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Submergence (2017)

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Our world is
firstly about power,
it’s only secondly
about education.

A calm movie from time to time is something I welcome. Not again such a flashy, action-packed hero film where you’ll get nervous because the scenes follow each other in a rapid pace and stroboscopic effects get you a cutting headache. “Submergence” undoubtedly belongs to the first category. So, no nauseating headache. No disorientation feeling. You will certainly not experience that with this ultra slow film. The only thing that made me nervous was the forth and back jumping between the stories of the two protagonists Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander) and James More (James McAvoy).

A dream come true for women. A guy who listens.

James is the kind of guy who knows something about every subject. A whiskey connoisseur, people connoisseur (one look and he knows that the bartender was an ex-rugby player) and also a literary man. He’s such a man who’ll sweep any woman off her feet. And not only because of his good looks but also because of his engaging and charming behavior. And mainly because he has mastered the art of listening. James works in Nairobi where he consults on water projects. In reality, he works for the British Secret Service. Well, I guess he does, judging by the mysterious briefing he got while walking around in an art museum. And also the situation he’s in afterward, has nothing to do with water sources.

What happens in Normandy, stays in Normandy.

Danielle is a bio-mathematician (and not an oceanographer as James calls it) and is looking for proof that life exists in the darkest depths of the ocean. A pioneering (and Nobel Prize-worthy) research that can result in eternal fame. So expect a lot of incomprehensible, scientific gibberish. Like this for example: “Some of the most common pathways of energy production in microorganisms, who live along the hydrothermal vents, are oxidation or reduction of sulfur compounds. The most common electron donor along the vents is hydrogen sulfide, making oxidation of sulfur-containing compounds the base of the food web in this environment.” Not exactly fodder for an average conversation. Danielle is such a typical female nerd whose work determines and directs her entire life.

In fact, they are two realists whose profession plays a central role and who probably don’t have the time or desire to make an eternal bond with someone of the opposite sex. Until they happen to meet on a Norman beach.

No, I wasn’t excited about it.

Submergence” is not exactly an exciting movie. It all feels rather poetic. Even the title is an abstraction of the different facets of the film. The sudden blazing love. The predicament that James finds himself in Somalia. And the claustrophobic situation in a (Yes. Yellow.) submarine for Danielle. And the whole film gently bounces back and forth between all these storylines. To be honest, I found the romantic part the most impressive. It was a pleasure to watch how these two lovebirds explore and discover each other in one long passionate mating dance. Every time the film returned to this part, it became fascinating. I looked at the other two parts with a kind of indifference. Still weird that Alicia Vikander seemed too young to me in the role of Lara Croft in “Tomb Raider“, while in this film I didn’t have that feeling. I do understand the metaphors used in this film. But to be honest, I think it was neither fish nor fowl (no pun intended). In the end, I thought the storyline in this potpourri of romance and drama was pretty thin-skinned.

My rating 5/10
Links: IMDB
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HORROR

Haunt: Has All The Pedigree To Be Something Special

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Genre : Horror
Rating : Unrated
Director: Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Cast:
Katie Stevens
Will Brittain
Damian Maffei

 

 

 

For a lot of people Halloween is their favorite time of the year. A time to celebrate the macabre and let loose one night a year. Not for Harper though. After dumping her abusive boyfriend Sam, she is convinced to go out by her roommate Bailey. Meeting up with her friends Angela and Mallory for a girl’s night they are introduced Evan and Nathan. Bored with the Halloween bar scene they find a mysterious extreme haunted house in the middle of nowhere.

Forced to sign liability waivers they enter what seems like an ordinary haunted house. What starts out as a tame night attraction soon turns deadlier the deeper, they go. Confronted by their deepest fears they have to find a way to escape before nights end.

Written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the writers of A Quiet Place, go a very different route from their first big screen blockbuster. Executive produced by Eli Roth (director of Cabin Fever and Hostel), Haunt takes a much more familiar path. Unlike their critically acclaimed breakout Beck and Woods tend to follow a more tried-and-true formula when constructing their own haunted house. Whether it’s the supposedly comedic (more grating than not) best friend or our frightened love interest dropping the key after a jump scare seemingly no cliché is safe. It’s particularly bad when movies such as Hell House LLC and the first Houses October Built pulled them off better.

You can see the duo’s creativity much more in the Haunt’s killers. Covered head to toe their masks hide a much more jarring reality. With their bodies heavily modified their faces taking on the horrifying properties of whatever mask they were wearing. Just as terrifying is how brutal they come off. Taking a page from the torture porn of the 2000’s they come off as the most brutal movie slashers in quite some time. Mixing Saw-esque traps and rusty tools Beck and Woods gives our antagonists the kind of gritty edge not typically seen in modern slasher movies.

 

 

Just as uncommon is our lead Harper. Portrayed by Katie Stevens (star of The Bold Type) she is seemingly the only character given any dimension. Struggling with a history of abuse Harper is forced to deal with her tragic childhood the deeper into the haunt she goes. As shocking as it is to see in a B-movie it’s handled surprisingly well. Treated with the seriousness such a sensitive subject deserves I never felt like it became exploited or treated disrespectfully. I just wish it played more into the movie overall.

Haunt has all the pedigree to be something special. With the writers of one of the most unique horror movies of 2018 at the helm we could have seen a whole new take on the extreme haunted house subgenre. Unfortunately, that’s not what we get. Although we do see some of that innovation in our realistic lead and some truly terrifying villains Haunt quickly devolves into a more traditional slasher. But one-dimensional characters and typical thrills keep Haunt from becoming the next Halloween classic.

Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

Haunt is Theaters, On Demand and Digital now.

 

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HORROR

Rock, Paper, Scissors: A Ridiculous, Clichéd Story

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I just wanna look and fiddle a little bit.
Fiddle and touch.

Every year there’s such a film of which you say “Man, this is probably the worst film I’ve seen this year!“. For me, it’s the movie “Rock, Paper, Scissors” that takes all the glory. With Tom Holland as director (who nevertheless brought some great films such as “Fright Night” and “Child’s Play“) and screenwriter Victor “Friday the 13th” Miller on board, you expect a horror of a considerable level. Take some good advice from me. Don’t start watching it with too high expectations, because you’ll be disappointed. Not only is the story fairly unoriginal. The acting generally sucks. And it’s never really exciting or scary. Even the slasher elements are extremely boring.

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors

 

A wimp of a serial killer.

But the most important thing is the part of the serial killer. Think of Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” or Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho“. These guys were real serial killers who made an impression. From the beginning, you had that feeling that these crazy persons were sadistic, morbid individuals. Peter “The Doll Maker” Harris (Luke Macfarlane) shows bouts of madness and pure evilness. But in general, he just looks like a pathetic person who reminded me more of “Pee-Wee Herman”. It was only during the scarce moments while he relived his traumatic childhood, which he spent with Uncle Charles (John Dugan), that Macfarlane acted convincingly. The fear and torment that took hold of him while remembering the abuse, was shown in a masterful way. But for the rest, it was just a sad performance.

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors

 

Some more annoying characters.

The most annoying characters, however, were reserved for Michael Madsen and Jennifer Titus. What’s an actor like Madsen doing in this pulp film anyway? It was a mystery to me. Seeing him at work in Tarantino’s films “The Hateful Eight“, “Reservoir Dogs” and “Kill Bill“, assumes that this actor will get better offers. With a face that has character and that raw voice. As Detective Dechert he seemed to play on autopilot. The character Ashley, played by Jennifer Titus, is even less credible. Her motive is understandable but the way she approaches it is so amateurish and clumsy. Anyway, when I saw her awkward and stiff Karate movements at the denouement, I wondered how the hell she got that black belt. Sadly enough, the rest of the cast was also of a low level.

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors

 

You’re nuts to free that nut?

But the most annoying thing was the predictable story. First, the release of Peter Harris. Who the hell releases a serial killer after a few years? An insane person who killed 13 teenage girls and blames an imaginary twin brother. So, after a few years of shock therapy and meaningful conversations with psychologist Dr. Bauer (Tatum O’Neal), the latter comes to the conclusion that Peter is freed from his inner demons and is ready to function as a normal person in society. Someone like Dr. Bauer would be taken away in a straitjacket immediately nowadays. A few hours in the parental home and a glance at the cheery buttocks of a cheerleader (who, in all innocence, bends over, in such a way that he could admire her minuscule panty with fringes) is enough for our cured and reformed maniac to run back into his basement to restart his ceased activities. Complete nuts.

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors

 

Plain dreadful.

All in all, a dreadful movie. Annoying acting. A ridiculous, clichéd story. And even the gory and bloody parts made no impression. You have to be a huge fan of Tom Holland to see this as a successful horror. I hope there won’t be a sequel somewhere in the near future. Because I’m certain it’ll be more of the same. Perhaps Tic-Tac-Toe will be used as the morbid game. May the God of feature films spare me!

 

My rating 2/10
Links: IMDB

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HORROR

‘Satanic Panic’ Had All The Makings To Be The Perfect Horror Comedy

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Genre : Comedy-Horror
Rating : Unrated
Director: Chelsea Stardust
Cast:
Hayley Griffith
Rebecca Romijin
Ruby Modine

 

 

 

Sam (Hayley Griffith) has had a rough go of it as of late. Having to take a pizza delivery job from a skeevy acquaintance she not only encounters some of the worst customers possible but isn’t even tipped well. Getting a last minute delivery, Sam finds herself in the posh neighborhood of Mill Basin. When stiffed on a tip for a huge order she barges into the house to beg for it. What she discovers are a wealthy coven, led by Danica (Rebecca Ramijin) trying to conjure up the demon Baphomet. In need of a virgin they kidnap Sam and leave her with the sleazy Samuel (a hilarious Jerry O’Connell). Escaping into the wealthy neighborhood she saves Judi (Ruby Modine), a would-be sacrifice and Danica’s daughter.

From there Satanic Panic becomes a race against time with Danica and her fellow occultists (including Jordan Ladd and Jeff Daniel Phillips) after the chaste Sam. Portrayed by relative newcomer Hayley Griffith she gives her all into a relatively underwritten role. Griffith brings a charming mix of sweetness and naiveté to Sam despite, more often than not, playing the straight man to the rest of the cast. Her character is only really developed when she is paired up with Judi. Best known to genre fans as Lori in Happy Death Day, Ruby Modine goes all out as the foul mouthed rich kid. Her type A personality not only working well with the more timid Sam but stealing pretty much every scene she’s in. It’d work better if all the performances weren’t the same.

 

 

From the slacker employees at Homerun Pizza to the Satanists plotting against Danica it feels like each performer was told to play their role as big and as broad as possible. Although this works for Modine and a particularly hammy Rebecca Ramijin it becomes exhausting when nobody plays things straight. It is particularly noticeable when the jokes don’t land. Written by Grady Hendrix the jokes tend to be hit or miss with the hits rarely hitting in succession. The jokes that do work tend to require knowledge of the horror genre. Things like horror mainstay AJ Bowen playing against type as the scummy Duncan is only funny for audiences with an intimate knowledge of horror. Which is odd considering how lacking Satanic Panic can be when it comes to scares.

 

On the other hand, Satanic Panic is much more successful when it comes to the gory gags used in the spells. Clearly fans of the genre, Grady Hendrix and director Chelsea Stardust come up with several sordid set pieces. With special effects done by Tate Steinsiek and Chris A Wilks, they come up with several gruesome gags reminiscent of Evil Dead and early Peter Jackson to great effect. Satanic Panic blends humor and the macabre to great effect. Unfortunately we don’t get to see too much of their diabolical creation due to the movie’s surprising lack of thrills. Focusing mostly on the comedy aspects there’s actually very little horror with all of the surprises and kills played for laughs. Sure you don’t go in expecting it to be Midsommar but it is disappointing when you consider all of the horror connections in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

With a clear love for all things spooky and a promising premise Satanic Panic had all the makings to be the perfect horror comedy. But like Sam’s night in Mill Basin things don’t go as planned. While there are some funny bits and some fun performances Satanic Panic settles into a lull where it’s not quite funny enough to be a good comedy and not scary enough to be considered a good horror film either. I definitely think the Chelsea Stardust has a bright future and has a really great movie in her but Satanic Panic isn’t it.

 

Rating 5/10
Links : IMDB

SATANIC PANIC in Theaters, On Demand and Digital now.

 

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