Category Archives: Genre

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Suspense Saturday: It (2017)

 

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Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

Suspense Saturday: It (2017)

Three times I have sat in a movie theatre, laughing and jumping with each joke and scare. A horror movie fan since a young age I have devoured several of them, old and new, gore and psychological over the course of my young life. Some I have watched for therapeutic reasons, some to be entertained and others for the story. It (2017) manages to fall into all of those categories for me. With a coming of age story at its helm, the deaths of bully’s and the talent it took to make this film, It surpasses many other horror films and as it ages it will be deemed a classic of the genre.

When it comes around to purchasing the film I will probably watch the film several more times before I become bored of it. Only then will I wait to watch it again when the novelty wears off and I will revisit it like returning to an old friend.

As someone who has not read the complete novel but has read about the story and engaged in several conversations about, It, I will say that I believe the film is a worthy adaptation of the source material. However, my opinion is based solely as a viewer.

I saw the original film/miniseries a few times in the past but despite my love of Tim Curry I do prefer Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise and find this adaptation far superior. With a talented cast, a great script and wonderful effects it is no wonder that It has surpassed the half-a-million mark at the box office. It has also surpassed The Exorcist as the highest grossing horror film of all time.

 

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Jaeden Lieberher as Bill, Finn Wolfhard as Richie, Sophia Lillis as Beverly, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Chosen Jacobs as Mike, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, and Wyatt Oleff as Stanley

 

Opening to critical acclaim and making box office records, It, is far more than a horror movie. A coming-of-age tale about a group of outsiders that come together to face their biggest fears and save the town, It turns children into superheroes.

No matter how old you get the children of the story are the ones you will relate to. We all are or have been children and far too often we forgot what it was like to be young. Consistently silenced, talked over and dealing with peoples refusal to listen, children are smart and observant but as we get older we forget to listen. As adults, we deal with many of the same issues. We are silenced, talked over and people refuse to listen to us. No matter how old you get the children of the story are and will remain the most relatable aspect of any story and It, showcases that incredibly well.

You might not expect to laugh your laurels off while watching a movie about a mysterious entity that takes the form of a clown (or maybe you do) but It, brings the laughs. With a young and talented cast, It has many memorable lines and moments that are sure to put a smile on your face. The relationships between these children as they deal with what it means to be a “loser”, as they go on misadventures and face death head-on grows. The kids also show a lot of personal growth as they face Pennywise and their very personal issues at home.

Female sexuality (especially in young girls) is a difficult topic to deal with in a film. It is a difficult topic to bring up in any form mainly due to the continued over-sexualization of young girls and women. It has come to be something dirty and when we face it head on it is considered something even worse. While we have no problem portraying the evolving sexuality of males at any age, sexuality in women seems to be a subject that cultures spanning far and wide have difficulty embracing. In certain corners of the world, we are evolving to show stronger women who are embracing their sexuality and we are unafraid to show it. In It, Beverly Marsh is a young girl afraid of her own sexuality and what it means to be women. Afraid of walking into her own home, Beverly is her daddy’s “girl” and every time we see her with him an uncomfortable feeling washes over you. The victim of her father’s perversion and the cruelty of the kids at school, Beverly has a reputation in the town of Derry, Maine for being a slut. Bev doesn’t just lay there and take it, she is a kind girl who befriends new kid Ben and later helps the boys retrieve supplies to clean and bandage a wound. As she faces Pennywise, Beverly also faces her father and her impending womanhood.

It (2017) is a film that might surprise you. The films greatest strength (and it has many) is the kids that make up the cast. They have great chemistry, play well off each other and it appears that they are having fun. That stands out on screen and the film is made that much more enjoyable because of it. Bill’s performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown will send shivers down your spine as he salivates at the children’s fear. A well-written cinematic adventure, It, is sure to be on our minds for years to come.

Film Noir Friday: Phantom Lady

 

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Ella Raines

 

PHANTOM LADY (1944)

This 1944 film with a weak title that accurately suggests the plot is based on a novel written by Cornell Woolrich published under one of his pseudonyms, William Irish. Not especially known today, Woolrich is still admired in circles that appreciate Noir novels- and in the 1940’s, he was one of the best. For those who want realistic characters and a well-defined plot, this is a film you may enjoy picking apart. For those who can settle back, buy-in, and enjoy the ride, this is a well spent hour and 27 minutes.
The movie begins in a bar. Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis), obviously agitated, comes in, sits down and orders a double scotch with a water chaser from the bartender (Andrew Tombes). The only other person in the bar, a woman in an odd hat (Fay Helm) sits down beside him. She offers her two tickets to a show. She refuses, she has no one to go with. He asks her to go with him. She agrees as long as there are no names, they are just companions for the night.

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They take a taxi to the club where they exchange only small talk; the hot New York weather is mentioned. At the club Cliff (Elisha Cook, Jr), the drummer notices her; she’s not interested. The Latin singer Estela (Aurora) notices the hat. Scott whispers to his companion, “She could murder you.” After the show, Scott returns his companion to Anselmo’s and tries one more time to get her name.
Scott returns home. When he turns on the light and calls out, “Marcella, I want to talk to you.” There are three men there; police detectives. They allow Scott to go into the bedroom where he sees his dead wife. Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez) comes across as sympathetic but they try to pressure Scott into a confession. (The other detectives: Regis Toomey and Joseph Crehan.) All we see of Marcella is a full-length portrait. They have been married five years; the last time he saw her was 7:00; he had asked her for a divorce but she wasn’t going to give him one. She had been murdered around 8:00; strangled with one of Scott’s neck ties. He offers the woman he had been with as his alibi; he has to admit that he doesn’t know her name.
The next morning they take Scott to Anselmo’s. They get the bartender up. He recognizes Scott and the “Gloomy Gus” he had served the night before but he doesn’t remember any woman. Then they take him to the garage and question the taxi driver. He also remembers Scott but is certain there was no woman. At the theater, they question Estela; no hat like mine.

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The trial is handled quickly and cleverly. Scott’s secretary Carol (Ella Raines), who he calls Kansas, is there and obviously distraught. In a Voice Over the District Attorney (Milburn Stone) mostly ridicules nameless woman alibi. He’s convicted.
Shortly after the verdict, Carol meets an exhausted Scott. He doesn’t want to appeal; he’s surrendered. He has lost faith in his own memory. Carol is convinced that he couldn’t kill anyone.
Carol goes to the bar and spends the next three days staring at the bartender. Finally, after closing, she follows the bartender to the train station. While they are alone on the platform, he comes up behind her, thinking about pushing her on to the tracks but another passenger arrives. Eventually, they end up in his neighborhood and begin to argue. Several men attempt to intervene. In the scuffle that ensues, someone in the crowd pushes the bartender into traffic.
Carol returns to her apartment and finds Burgess waiting for her. He knows about her following the bartender and he believes that Scott is innocent because a guilty man would have come up with a better story. They go to the theater where a provocatively dressed Carol gets Cliff the drummer’s attention while he’s on stage. He takes her to an after-hours jazz club that is a little too wild for her. Cliff sits in for a song and drums maniacally.
Cliff’s place turns out to be a dump; he says he spends his dough on other things. Eventually, he admits to getting $500 for saying he didn’t see “some dame.” Carol wants to know who gave him the money. He says it was some man. Carol’s purse spills. (The purse has a J on it; she claims to be Jeanie.) Cliff finds a police document that describes him. Carol runs out and calls Burgess from a Deli across the street.
While she waits, Cliff has a visitor (Franchot Tone), who we will later find out is Scott’s friend Marlow. Marlow gives a weird speech about hands, how they can be used for either good or evil. He pulls off his scarf and wraps the ends around his hands.
Carol again meets with Scott at the prison. There are 18 days left before his execution. This is the time and place where he suggests she call him Scott. He senses that she is in love and he wants to be happy for her. She tells him that she is in love with her boss; he didn’t know she had another job. As she is leaving, Scott’s friend Marlow arrives; he had been away in South America and didn’t know what had been happening.
At Marlow’s office, Carol tells him that there is only the singer, Estela Monteiro, left. And she’s leaving town, tonight is the last show. With Burgess they attend the wrap party, Carol wants to get the name of the milliner. After the party, Carol makes her way to Estela’s dressing room but everything is gone. Marlow followed her in; he turns the lights on at the dressing table. Burgess comes in and Carol leaves. There follows a conversation about murders. Burgess calls them paranoiacs. Marlow becomes defensive, tries to massage away his headache before he collapses. When he gets him up, Burgess tells Marlow to see a doctor about his dizzy spells.
Though she didn’t catch Estela at her apartment, Carol sees hat boxes from Kettisha being carried away. At Kettisha’s shop, Carol, with Marlow, sees a sketch of Estela’s hat. At first, the hat maker denies making a copy of the hat but when a man’s life is in the balance… She admits taking $50 for making a copy for a regular customer, Miss Ann Terry.
After getting the name and address, Marlow drives them to a large house in the country. Dr. Chase (Virginia Brissac) tells them that Miss Terry was removed herself from society after her fiancé died. The Doctor agrees to take Carol, alone, to see Ann. “Don’t let her get too excited.”
The doctor took Carol in; Ann is slow to respond to their presence. Finally, she agrees to talk to Carol alone. “I’ve been sick,” she admitted. This is my grandmother’s house; I’ll never marry. She doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Carol left but returned a few minutes later to find Ann looking at the hat. Carol asks if she can borrow it. Earlier, realizing that Carol was in love, Ann said, “You want to wear it for him.”
Marlow drives Carol home; so relieved, she rests her head on his shoulder. Marlow’s head is aching, he twitches. At the first store they see, Carol wants to stop and call Burgess. Marlow says that he will do that. He claims that Burgess will meet them at his apartment.
At Marlow’s apartment, Carol is happy and chatty. Silly hat- She wants to hear the real murderer sentenced as Scott was sentenced. She notices Marlow’s headaches, gets him to lay down on the couch and put a wet rag over his head. While he’s laid out, she finds the bag, Jeanie’s bag in Carol, as Jeanie, bedroom along with the police report.
Then there’s a rush of events: Marlow lying on the couch- the phone rings- Marlow lies there lifelessly. He asks her to come to him; she does. He turns off the lights; “Hurts my eyes.” People have lived here for thousands of years and they want to give…. I don’t know.
For Marlow, this is a desperate time. He wants to kill Carol. He wraps the ends of his tie around his hands. As he approaches her, Marlow makes it clear that he thinks his life is more important than anyone else’s life. But as he approaches her, Burgess breaks through the door. He has used the experiential, but everyone is impressed.

 

Film Noir Friday: Laura

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Laura

Detective Mark McPherson investigates the apparent murder of advertising executive Laura Hunt. Told in flashback by Newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker, Laura follows the detective as he falls in love with her through diaries and a portrait that hangs on her wall.
Gene Tierney stars as Laura, the titular character whose image floats through the film as if she were a mythical creature. Dana Andrews stars opposite her as the detective, Clifton Webb is Waldo Lydecker, Vincent Price is Shelby Carpenter, a role that would surprise today’s audiences, and Dorothy Adams is Bessie Clary.
Laura was adapted to screen from the 1943 novel of the same name by Vera Caspary. Directed and Produced by Otto Preminger, Laura is a classic Film Noir making lists of the top Noir’s for years.
While today’s audience may not find themselves as satisfied with the reveal, Laura still stands the test of time. A successful and talented woman is at the helm. Put on a pedestal by all the men, today’s feminist audience may see these male characters in a less than romantic light.
Film Noir has allowed women to take on roles usually reserved for men. After the Hayes Code was instated women typically portrayed the love interest, the wife, or the daughter. Occasionally they got to play roles far more interesting than that and Laura was a role worth having. Gene Tierney is perfect, as it is believable that any man could fall for her on her portrait alone. She has an essence that pours off the screen; her image excites us as she glides through the memories and imaginations of the other characters. While this role puts Tierney in a place of objectification she is also a strong and smart woman who fights against the ideas that men have of her.

 

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Gene Tierney and Vincent Price

Laura could have been created for the young starlet who by this time was best known for her film Heaven Can Wait alongside Don Ameche. While other good roles came before Laura better ones came after. Tierney would go on to star in Leave Her to Heaven alongside Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain and once again, Vincent Price. Vincent Price would appear in a few more roles outside of the genre he is most associated with but would eventually find his home in horror.

 

 

 

Netflix Pick of the Week: Scream

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Released in 1996

Since I’ve been on a Wes Craven kick I’ve decided to choose this nineties gem and Kevin Williamson written slasher starring Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, and David Arquette, Skeet Ulrich, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Jamie Kennedy and Drew Barrymore as my Netflix Pick of the Week. A standout picture that has now become cliche due to the saturated market of teen horror that has tried to imitate it, Scream is a great movie born out of a clever script.

Self aware and witty, this nineties slasher knew what it was doing. Scream is more than your typical horror film, while playing with some of the rules set in to motion before slasher scripts were a thing, Scream found its own way in to the heads of its audience. While there are certain things you may question (check out cinema sins Everything Wrong with Scream) the good far out ways the bad. An enjoyable movie that I return to at least once a year, Scream is a classic thanks to great direction by Craven and a fun script by Williamson.

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The cast of characters are far more complex than the characters of this films predecessors. Randy, played by Jamie Kennedy, is the know-it all film buff. He is the odd one out in a group of friends including final girl, Sidney Prescott, who is still reeling from mother’s murder one year prior to the events of the film. Her boyfriend Billy Loomis, with his perfect teen heartthrob hair, is the brooding type while his best friend Stu is the goofball. Tatum is the best friend and the perfect foil to her good girl friend, Sidney. Apart from the high school students is Dewey, a sheriff and brother to Tatum, and Gale Weathers, a reporter who believes Sidney was wrong about the man she accused of killing her mother. There is also a special appearance by Henry Wrinkler as the Principle and a cameo by Director Wes Craven who appears as a Janitor that looks suspiciously like Freddy Kruger.

The film is brutal but not gory. Funny and is dramatic without becoming overly cheesy. There are many ways this film could have gone wrong but while refusing to take itself seriously, Scream is able to standout in a difficult genre.

Checkout MTV’s Scream, on Netflix, A Nightmare on Elm Street and New Nightmare by Director Wes Craven are on Netflix and The Vampire Diaries and The Following created by Kevin Williams are also available on the streaming website.

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Suspense Saturday: Murder!

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Murder! released in 1930

Let’s go back to the early days of Hitchcock. In 1930 Alfred Hitchcock was still a budding director; co-written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and Walter C. Mycroft it is based on a book and play Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. The third talkie film directed by the future master of suspense Murder! may not be one of his most popular films but when you watch it you will see the directors signature from the beginning.

Actress Diana Baring, played by Norah Baring, is accused of murdering fellow actress Edna Druce when she is found in a daze with blood on her clothes and the weapon at her feet. She has no recollection of the events and the police arrest her due to the damning evidence. The two young actresses are thought to be rivals and she withholds information that could help the police. After she is found guilty, juror and actor-manager Sir John Menier played by Herbert Marchass, feels responsible so he begins investigating the crime to prove her innocence.

Spoiler Alert

His investigation leads him to another actor in the troupe. Menier fakes an audition, calling in actor Handell Fane, who often plays cross-dressing roles. When Fane realizes that he is accusing him of the crime he leaves and goes to his job in the circus. When he realizes that he is caught, Fane hangs himself while performing his trapeze act. If it wasn’t for the work of Menier, Diana would have suffered that same fate in prison.

Murder! has me feeling more sympathy towards the actual perpetrator of the crime than I do for the women falsely accused. Considering the time of this film I highly doubt that was the intention but also, knowing Hitchcock, he probably wanted us to feel things far beyond our own comfort zones. Was that intentional?I don’t know, but like in all art, it is entirely up to our own interpretation.

Murder! is available to watch on Amazon Prime as well as on various free streaming sites.

 

Film Noir Friday: Fourteen Hours

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Richard Basehart and Paul Douglas in Fourteen Hours

Fourteen Hours, is a lesser known Film Noir from 1951, directed by Henry Hathaway and Written by John Paxton. Based on an article by Joel Sayre in The New Yorker describing the 1938 suicide of John William Warden. The film was shot in New York and is the film debut of Grace Kelly in a small role.

The film follows a cop as he attempts to coerce a suicidal man off the ledge of a building. Onlookers and family discord make the situation worse as the Officer attempts to gain the unstable man’s trust. Over the course of fourteen hours he succeeds in winning him over only to have his efforts continually messed up due to those around him.

My happiest surprise while watching this film was the treatment of mental illness and the reality the stigma towards it. People on the streets are seen as being both sympathetic and horrible towards the situation. Below the man on the ledge, taxi drivers are placing bets and kids are mocking him. While this is a harsh view it is a true one and a view we still live with today. Far too often people forget that those suffering from a mental illness and those on the brink of suicide are ill and they need help. However we don’t view it in the same vein as physical illnesses like cancer so we have a distorted view of the harsh reality.

On the streets and in the buildings of New York, life continued. People went to work, found their ways back to each other and managed to find love. It is a Hollywood movie after all. You could’t expect them to make a movie with at least a little romance did you? Fourteen Hours breaks up the drama that exist on the ledge by showing us his affect on those below him and how they react to the situation. While this film may not be as well known as Noir classics  Laura and Double Indemnity, it still works with a great script and superb acting by the films star, Robert Cosick.

Two endings to the film exist. The original and preferred ending by the Director has Robert falling to his death but due to the suicide of Fox President, Spyros Skouras daughter on the day of the films preview the ending was changed to have Robert survive.

Netflix Pick of the Week: Hush

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Directed by: Mike Flanagan

Written by: Mike Flanagan & Katie Siegel

Starring: Katie Siegel,  John Gallagher, Jr, Michael Trucco, Samantha Sloyan,  Emma Graves

Genre: Home Invasion, Thriller

Plot: A deaf writer lives a secluded life in the woods. She must fight for her life when a masked killer begins terrorizing her.

Review: 

A new entry into the home invasion thriller genre, Hush premiered at South By Southwest in March. Distributed by Netflix, Hush was released in April to rave reviews. Different than most films from the genre due to its heroins deafness, Hush gave us a great protagonist to root for. There is a total of five characters seen in the film, one on Skype and two others for a short period of time. The majority of the scenes feature the man and Maddie. Hush is easily one of the most minimalist films of all time. With roughly 15 minutes of dialogue there is 70 minutes that go without and it is a true testament to this films greatness that you are not really aware of that until the end.

A smart use of the genre that often comes off as lack luster. Instead of saying, “been there, done that,” you will be pleasantly surprised. Maddie, the man character is a writer and being that I am also a writer I related to her. For all creatives out there you will find something in Maddie as well. The way she comes up with stories is mentioned early on and put into use later on in the film. Hush, made great use of foreshadowing. They gave us pieces of information that kept us informed without giving too much away. If you are looking for something new to watch, a new horror film to add to your favorites list or anxiously looking through your Netflix queue for something to watch why not check out Hush?