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Halloween Candy
What's YOUR Flavor?
31 Days of Halloween: Days 18 thru 21 
23rd-Oct-2014 09:52 am
Day 18) The Possession
This the second movie I've seen with a Dybbuk, the other being The Unborn. A Dybbuk, by the way, is essentially Hebrew for "Demon." It's also the name of about three different heavy metal bands in three different countries, because of course it is. Here, the central family is going through a divorce and the younger daughter, Emily, takes a shine to this mysterious box at a yard sale, and very quickly begins acting . . . strange. From there on, the Idiot Ball is passed generously from character to character depending on who needs to overlook something obvious at any given time. I kept waiting for someone to notice the gigantic creepy ring Emily starts wearing about twenty minutes in, and they never did. No--never. Never! Casting Matisyahu as the Orthodox Jew who helps them with the exorcism was an inspired choice though--there's a school of thought that advocates for casting POCs and LGBT actors in parts that call for them, rather than rewriting them or giving straight white folks major awards for pretending to be them, which has been the trend up until, oh, now-ish. So yeah, as casting decisions go, it's definitely not a bad one. The acting is bland, the plot is predictable, and the writing is weak, but honestly I might've been able to overlook that if not for one thing: the divorce plot. The second I heard the word "divorce," I immediately went, "Oh Christ, is this one of those stories where the parents are separating and the kids want them back together and this monster thing they have to deal with makes them realize What's Really Important and their relationship is magically better by the end of the movie? I sure hope not, because that shit never works out in real life." Believe me, I know. Five minutes, and that was my prediction. (I was right.) This only happens in two genres: Horror and made-for-TV Christmas Specials, only for the latter swap out "monster thing" with "leukemia" or something equally glurgy. I would be QUITE happy never to see this plotline again. NEXT!

Day 19) Martha Marcy May Marlene
I believe it was Captain Awkward who described this as a "horror movie about PTSD," and that's pretty apt, so I'm gonna stick with it. The titular character (played by Elizabeth Olsen) has been in a cult-like commune for about two years, and escapes to her sister's vacation house at the beginning of the movie. To explain the title: her given name is "Martha," the cult leader decides to rename her "Marcy May," and the female members of the cult are instructed to answer the phone as "Marlene" to preserve anonymity. What she calls herself is unclear, but I think that's deliberate because her displaced sense of identity is kind of a theme here. From the cleverly edited flashbacks that make it difficult to separate M's past from her present, to her wildly inappropriate reactions to seemingly "normal" situations after she escapes, to Olsen's disarmingly understated performance, this is excellently well made. But it is very, VERY hard to watch, and disturbing for all the right reasons. So I find myself in a sticky position of wanting to tell people what a great movie this is, but hesitating to recommend it to anyone with triggers for things like rape, manipulation, and abuse. I will say this: in the world of fiction, there are several stories that attempt to visit all those ugly places in order to make some kind of point or reveal the truth about what life is like after surviving an ordeal like what M endures here. But this is the first one I've seen that tackles its subject matter with honesty and sensitivity without flinching away from a very real type of horror. The ambiguous ending frustrated me at first, and I've seen that reaction elsewhere, but I also think it's fitting considering the reality here: whether she manages to escape her past in a tangible sense doesn't matter. Those experiences are going to be part of her life forever, and that's the point.

Day 20) Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Okay, Public Service Announcement time. Might as well get out my megaphone. *tap tap* {{{{MY FELLOW HORROR FANS. FROM NOW ON, I AM TRUSTING MY OWN INSTINCTS. IF I SEE A TRAILER AND I THINK THE RESULTING MOVIE IS GOING TO BE SHIT, I WILL NOT WATCH IT EVEN IF THE REVIEWS & RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PEOPLE WHOSE OPINIONS I NORMALLY TRUST AND RESPECT ARE BOTH AMAZING. IF I PERSONALLY THINK IT MIGHT BE SHIT, I WILL IGNORE YOU.}}}} Not making that mistake again. I said it looked like a cheaper, more anachronistic version of Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm and that's exactly what it is, down to the Action Girl eventually needing to be rescued. Shame, shame on ALL of you who told me to give this monstrosity the time of day. Another thing I noticed after the fact is that every single female character turns out to be a witch. Every single one. And all but one of them (the one who ends up needing to be rescued) dies. That said--I need to see Gemma Arterton in more things, if only to listen to her voice. I don't know what it is, but I could listen to her read the dictionary. Yeah, that's all I have to say here. NEXT!

Day 21) The Raven
Was this in 3D originally? The way some of the shots are framed makes me wonder. That's the thing about gimmicky visual stuff like that--if it's noticeable when the gimmick isn't accessible, it becomes a distraction. Anyway, I snatched this up because I needed another Luke Evans fix before The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies comes out, and he's in Victorian garb here (Yay!), so at least I was satisfied on that front. John Cusack plays Edgar Allen Poe during his last days in Baltimore, when a killer turns up staging his crimes like the scenes in Poe's stories. Evans is the main police inspector trying to solve the case, and snags Poe as a consultant, so there's a bit of a Sherlock Holmes vibe going on as well. It's neither fabulous nor terrible, lots of cool nods to Poe's work, the first victim with an actual speaking role yells, "Please, don't, I'm just a critic!" (HA!), and of course the costumes are delicious, especially in the "Masque of the Red Death" scene. I think this wanted to be another Sleepy Hollow, but it's a shade too boisterous and takes itself a smidge too seriously to pull off the campy magic of Tim Burton's last great film. Still, it's good, gorey fun if you have a couple hours to kill, and don't mind the script portraying Poe as this rude, uncivilized, arrogant drunkard--a presumption that's largely been written off as slander by his more envious contemporaries. I guess the lesson here is when you run out of "good" movies to throw in the queue, let the Fangirl decide.
24th-Oct-2014 06:25 pm (UTC)
Awww, sorry you disliked Hansel and Gretel so much. Can't even remember if I recommended it or not now, though I have a feeling I did.

. . . And now I really want to see The Raven, mostly for Luke Evans and period costumes. :)
26th-Oct-2014 02:12 am (UTC)
I think you may be a little harsh on Hansel and Gretel. Sure, its flimsy and frothy but it didn't really claim to be anything else. Yes, Gretal did need a rescue at some point, but so did Hansel. I would say that was more about them being better together than apart, rather than a gender issue.
I had fun with this even if I didn't have to use much of my brain to enjoy it. (I could say similar for Die Hard, Star Wars or any number of other films).

Did you not even giggle at Hansel becoming diabetic after the candy cottage incident?
26th-Oct-2014 02:15 am (UTC)
I'm sorry, was my megaphone not loud enough? HATED IT. NOT DISCUSSING FURTHER. THE END.
26th-Oct-2014 02:29 am (UTC)
It would be a grey old world if we all liked the same stuff.

I can usually get a pretty good fix on whether the film is going to be any good just from the trailer, but it doesn't always stop me from watching something despite my instincts kicking off. I will watch pretty much anything, but will often use my instincts as a barometer for how much I am willing to pay to see something. Persistent, nagging doubts usually mean that I will watch a film only when I can see it for free (like on TV, years later) or sometimes not at all - but this is rare if I at least like the genre.
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