Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Influencer (2023)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: Influencer (2023)
Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 1h 32min
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Octane Entertainment, Superchill, Shudder
Director: Kurtis David Harder
Writer: Kurtis David Harder, Tesh Guttikonda
Actors: Sara Canning, Emily Tennant, Cassandra Naud, Rory J. Saper, Paul Spurrier, Justin Sams
Blurb from IMDb: While struggling on a solo backpacking trip in Thailand, social media influencer Madison meets CW, who travels with ease and shows her a more uninhibited way of living, but CW's interest in her takes a darker turn.

Selina’s Point of View:
Influencer turned out to be completely different than I expected. The trailer does have a few spoilers, but only if you sit there consciously waiting for the scenes. Out of context, it does a great job of misleading the audience in the right way.
I’ve talked a lot about how some trailers will mislead audiences, which can hurt the movie. When I’m talking about that, I’m mostly discussing the genre bait and switch. Not this kind of thing.
The Influencer trailer did something different. It’s still selling the right kind of movie, but it’s painting a very different story than you get in the real thing. That means you can be super blindsided by twists that otherwise happen relatively early in the story.

I really liked how they went about it. I almost see the trailer as it’s very own character in the movie.
The film itself was also good. It held my attention and kept me curious throughout the entire runtime. It has the feel of Superhost (2021) in the way the character interactions are handled. (Though I will admit that Superhost is the better flick.)
Cassandra Naud (See, Snowpiercer, Loudermilk) absolutely rocked her part. I can’t think of a single actor who could have pulled of a performance better than her as CW. The most memorable parts of Influencer are because of her.
All-in-all, Influencer was a solid horror, and worth giving a shot. If you’re interested, it premieres on Shudder Friday, May 26.

Cat’s Point of View:
Influencer didn’t quite play out the way I expected, and I was here for it.
The scenario in Influencer’s story is the stuff of nightmares. The narrative plays on all of the fears of a traveler visiting a foreign country alone – especially one that doesn’t share your primary language. It takes things beyond the whole social media angle.
Aside from a tale that takes an interesting turn, Influencer was a feast for the eyes. That, of course, paired well with the social media personality theme. The locations were gorgeous, and the cinematography captured the stunning landscapes and urban settings very well. I found myself envious of the fictional character on screen, enjoying their seemingly top-tier resort accommodations. 

Cassandra Naud was an excellent choice to play CW. It was as if the part was written just for her. Of course, Emily Tennant (Polly Pocket, The Watchful Eye, The Baby Swindler) and Sara Canning (Nancy Drew, The Banana Splits Movie, Superhost) certainly were up to the task of their roles as well. I had a little internal giggle that Canning’s character interacts with a character referred to as CW, considering I first got to know her as an actress from The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017) on the CW network.
I really enjoyed my experience watching Influencer. I wish there was a bit more to the ending – or a post-credits epilogue. That’s only my own curiosity wondering what happened next. The ending was fine the way it was.
If you have a Shudder subscription, this would be worth the watch.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –7.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 3.5/5
Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R
Movie Trailer:

Monday, May 22, 2023

Clock (2023)

Streaming Service: Hulu
Movie Name/Year:  Clock (2023)
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Length:  1h 31min
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: 20th Digital Studio, Hulu Originals, Disney+, Hulu
Director: Alexis Jacknow
Writers: Alexis Jacknow
Actors: Dianna Agron, Melora Hardin, Alexis Jacknow, Charissa Allen, , Grace Porter, Isabelle Du, Jay Ali, Kat Steffens, Laura Stuart, Marquel Skinner, Nikita Patel, Rosa Gilmore, Saul Rubinek, Stefan Sims
TMDb Blurb: On the eve of her 38th birthday, a woman desperately attempts to fix her broken biological clock.
Cat’s Point of View:
Clock was hard to watch for me. Aside from the fact that it was probably the most bleak and dark psychological horror-thriller I’ve watched in a long time, it was graphic and full of triggers. This movie might be about a woman caught in a proverbial tug-of-war about having kids - but it is patently not for kids to watch.

I absolutely identified with the underlying message Clock presented, however. 

Society places so much pressure on women when it comes to reproduction. The government has continued to meddle with women’s reproductive rights and we’ve even taken huge steps backward recently. I’m not here to get into politics or debate the political topic, however, so I’ll leave it at that. Even before legal aspects of reproductive rights came into play, it was still a major issue. 
Women have been denied the ability to opt out of having kids via medical means simply on the basis of the conjecture that a future partner might decide they want kids. (I actually know someone who was denied sterilization options simply because she was young and unmarried. She even had kids already.) These aren’t decisions being made based on hard scientific data and with the best interests of the patients in mind - these are the personal ethics of the medical professionals, as well as their fear of future legal entanglements. 

I count my blessings that my doctor agreed that closing the proverbial baby factory was a good idea once I had my MS diagnosis. (I was already very high risk had I decided to have another child, anyway even before that due to other factors.) So many others haven’t been so lucky and have to deal with the monthly burden of being a female on top of their MS complications. I’ve read horror stories in online support groups. I digress…
Some people are absolutely fine not having kids - some prefer to invest their nurturing in pets rather than furthering the human gene pool. There are myriad reasons why a woman might decide she doesn’t want kids. Quite often, however, that’s not good enough for everyone else. 

The minute I got married, I was bombarded with questions about when I was going to start a family. I always wanted to have kids so it wasn’t offensive - it was just an onslaught of unnecessary pressure. 

I could go on forever on this topic, but I’m stepping away from my soap box - this is about a movie review, right? I felt compelled to dive into that rabbit hole for a moment to illustrate even a fraction of how triggering some aspects of Clock could be. That’s really only scratching the surface.

Clock didn’t play around when it came to its inherent darkness. The very first scene set that tone and pulled no punches. 
Dianna Agron (The Family, Glee, As They Made Us) was fantastic as Ella. There were so many nuances that had to go into this performance and she hit every mark flawlessly. Honestly, the whole primary cast was firing on all cylinders here. I could feel her desperation and the whole rollercoaster she went on as she responded to the overwhelming pressure and guilt thrust upon her.

I was surprised to learn that Clock was the feature length debut for writer/director Alexis Jacknow (Again, The One Who Brung You, Costume Change). This was an ambitious undertaking to shine some light on this particular hot-button topic - and to do so with such jaw-dropping darkness and black humor. 

Oh yes, did I forget to mention that there’s actually an undercurrent of very dark comedy here? I adore horror-comedy as a sub-genre… but this wasn’t really going in that direction. Clock caught me off guard with a few moments where I half-laughed and then felt like a horrible human.  

While most of Clock focused on the psychological aspects of what Ella was going through, there are some very grisly moments sprinkled throughout the production. I wouldn’t even call it gore, per se, but there were some very graphic and bloody scenes. 

The ending floored me. I was tragic and I was unsettled and squirmy. 

Clock was highly effective in conveying its message - though, I can’t say that I’d ever want to see it again due to all of the triggering factors within. It’s not going to be for everyone, but it was a solid movie - especially as a Hulu Original. If the potential triggers don’t dissuade you, I’d say Clock would be worth a stream. 

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 78%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 58%
Metascore – 59%
Metacritic User Score – 4.4/10
IMDB Score – 5.0/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3.5/5

Trust the Dice: Parental Advisory Rating – R
Movie Trailer: