I’m gonna get us out of this.
We’re gonna be okay.
“Penance Lane” is something for the fans of cheaply produced B-horror movies that don’t exactly excel when it comes to the storyline. I was actually very curious about this movie after reading the synopsis on IMDb. And the movie poster also looked interesting. So let me say that I started watching the film with a dose of healthy enthusiasm. Unfortunately, that enthusiasm collapsed halfway through the film like a soufflé that has just come out of the oven. It’s a pity though, because the first half was of a decent level.
A dilapidated house.
The prologue in itself made me curious enough and confirmed what I expected. A dilapidated house where some gang members hid after committing a robbery. Such a gang of “badasses” with impressive guns and an attitude as if they can handle the whole world. Unfortunately, they are no match for what is harassing them from dark corners and dark places in this creepy house. Why this was actually the most compelling part of the movie, I don’t really have an explanation for. Maybe because you don’t really know which direction it will go. Is it something demonic or will it be a “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” kind of film?
Let’s bring in the handyman.
Time to introduce the protagonist. Crimson Matthews (Tyler Mane) strolls around the town streets. An ex-convict with a rugged appearance. He gets into a fight with the son of the local Police Captain, when it turns out that this son uses his girlfriend (Scout Taylor-Compton) as a punching bag, and then meets the owner (mother of the girl in question) of the local diner. Crimson doesn’t waste any time and almost immediately seeks a job as a handyman. And he ends up at the abandoned house, apparently owned by the local priest (John Schneider) who hires him without further ado. From the start, it’s clear that our tough hero doesn’t intend to demonstrate ingenious handyman-techniques. It’s also evident that it’s no coincidence he ended up in this house. And that his night’s rest would be disturbed by something that wanders through the house like a shadow, was also to be expected. Despite the fact that there’s sometimes a bit of too exaggerated acting and toe-curling, clumsy dialogues are being used, the film remained fascinating. Till this point anyway. Because somewhere in the middle of the film, the plot twist presents itself and the tone of the film changes drastically.
Do I sense a Rob Zombie influence?
If you look at “Penance Lane” in its entirety in terms of storyline and overall look and feel, you could say that it belongs to Rob Zombie’s oeuvre (albeit among the less successful creations). Coincidentally, there are a number of actors who also appeared in a Rob Zombie movies before. Like Tyler Mane who played Michael Myers in “Halloween II“. Scout Taylor-Compton also played an important role in that film. And then there’s Daniel Roebuck (the Police Captain) who got a role in almost every Rob Zombie movie. It may not have affected the creators of this film, but the least you can say is that it’s extremely coincidental. I’m not a real Rob Zombie adept but I could appreciate his flick “31”.
Ultimately, it was a disappointment.
In the end, “Penance Lane” was a disappointment for me. If the gradation of my enthusiasm were graphed, I’m sure it would resemble any COVID-19 graph. Except that there’s no sign of a “flatten the curve” effect. After its peak, the curve goes very fast to a zero point. Maybe my expectations weren’t met because the concept changed drastically. In the end, it became a kind of thriller without supernatural apparitions. Rather a crime story in which an insane individual has set up a lucrative business activity. The story made no sense and at some point became downright ridiculous. I have learned the following lesson from this. No matter how good a summary sounds or what a movie poster looks like, it’s never a guarantee the movie will be any good. And yet there was, somewhere deeply hidden, an excellent film. Unfortunately, they failed to conjure it.
My rating 3/10
Come to Daddy: A Quirky, Somewhat Strange Thriller With Very Aggressive Scenes
I once accidentally kicked a guy’s ear off.
I didn’t mean to, but the fucker flew off.
I could see right into his skull.
Elijah Wood always makes for pleasant surprises. In terms of his choice of films, you cannot say that he plays it safe. His choices are always fairly quirky. I kind of compare him to Daniel Radcliffe. Another actor who doesn’t thrive on the worldwide success he achieved by playing one well-known character for most of his life. So too Elijah Wood who will be associated with Frodo forever and ever. Apparently they also have a common interest, namely that of deceased persons. Where Radcliffe played the role of a corpse in “Swiss Army Man“, Wood is stuck in this film with an embalmed corpse. Anyway, “Come to Daddy” is a macabre, dark, and slightly humorous film.
Trendy, fashionable DJ meets foul-mouthed dad.
When I looked at the movie poster, I immediately thought of “Happy birthday to Me”. Not that “Come to Daddy” looks like a purebred slasher. But the fork Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) is holding on the cover, will be used in an ingenious, yet painful way. Norval is an eccentric, trendy DJ with Elton John in his circle of acquaintances. Stylish, contemporary dressed with artistically and strategically placed tattoos. A trimmed Freddie Mercury mustache. And a hairstyle as if it was styled using a soup tureen. Everything indicates that Norval is used to a high-society life and that the journey through the forest with a thumping wheeled suitcase behind him doesn’t really belong in that life. When he finally arrives at the beach house (which, according to Norval, resembles that of a flying saucer from the 1960s) and meets his father Brian, whom he hasn’t seen for years, it turns out that the latter is completely the opposite. Foul-mouthed, fairly brutal, untidy appearance and persistently topping a glass with liquor or wine. No picnic for Norval who recently renounced alcohol. Before he knows it, his smartphone (a limited edition in gold, designed by Lorde) sinks down to the bottom of the ocean, while his dad tried to take a selfie. The tone has been set.
Comedy-Horror. Not my fav combination.
“Come to Daddy” is a difficult movie to place. On the one hand, they tried to add a humorous note here and there. Although subtle black humor that won’t be enjoyed by everyone. On the other hand, there’s indeed a horror vibe that gets quite gory. Again, I’m not really such an avid fan of the combination of horror and comedy, because usually both genres feel incomplete. And to be honest in this movie as well. The humorous part wasn’t really funny (with only a rare chuckle). And I also found the horror part rather light-hearted. There’s no doubt that it has a high thriller content. And it’s certainly not a straightforward story. You could even say that they were a bit too lavish with the number of plot twists. But the absurdity in the story (such as a motel that is fully booked with visitors to a swingers convention. Who comes up with such an idea?) knows no boundaries. The insane and intimidating behavior that slowly evolves into a kind of “Cape Fear” aggression. The officer on duty and his belching. The coroner and the fact that Norval suddenly has a dead man in the house due to lack of space at the morgue. The nightly terrifying sounds. Norval’s discovery and the unveiling of the entire mystery. The motel-happening. It just keeps going on. Fortunately, I love an absurd story now and then.
It surprised me.
Elijah Wood is simply magnificent as the extroverted and fairly arrogant Norval. Someone who doesn’t realize what a dire situation he’s going to find himself in. And also doesn’t know that his entire life story will be shaken thoroughly. That’s how the viewer will feel as well. Shaken up. During the first part of the movie, you wonder which direction the story will go. But once the plot reveals and the story accelerates, both in terms of tempo and frantic action, hold on tight because it’s going to be a wild rollercoaster ride. And it’s worth it. “Come to Daddy” is a quirky, somewhat strange thriller with very aggressive scenes and full of insanity. Revealing too much isn’t recommended. Best to start watching this movie without knowing too much, such that the experience will be decidedly surprising. Recommended.
My rating 6/10
Becky: An Entertaining Gory Thriller, An Adult ‘Home Alone’
Becky is as strong-willed and vindictive as they come
and you just tortured and killed her only living parent.
Feel like watching a straightforward “home invasion” film with dangerous-looking thugs (impressive body length, coarse facial features, and imposing tattoos on the back of their bald heads) taking an innocent family hostage? Well, in that case, “Becky” is the right movie for you. As with “Bushwick“, also directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, you don’t have to wait long for the violence to erupt. First, there’s a brief introduction of the main characters Becky (Lulu Wilson) and father Jeff (Joel McHale), who wants to spend a weekend with his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe). Subsequently, you’ll see a violent escape from a prisoner transport by Dominick (Kevin James) and his cronies Apex (Robert Maillet), Cole (Ryan McDonald), and Hammond (James McDouglas). And then you can get ready for an hour of unabashed terror and bloody butchery.
Don’t take it too seriously.
Frankly, the film isn’t really inventive and will certainly not stand out among other similar creations. But I have to admit I had a lot of fun watching it. It was a moment of relaxation and a relief for me to forget the Corona crap briefly. Perhaps also because of its simplicity and the straightforward approach this film had to offer. You actually know in advance what the outcome will be. As I mentioned in my review about “Eye for an eye”. You can be certain that the nasty gang members will get the short end of the stick. The movie “Becky” comes with one condition. You have to ignore the fact that a 13-year-old girl is able to wipe the floor with four grown-up guys. In short, if you don’t take this film too seriously, it’s digestible. Otherwise, you’ll only be annoyed by it.
Kevin James looks scary.
Most notable appearance is of course Kevin James who makes a huge career switch by portraying a relentless neo-Nazi. It took me a while to realize it was the “Kevin Can Wait” actor. Someone who usually appears in light-hearted television shows and belongs in yet another Sandler film. The transformation from an oh-so-cozy, over-friendly (Santa-ish) guy to a chilly, beastly Third Reich supporter (and member of some Brotherhood that defends the Aryan race) with an imposing, shaggy beard, is impressive. Opposite these behemoths (especially the aforementioned Apex) is this skinny thirteen-year-old girl with her pink backpack, glitter-decorated smartphone, and a similar bear hat as Jack wore in “Room”. Not exactly a worthy opponent for these four brutes. But then the aspect of improbability comes into play and the gentlemen realize that they were a bit wrong about this girl.
Yes, “Becky” is a bit of a nonsense movie. The reason why these four idiots terrorize this family also remains a mystery. And what’s the relationship between the gang members? Like Dominick and Apex. Do they have family ties? And is the passing of her mother the only reason why Becky resolutely draws the card of revenge? Or does she have a more sinister past? But despite the lack of character development and substantive explanations, I’d say that “Becky” is an entertaining gory thriller. An adult “Home Alone” version where creative assault weapons are manufactured resulting in painful-looking (A hidden metaphor by coincidence) injuries. It’s not one of the best revenge movies, but also not one of the worst.
My rating 6/10
Gretel & Hansel: A Film For Those Who Love Aesthetically Beautiful Films
Tell me the fairy tale again.
It’s too scary, you’ll start seeing things that aren’t there.
In recent years we have been flooded with live-action versions of well-known Disney fairy tales. These usually follow the fairytale story without deviation. Even the appearance and atmosphere are mostly identical to the original. However, this isn’t the case with “Gretel & Hansel”. Director Osgood Perkins has gone to great lengths to make it an idiosyncratic creation. It largely corresponds to the original story of the Brothers Grimm. But the moral of the story is very different from the original fairy tale. So, no nasty stepmother. No pebbles or bread crumbs. In the original fairy tale, Hans was more inventive. Here he’s a helpless little fellow dependent on his bigger sister. But it’s mainly the role Gretel plays in this story and how this character evolves. Hence probably also the switching of the names in the film title, which indicates Gretel’s part is more important.
The period in which it takes place is comparable to that in “The VVitch” or “Apostle”. Most likely at the time of the great famine in the 14th century, when it was difficult for many to survive. Most lived in shabby houses and had no means to meet their daily needs. Similarly, the mother of Gretel and Hans, who chases the children out of the house with unmistakable words (and a dangerous-looking lumberjack ax). First, they are advised by a friendly man to look for work and join a group of lumberjacks and especially not to deviate from the path. Hunger and the discovery of delicious looking mushroom causes the two children to leave the path and discover a black house in the forest.
A dark, eery, and disturbing mood.
The mushroom scene can be called amusing and already suggests that this film is certainly not an accessible version of the known fairy tale. It’s also not recommended to watch this with your kids as you did with “The Lion King”. This film is too dark, gloomy, and perhaps too terrifying for small children. Even though I found the label “horror” a bit exaggerated. “Gretel & Hansel” isn’t really creepy. Don’t expect the typical elements of a horror. No jump scares. No gory scenes or possessed creepy persons. But certainly, you’ll experience an unpleasant and disturbing feeling throughout the whole movie. An intense, eery atmosphere in which you are immersed.
Artistic and experimental sort of film.
I also fear that due to its artistic character and experimental production, this morbid fairy tale isn’t for everyone. Many horror fans will be terribly disappointed and rather portray it as a pretentious movie. Evildoers are of course the lack of tension and the slow pace. But for me, it was the unique atmosphere and the imaginative story that made it an exciting experience. The design of the witch house (without gingerbread walls decorated with all kinds of sweetness) will confuse you. A pitch-black, modernist house built with contemporary materials and styles. Not exactly something you will start nibbling on. On the one hand, the interior is characteristic of that specific time. But on the other hand, there are also style features that belong to the present era. And the richly filled table full of delicious stews and pastries is a feast for the eyes.
Aesthetically beautiful film.
What appealed to me the most was the excellent cast. Alice Krige as the terrifying and devilish witch in particular was simply fabulous. And Sophia Lillis also plays the role of Gretel convincingly. A young girl with unexpected future prospects. The beautiful music and sound effects together with the used color palette, provided a special atmosphere. Only the denouement I found a bit unfortunate and not appropriate for the slow tempo of the film. I can certainly enjoy a straightforward version of a fairy tale. But this contrary version managed to surprise me. Definitely a film for those who love aesthetically beautiful films.