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High Life – Not A Film For The Average Moviegoer

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I fear, Willow.
I could drown like a kitten.
It would have been easy.
First you, then me.

The film “High Life” is just as meaningful as the expedition for which those sentenced to death have registered voluntarily. Not very meaningful. I do understand why they have chosen for it. The choice of sitting in a cell and staring emptily into space until the end of days. Or a space journey for many years with a black hole as a final destination from which they will try to produce energy. No wonder they prefer freedom, albeit to a limited extent, than to die in a cell. However, being on board of this ship isn’t exactly fun and quite boring. I’m convinced most of them already regret the fact they volunteered. I’m also surprised that these serious criminals haven’t killed each other yet after a certain period. Most likely out of boredom. Even the footage isn’t something to get excited about. And some of these volunteers are also extremely irritating. In short, I won’t use the words captivating, fascinating and the film title in one and the same sentence.

 

High Life

 

Arty SF.

I’m sure that fans of arty SF films will get excited while watching “High Life“. And when a philosophical message has been incorporated in it, I’m sure there will be others who’ll sit in front of the screen, gasping excitedly. Unfortunately, it also had a sleep-inducing effect on me. It also gave me a feeling of hope. Such hope many visitors of the statue of Mary in Lourdes will envy me for. And that’s the hope for a surprising turn or an action-rich incident that would give the storyline a sudden boost in terms of drama and excitement. Forget it. The story progressed reluctantly without deviating from its boring course and the content remained fairly empty. A bit like this spaceship that moved on steadily deep into infinite and empty outer space.

 

High Life

 

All respect for Robert Pattinson.

A few words of sincere admiration for Robert Pattinson though. This young actor, better known for his cooperation in the whole “Twilight” saga (something I hate passionately), tries to break away with this notorious past in his own way. After his contribution to “The Last City of Z“, where he was practically unrecognizable thanks to his immense, rough beard, and “The Rover“, he again tries to play an unusual role in a non-commercial film. However, you can’t really call this role brilliant since his character is fairly silent and withdrawn. Even though that shaved para-command hairstyle suggests he’s someone with a short fuse. The beginning of the film shows him as a caring father who takes care of his baby daughter on an apparently abandoned space ship. It’s only after flashbacks that we find out what happened during this suicide mission.

 

High Life

 

Intercourse is forbidden. Let’s create a fuck-box.

The opposite of Monte you’ll get to know in the person of the fairly crazy and slightly aggressive scientist Dibs (JulietteThe 33Binoche). Her presence transforms this space journey into an experimental trip. She certainly wouldn’t have been out of place as a camp doctor in a concentration camp during the Second World War. The crew is used as human guinea pigs to optimize the reproduction process. How she gets a satisfactory result later in the film, is too bizarre to believe. However, after you’ve seen her erotic act, that takes place in a dark room (where the crew members can fulfill their sexual fantasies), it’s not so surprising that she used that controversial method. That steamy erotically charged scene reminded me of the game “Virtual Valerie” for the Macintosh, one way or another.

 

High Life

 

Not for the average moviegoer.

All the time I had this feeling as if I was watching an unfinished end product. A paper-thin idea around which a very artistic-looking film was embroidered. However, it’s nothing more than a psychological study of conflicts between people in an enclosed space and the way in which their survival instinct emerges. Erotic scenes alternate with fairly violent events. And in between, many moments of reveries and soundless aesthetically pleasing film moments. “High Life” is not a film for the average moviegoer. For that, it’s doing a little too much to be arty. It’s not easy to follow and also ends with a non-explanatory final scene. What remains is one conclusion and one unresolved question. First of all a deep bow for Robert Pattinson who has grown as an actor and distances himself from his adolescent audience. And the pressing question that remains: could someone explain to me scientifically why it is that the corpses which Monte throws out the ship, actually fall down? That’s something that intrigues me.

 

My rating 4/10
Links: IMDB

 

 

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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