The martial law lasted until 1987. It feels like something so heinous couldn’t have taken place in the modern era – however, I had to remind myself that the Berlin Wall didn’t come down in Germany until 1989. 
If you set the supernatural aspects of the story aside, the fact that the events in Detention could have feasibly taken place, in reality, is spine-chilling. This sort of scenario is why the current “War on Terror’s” motto of ‘see something, say something’ gives me the creeps.
If you don’t mind the subtitles (and, honestly, this movie was so gripping I forgot I was reading), Detention was a solid horror offering. Blood, jump scares, harrowing moments around every turn, and chilling revelations abound.
I expect a few nightmares after watching Detention. I would absolutely recommend it in a heartbeat to Horror fans looking for something truly scary on multiple levels for this spooky season.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.8/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
P.S. Detention, the video game, is available on Steam.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Ominous October - Knocking (2021)

Movie Name/Year: Knocking (2021) 
Genre: Thriller
Length: 78 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Läsk, Sveriges Television (SVT), Swedish Film Institute, Yellow Veil Pictures
Director: Frida Kempff
Writer: Emma Broström, Johan Theorin
Actors: Cecilia Milocco, Albin Grenholm, Ville Virtanen, Krister Kern, Alexander Salzberger, Charlotta Åkerblom
Blurb from IMDb: A woman leaves a psychiatric ward after a nervous breakdown, only to start hearing mysterious knocking sounds in her apartment.
Selina’s Point of View:
The answer to whether or not I liked Knocking is a bit complicated.
I first heard about this flick long before the emergence of the trailer and I was enamored with the plot. As someone who has serious issues with certain sounds, I know that something based around a sound one can’t control can get pretty harrowing. I was expecting a deep psychological thriller.
The psychological thriller part was on point, but it was also a social commentary and a VERY slow burn.
I’ve called movies slow burns before, but this one took that term to the extreme.
Knocking is relatively short for a full-length feature film, sitting at just over an hour long. Whenever you have a project that compact, you expect it’s impossible to be slow. In this case, the story seemed as thought it was still stretched to meet the runtime. Things didn’t start to get even mildly interesting until about 35 minutes in. Even then it was only mildly.
If I’m honest, I didn’t start to really enjoy it until about an hour in.

That’s a problem in a film this short.
Once things picked up, the social commentary was very in-your-face. I didn’t hate it, though. The message was an important one.
Following that, was a pretty decent ending.
A lot of the time, a good ending can save an otherwise boring film. In this case, I’m not so sure the good parts outweigh how long it took to get there.
I find that I didn’t hate Knocking. I definitely wouldn’t watch it again, though. I think it all depends on how tolerant you are of an exceptionally slow build up.
If you want to see for yourself, Yellow Veil Pictures will be releasing Knocking in theaters on October 8th, and on-demand October 19th.

Cat’s Point of View:
I find myself feeling rather ill at ease, following the credits for Knocking.  It’s a sensation of frustration, sadness, and uncomfortable empathy that continues to haunt me.
Knocking isn’t going to be for everyone. If you’re looking for gore and fast-paced thrills, this is not the place to find it. This movie, however, is a slow psychological burn. I have so many questions even after Knocking’s conclusion. I’m just going to have to squash my curiosity, though. This isn’t the sort of film that gets a sequel.
Cecilia Milocco (Involuntary, The Circle, Shop) is bloody brilliant in her role as Molly. Knocking is a production of little dialogue. Most of what is going on is focused on Molly and her own inner struggles. It’s just her and her environment the majority of the time. Milocco pretty much gives a master class on carrying such a scene. I’m buying every bit of what she’s sellng on screen.
While I understand the need for the pacing in Knocking, it is almost painfully slow for me. I had to have something to fidget with in each hand to keep from reaching for my phone. I can’t say that would be the same for everyone. My ADHD plays a significant part with that. My experience is a bit meta, the more I think about it. Here I am struggling with my own mental issue during a movie about a woman trying to get her life back together after a mental breakdown.


There is only one segment of Knocking that could be seen as a negative. It’s a short sequence that transcends the term ‘shaky-cam’ and goes right into disorienting. I get it, though. It’s likely there to highlight Molly’s feelings of bewilderment, fear, and frustration in the moment. It is very effective -- just not my cup of tea.
That being said, Knocking joins the modern cinema movement to shine a light on mental illness and both raise awareness and fight the social stigma that remains today. As a society, we’ve come a long way from locking mentally ill and neurodivergent people in secret rooms or shipping them off to sanitariums. We still have a bit further to go in understanding our fellow people that are simply wired differently. Knocking illustrates that bit of social commentary as well as the compounded situation of a woman fighting to be taken seriously as those around her plainly write her off as ‘hysterical.’
If you enjoy psychological twists and turns with a side of mystery, Knocking might just be the right ominous addition to your October viewing. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 82%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating3/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: PG-13
Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 4, 2021

Ominous October - V/H/S/94 (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: V/H/S/94 (2021)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 100 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Bloody Disgusting, Cinepocalypse Productions, Raven Banner Entertainment, Studio71, Shudder
Director: Simon Barrett, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto
Writer: Simon Barrett, David Bruckner, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Jennifer Reeder, Timo Tjahjanto
Actors: Anna Hopkins, Steven McCarthy, Sean Patrick Dolan, Tim Campbell, Dru Viergever, Dax Ravina, Kimmy Choi, Christian Lloyd, Conor Sweeney, Slavic Rogozine, Thiago Dos Santos, Kevin P. Gabel, Daniel Williston
Blurb from IMDb: A police S.W.A.T. team investigates about a mysterious VHS tape and discovers a sinister cult that has pre-recorded material which uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy.

Selina’s Point of View:
Welcome to our Ominous October!
Every year we do a whole month of nothing but horror films for October, and this year is no different. You may remember us calling it our Shudder Spree, but we’ve opted to branch out to various sources for our spooks, hence the name change.
Never-the-less, we had to start off the month with our favorite horror streaming platform.
Although you can find horror flicks on all the streaming services, there’s no digging through other genres to get there if you’re using Shudder. With it, you can streamline your journey to finding the terror you’re looking for to complete your day – especially during the Halloween season. If you’re a horror lover like we are, it just makes sense to go for the subscription, especially since it’s one of the cheapest there is out there.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about V/H/S/94.
I’ll admit that I don’t remember a whole lot about the framing devices used in the first 3. I do think I’ll remember this one, though.
The extra-staticky feel of it threw me off at first. It’s found footage, so I expected shaky-cam. The worn-out, snowy, VHS quality of the framing device still caught me off guard because it added a whole other layer to the period immersion. It was a bit distracting at first – but I really liked it by the end. It fit the over-arching theme and the final twist was completely unexpected.
There was a secondary theme seen throughout the segments in V/H/S/94. That was: supernatural creatures.

Revealing any of the actual creatures would be considered spoilers. Some of the segments really rely on that unknown/surprise factor. I expected the trailer to give away some of those surprises, but that never happened.
I did have a least, and most, favorite of the parts.
I’d say the second segment really didn’t thrill me. A lot of it was about the main character sitting around in near-silence with the occasional loud sound meant to shock. Now, I don’t mind jump scares. I’ve loved some films that relied solely on them. In this case, I just don’t think it worked. It was a short film, under 20-minutes long, and most of it was silence. The same 15-minutes in a basic-length film would have been fine. Here, I wanted more.
My favorite segment was the one right after that.
It started with a Frankenstein (as in the plot of the book) meets The Human Centipede (2009) feel. Some risks were taken in that segment that could have failed spectacularly. Instead, I was truly invested. If anything, I want that whole thing in a video game. Someone get on that. I’d pay $60 for a full-length shooter based around the characters and plot involved in that 3rd chapter.
In the end, V/H/S/94 was the best of the series. I didn’t feel the runtime, but I did feel the fear here and there. It’s suitable creepy for a Halloween mood.
If you want to see this one for yourself, V/H/S/94 will be available on Shudder this Wednesday, October 6.

Cat’s Point of View:
What better way to kick off an Ominous October, than to revisit a well-known horror franchise by way of its latest installment. V/H/S/94 brings us back to the found-footage horror anthology, and I’ve been anticipating it with both dread and excitement since we first learned of this new installment.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about the first few V/H/S (2012) films. I do, however, recall that they were sufficiently creepy and hit-or-miss on quality. That’s generally what you expect from a collection of projects such as this, however. Each writer/director team is going to give a different feel to their work. Some things play out better than others. V/H/S/94 is definitely ahead of the pack, as the most successful so far.
The S.W.A.T. raid framework tied everything together nicely without having to stretch our suspension of disbelief beyond what we were experiencing with each of the short film segments. The exploration of the crazy compound they find themselves in adds to the overall unease of the collective experience.
I’m not the biggest fan of found-footage – mostly because of its inherent shaky-cam. I don’t get motion sickness as a rule, but good grief there have been some jolting productions out there that have made me disoriented and queasy. I’m happy to say that V/H/S/94 wasn’t one of those. You can’t avoid some bobbing and weaving with this sort of project, but this was just enough without going nuts with it.

The grainy and streaky look of a well-watched VHS tape was only mildly irritating at the beginning. It was easy to get past and ultimately brought a slight sense of nostalgia for me. There’s definitely quite a bit of homage to the antiquated titular video medium laced within the segments. Those that lived through the era of ‘be kind and rewind’ may get a little kick out of it. 
V/H/S/94 is unapologetically grisly and brutal throughout all of its segments. Audiences should certainly brace themselves for violence and gore. The chaos in the trailer really only scratches the surface. Each short plays to a different set of fears – from the subterranean unknown to mad science and from the unease of a dark and stormy night alone in a funeral home to militia extremists. These short films bridge the gap from unnatural and supernatural to some very real causes of concern.
V/H/S/94 is certainly a spectacular way to kick off the spooky season. I dare say it’s worth the subscription cost for Shudder if you don’t already have the streaming service. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 8.1/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
P.S. We’re not sponsored by Shudder, we’re just big fans.
Movie Trailer: