Monday, December 18, 2023

'Tis the Season - The Apology (2022)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year: The Apology (2022)
Genre: Thriller
Length:  1h 32min
Rating: Not Rated
Director: Alison Locke
Writers: Alison Locke
Actors: Anna Gunn, Linus Roache, Janeane Garofalo, Mary Leeholland, Esmé McSherry, Zena Leigh Logan
IMDb Blurb: Twenty years after the disappearance of her daughter, a recovering alcoholic is preparing to host her family's Christmas celebration when her estranged ex-brother-in-law arrives unannounced, bearing nostalgic gifts and a heavy secret.
Selina’s Point of View:
The Apology is a much longer step away from basic Christmas fare than most of the movies on our schedule this season. The settings are full of colorful lights and there’s a party to look forward to, but that’s where the joy ends. There’s no magic. It’s just a grieving mother coming to terms with the horrific truth of what happened to her daughter 20 years ago.
The Apology is one of those films that concentrates on only two characters and a single setting for the majority of the run time. There were just a few scenes with one other person. The concept is an interesting one, especially with the specific plot utilized, but not easy to pull off. When you have a movie that concentrates on such a limited cast, it’s important that every other aspect is 100% on point. Otherwise, it could easily come off as a chore to watch. 
In the case of The Apology, there were a lot of issues. Most important among them being that the main characters don’t have anything to grab audience attention.
Anna Gunn has a couple of decent scenes, but mostly feels like she’s forcing herself to say what she’s supposed to. There was no conviction. Meanwhile, there was never a moment that Linus Roache felt like he was giving what he was supposed to. Finally, as much as I enjoy a bit of Janeane Garofalo, she was out of place everywhere but the beginning of the film. There were moments where The Apology cut to her that just didn’t make sense. During those times she brought a comedic relief that was completely out of left field and didn’t work. It was strangely timed, at best.
I didn’t enjoy The Apology. I always knew it was going to be a difficult watch, but I didn’t know the reason would be because it was bad. 
Cat’s Point of View:
Let me tell you, The Apology was not what I expected. I didn’t remember the trailer, provided I’d watched it back in 2022 when this film could have potentially been part of our Top 20. I didn’t really remember anything about it other than it existed. I somehow hadn’t watched it when it was released as a Shudder original, either. When I went to Hulu to view it today, the blurb did not leave me prepared.
I honestly thought, upon skimming the small paragraph, that I’d be in for some sort of family drama with a convenient Christmas backdrop. I settled in prepared to grimace my way through it – because family drama is the last thing I really want to watch right about now. I crave escape and productions that will leave me on the edge of my seat. The blurb would have been better if it had said “buckle up, buttercup” but that’s neither here nor there.
Needless to say, I was wrong. Whether by my mis-reading of the information or assumptions, I was so far off base from what The Apology actually was, I nearly got whiplash…figuratively speaking.
The movie I watched started normal enough but then took an unexpected hard turn into unpleasant territory from a thematic point of view. I felt this sick sense of dread and generally couldn’t look away from the emotional train-wreck playing out. Now don’t get me wrong – that wasn’t a bad thing. The story dealt with brutal and raw emotions as well as some things that tend to be pretty hard to hear, let alone imagine. Let this be a trigger warning. 
The production really took good advantage of the claustrophobic setting of the single residence locked in winter weather isolation. Everyone on that set left everything they had on the screen. I felt the protagonist’s pain and conflict viscerally. I was actually surprised to learn that this was writer and director Alison Locke’s (Stupidface, Shhhhhhh..., Sensory Overload) debut feature-length film. I look forward to seeing what she brings us in the future.
Alas, while I can’t really find fault with The Apology and would definitely share with others that this was a surprisingly decent movie, I can’t see myself wanting to watch it again due to the emotional roller-coaster within. This is definitely not a Christmas party feel-good movie or something you’d want to just randomly have playing in the background over the holiday. I would recommend watching The Apology as  a specific choice if you’re in the mood for something dark. Also, while The Apology is unrated, this is not a movie to watch around the young.
My final piece of advice regarding The Apology is that the trailer gives away too much. If you are interested in achieving the full experience of this film, you’ll want to skip the preview.
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 52%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 41%
Metascore – 46%
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 1.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5
Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer:

Friday, December 15, 2023

'Tis the Season - Black Christmas (2019)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Black Christmas (2019)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length:  1h 32min
Rating: PG-13
Director: Sophia Takal
Writers: Sophia Takal, April Wolfe, Roy Moore
Actors: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O'Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Simon Mead, Madeleine Adams, Nathalie Morris, Ben Black, Zoë Robins, Ryan McIntyre, Mark Neilson, Lucy Currey, Jonny McBride
IMDb Blurb: A group of female students is stalked by a stranger during their Christmas break. That is until the young sorority pledges discover that the killer is part of an underground college conspiracy.
Cat’s Point of View:
What can I say, I can’t resist watching a movie where the plot focuses on something happy and wholesome, like Christmas, and flips it into something dark and sinister. I’m always curious as to what lengths the story will go to in order to pull it off – and whether or not it can claim success at such. When that concept was coupled with a chance to watch Cary Elwes (Saw, Stranger Things, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One) and Imogen Poots (Fright Night, Green Room, Vivarium) in action – both actors I greatly admire – I was eagerly anticipating my experience viewing Black Christmas.
Of course, I did realize at the outset that this movie was a remake. Whenever someone tries to revamp a horror movie, the odds tend to be stacked against the film unless it bringing something to the table that was missing from the original that made it lacking. Of course, then there’s entirely rebooting the concept to take it into another direction. That option tends to be less successful more often, finding backlash from fans of the original in addition to the usual suspects among critics.
This particular Black Christmas had a lot to answer for, considering this wasn’t just a remake but the second remake of the original 1974 movie. From what I’ve gathered while reading up on this 2019 version, the story was intentionally brought in a different direction than its predecessors rather than producing a shot-for-shot redo. Aside from the title and broad plot elements involving dead sorority girls on the cusp of Christmas break, there aren’t any direct tie-ins with the other Black Christmas movies.
This updated Black Christmas landed on screens amid the #MeToo Movement. It attempted to give us a solid feminist story where the strength of sisterhood was pitted against the patriarchy and long-standing collegiate gender bias and the struggles of campus rape-culture. These messages were loud and clear and fairly bashed in the face of the audience. Don’t get me wrong – especially in the case of the latter topic – subtlety and subtext wouldn’t have done that particular message justice, but everything else felt a little heavy-handed. At one point I found myself thinking, yes I get it that this is a feminist movie but wasn’t this supposed to be a slasher? What happened to the slashing?
Therein, I believe, was one of the main downfalls of this iteration of Black Christmas – it was PG-13. Bending this story to meet the rating requirement just to reach a wider audience pretty much slashed the Achilles tendon of the whole production. There was no gore, the method whereby the antagonists attempt to accomplish their goals felt weak and didn’t have enough to hold it together, and there weren’t enough laughs or even screams to counterbalance all the heavy-handed politics.
I loved the core connections and sisterhood among the girls and how they supported each other, for the most part- but that was generally it. Everything else just felt rushed and I perpetually felt like I missed something important that happened before the movie even began. While all of the twinkly lights were pretty, they couldn’t out-shine the fact that there was little of the promised horror actually in the film.
To be clear, I didn’t hate Black Christmas.  I just don’t think it accomplished what it wanted to, and it wouldn’t be my choice for a re-watch during its titular season… or really at all.  
Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 31%
Metascore – 49%
Metacritic User Score – 1.9/10
IMDB Score – 3.5/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2/5
P.S. - There is a brief mid-credits scene.
Movie Trailer: