Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ominous October - Phobias (2021)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: Phobias (2021)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Length: 85 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Defiant Studios, Kodiak Pictures, Vertical Entertainment
Director: Camilla Belle, Maritte Lee Go, Joe Sill, Jess Varley, Chris von Hoffmann
Writer: Joe Sill, Maritte Lee Go, Broderick Engelhard, Chris von Hoffmann, Camilla Belle, Jess Varley
Actors: Leonardo Nam, Macy Gray, Martina Garcia, Hana Mae Lee, Ross Partridge, Lauren Miller Rogen, Rushi Kota, Monique Coleman, Alexis Knapp, Charlotte McKinney, Steve Park, Christine Little, Sisa Grey, Katia Gomez
Blurb from IMDb: Five dangerous patients, suffering from extreme phobias at a government testing facility, are put to the ultimate test under the supervision of a crazed doctor and his quest to weaponize fear.

Selina’s Point of View:
I went into Phobias knowing it was an anthology. Not a problem, I enjoy a good anthology. After all, we just saw V/H/S/94 (2021) earlier this month and that was pretty damn good. I also enjoy learning about fears. I wrote a series of short stories, and poems, when I was in college, that went into various lesser-known phobias. It’s how I learned about hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – which is my favorite word in the English language. (It’s the fear of long words. Psychologists are savage.)
Long story short, Phobias should have been right up my alley.
Each segment did have some decent aspects to it. You find out the back story for the characters one-by-one. I thought they made for interesting short stories. The problem was that they edited everything together in a strangely jarring way.
The movie starts off with, what I’d describe as, a prologue. I’d find that acceptable if it came before the opening credits, but it didn’t. Instead, it opened that way and then went straight into the framing device with no warning.

I think it was done that way on purpose. The creators wanted us to be confused and disoriented as we started the meat of the story… but I don’t think it worked the way they intended. Instead of slowly catching up as the framing device continued, I had to pause for a moment and collect my thoughts. You never want to see that.
The rest of it was structured fine, however, and I enjoyed the end twist. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only issue.
One of the characters that we learn about makes the ending feel bleaker that it was meant to. I can’t really say more without spoilers, but trust me when I say that it irked me quite a bit.
If anything, I’d like to see a full-length film on the main character. No other stories, just his. If they made a sequel and dropped the anthology aspect, I think it would have the potential to be golden.

Cat’s Point of View:
Here we are, just days before Halloween. You would think that at this point in our Ominous October it would be the perfect time for some phobias. You wouldn’t be wrong – just… not Phobias the movie.
I have always tried to find something positive to say about the films that we review – especially when I wasn’t as entertained as I hoped I’d be. For that reason, I’ll start with the plus side.
When we first saw the trailer for Phobias, what stood out to me was the cast. I’m always interested in seeing Macy Gray (Percentage, November Rule, Dutch) step out of her comfort zone as a musician and throw her hat into the acting ring. Added to that was the draw of recognizing Leonardo Nam (Cat Run 2, Sneaky Pete, Westworld) as well as Steve Park (Snowpiercer, Kajillionaire, Warrior) and the combo of Hana Mae Lee (Unleashed, Patriot, Love Beats Rhymes) and Alexis Knapp (Cavenmen, The Anomaly, Urge) from the Pitch Perfect (2012) trilogy. (Sadly, they didn’t have any scenes together.) I guess you could say another mark in the plus column was that the cast performances were fine.
Anthologies are tricky things. The most successful ones tend to have a cohesive framework around the individual short films. Without that, you might as well be watching a short film playlist on YouTube or the like rather than a full-fledged cinematic production. Phobias employed a successful concept to connect the short film segments together. That being said, so did the much-lamented The ABCs of Death (2012). The tie that binds is not always strong enough on its own to keep the wheels from falling off the bus, so to speak.

Beyond the narrative that connected the shorts together in Phobias, everything else didn’t quite jive. There were a few jump scare moments that got me only because I startle easily. I just didn’t feel any real sense of dread from the overall experience. Everything just fell a little flat and left me with an overall ‘meh’ feeling.
I can’t fault a production for having a shoestring budget. It’s what they do with it that counts. Phobias tried to offer some snazzy effects, but they came across a little too over-the-top more often than not. Subtler effects in some places would have been more effective than the flashy nonsense they attempted. Visual effects are supposed to immerse you in the story and draw you in so that you forget it’s not real. Nearly every moment I was painfully aware that this was wasting my time.
The idea behind weaponizing fear and a collective of shorts highlighting various phobias was interesting – but the execution failed to meet expectations mostly because the stories within the shorts didn’t always reflect the fear they were supposed to focus on in a clear way. There were at least 2 that didn’t seem to be reflecting a phobia at all. Ok, to be fair, one of those clearly had an issue but it didn’t match with the story presented. 
I wanted to like Phobias. Alas, this is one of those experiences that I likely wouldn’t recommend to others – unless I wanted them to share the feeling so I could rant about it without spoilers. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 57%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 43%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 3.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, October 25, 2021

Ominous October - Night Teeth (2021)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Night Teeth
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Length: 107 minutes
Rating: TV-14
Production/Distribution: Netflix, 42, Unique Features
Director: Adam Randall
Writer: Brent Dillon
Actors: Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Debby Ryan, Lucy Fry, Raúl Castillo, Alfie Allen, Marlene Forte, Ash Santos, Nandy Martin
Blurb from IMDb: A college student moonlighting as a chauffeur picks up two mysterious women for a night of party-hopping across LA. But when he uncovers their bloodthirsty intentions - and their dangerous, shadowy underworld - he must fight to stay alive.

Selina’s Point of View:
I do enjoy a good vampire story. I much prefer the creatures of the night that we get from pieces like Nosferatu (1992), but I’ve watched a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992, 1997-2003) in my day. I shipped Spike and Buffy. Clearly, I’m not altogether against a bit of will they/won’t they in my bloodsucker media.
That’s a good thing because Night Teeth was more the later.
There was some meshing of genres going on. I definitely felt the weight of the crime genre sneaking into my horror/action. I enjoy when that kind of thing happens. Night Teeth managed that aspect in a successful way. Unfortunately, not all of it succeeded.
I’m going to stress that I didn’t fully hate it. There was some good action, some Wick-style world-building, and the acting was pretty decent. I didn’t really cringe much at the script, either. That said, there was something missing.

It was incredibly anti-climactic, almost like the ending was rushed. It hit every note of what I expected to happen and gave very little in the way of push back to the protagonist. You can’t take the conflict out of the climax or the whole audience winds up with cinematic blue balls. That’s what happened here. You don’t even need to start the film. You can lay out your prediction right now, just looking at the movie poster, and probably wind up correct. Someone got real lazy in the end.
The protagonist also made a ton of decisions that didn’t make sense. What was happening to him shouldn’t have led to the actions he took.
That all said, I was mostly entertained. Still, on a second watch, I think I’d wind up with a more negative view of it.
As it stands, I’d say it’s an ok film to have on in the background of a Halloween party. As long as no one concentrates on it for too long.
Don’t overthink it.

Cat’s Point of View:
Night Teeth took me on a literal ride through a single action-packed night in the life of a fill-in chauffeur and his passengers out to paint the town red… in more ways than one.
I had a lot of fun with Night Teeth. I’ll admit, my expectations weren’t very lofty for this production, but the trailer struck enough of a chord with me that I had the film listed on my personal Top 20 Movies Coming Out in October 2021 list.
I’ll admit right off the bat that quite a bit of my interest stems from my general love for the vampire genre, but also because I really enjoy Debbi Ryan (Insatiable, Horse Girl, The Opening Act) as an actor. I’ve watched the progression of her career from the Disney Channel fare through her more mature work now. She brings a little something extra to her parts that I can’t quite put my finger on. Night Teeth was no exception.
While I’m on the topic of the cast, I feel I should also mention that Lucy Fry (Mr. Church, The Darkness, Bright) was also a lot of fun. She is no stranger to playing a vampire. I enjoyed her performance in this movie a good deal more than her role in Vampire Academy (2014), however. It could be the difference in tone, but it is what it is.

The two ladies weren’t the only stand-outs among the cast of Night Teeth. Alfie Allen (John Wick, Game of Thrones, The Predator) played a significant part here. I wish I could see past his former character of Theon Greyjoy these days, but that’s on me and not him. Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Alita: Battle Angel, Critical Thinking) stood out considerably more with this performance than in other movies I’ve seen him in. I appreciated his character growth throughout the course of the film. Needless to say, the casting team for this Netflix production was on point.
Night Teeth runs a bit of a predictable course, yet still managed to be entertaining on the journey so I didn’t mind that I knew exactly what was coming. The cinematography was slick and the shots were gorgeous. There wasn’t a lot of wasted time on B-roll as you sometimes get, either. The action flowed smoothly and the effects were damn good. I enjoyed the nuances of the incorporation of the SUV, as well.
Night Teeth would definitely be a fun pick to watch with friends, leading up to Halloween weekend, or even beyond.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 35%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 50%
Metascore – 44%
Metacritic User Score – 6.0
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 3/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5
Movie Trailer: