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Clown

clown-movie

Markus Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars

Writer/director Jon Watts made a little low-budget drama called “Cop Car” which received fair reviews from critics. “Clown” was his other film; a film universally panned by critics as something akin to hot garbage and produced by Quentin Tarantino’s forgotten stepchild, Eli Roth. That said, is it an absolutely disgusting notion that I liked a movie about a clown who eats children?

Synopsis: A man finds an old clown costume and wears it for his son’s birthday party. In the morning he can’t seem to get it off. And when he tries, things get bloody. Layered atop this plotline is a really creepy eastern European clown origins story, which is actually more frightening than most monster movie horror origin stories.

“Clown” isn’t without flaws (shocking, I know). Basically everything Roth touches tries to be funny and just isn’t. And much like many B-movie horrors, this film suffers from a reaction problem from the people being perused by the titular monster (in this case, the reactions from friends and family are curiously calm) but that can be attributed to the level of actor used in this.

On the plus side for novice horror fans, much of the violence here is not as gratuitous as I would’ve imagined (as far as violence towards children is concerned) but more importantly, every kill is extremely well choreographed; not overly campy or silly, even with visible budgetary constraints. In fact the direction is the best aspect of this film by far, really elevating the more unbalanced and underwhelming melodramatic material in the 2nd Act into something visually disturbing and half-way scary.

Final Thought: Not going to lie, there were some quite disturbing and morbid sequences involving suicide (the best filmed suicide of 2016) and child consumption, which I rather enjoyed.  But all that is an acquired taste.

Rated R for horror violence and gore, and for language

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Lights Out

lights outMarkus Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars  

Whenever I hear about an acclaimed horror short  film being made into a feature, what I fear most is that it will be elongated in such a way, that a convoluted storyline will replace what I’d originally found scary about the short to begin with.

Synopsis: A young boy named Martin is discovered to have a fear of something in the dark, by his older sister, Rebecca. Soon Rebecca traces this fear back to their mother who has randomly quit taking her meds and to a monster that talks to the mom and can only survive in the dark.

Rather than do a long write-up of why “Lights Out” isn’t worth your time, let me fast-track it for you. Here are the top 15 reasons why “Lights Out” is a bad movie:

  1. Once the first death occurs, the movie’s timeline goes out the window.
  2. Nobody is as scared as they should be. Example: It is established that someone can only be attacked in the dark. Yet people in this movie spend a weird amount of time shuffling through drawers in a dark house and are shocked when they are attacked.
  3. The rules of this particular world vary by situation. Example: The monster has the power to turn off lights…well, only sometimes. Sometimes when the main character is vulnerable in a bathroom, it can only make the lights flicker, but other times it can shut off power to the entire street. Another example of rule-bending: Said monster can only survive in the dark, but somehow travels during the day from building to building. Wait…what?
  4. The makers of this movie don’t seem to know anything about how CPS (Child Protective Services) works.
  5. Awful cornball dialogue (especially the dramatic bits). “Lights Out” was elongated for the big screen by writer Eric Heisserer (Final Destination 5).
  6. Characters make a ridiculous amount of stupid horror film mistakes. Example: When you are trying to get away from a monster who can only attack in the dark, you obviously run into the basement; the only room in the house with no windows.
  7. The only reason this story fulfills its 81 minute runtime is because of the line: “she’s still our mom.” While this excuse works for a little bit, when mom begins to blatantly put her children in harm’s way (i.e. making them live in a house with a monster in it) why continue to defend her? Because the movie would have ended, that’s why.
  8. If the mother takes her medicine, the movie is over.
  9. While there are attempts at scares within this film from director David F. Sandberg (he directed the original short) none of them are actually effective. Thus, there is not one scare in this horror film.
  10. No scares.
  11. No scares.
  12. No scares.
  13. No scares.
  14. Not scary.
  15. No scares.

Final Thought: The one aspect of this film which I didn’t totally hate was its resolution, which while predictable, did follow some form of movie logic. But listen, you can’t have a horror movie without scares, in the same way you can’t make chocolate chip cookies without chocolate. It’s (by definition) impossible! So tell me why I’m still seeing reviews from “Lights Out” apologist using the phrase “not scary, but still good” when talking about this horror film. “Good”? A “Good” what? A “Good” movie? Anyone who sat through this elongated mess of a story could see that “Lights Out” wasn’t a good movie. And with its lack of any scares, it can be neither considered a horror movie. What does that leave us with? A nondescript cookie.

Rated PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content

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Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters-2016-Chris-Hemsworth-Kristen-Wiig-Melissa-McCarthy

Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” remake was actually pretty good…until it wasn’t. With a runtime of nearly 2 hours, filled with tons of laughs, great cast chemistry and a healthy dose of fun creepiness, the first 90 minutes seemed like 60, but shockingly the final 30 seemed like 90; for some reason losing all momentum during its final “action-packed” sequence. That said, this was still better than “Bridesmaids”.

Synopsis: A comedic ragtag group of scientist/paranormal enthusiasts (Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon) and one non-scientist (Leslie Jones) team up to stop a city-wide malevolent ghost invasion.

The cast, which was the most important aspect (no matter what anybody says) of remaking the 1984 original (simply because it was the most contentious) was almost solely responsible for transitioning the first 90 minutes of this fairly thin storyline into the realm of visual entertainment. With Wiig (arguably the best comedic actress working) leading the way and McCarthy acting as a formidable side-kick (where she tends to shine the brightest) director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) and producers come out looking like  geniuses for pushing forward with this powerhouse female lead cast, under heavy scrutiny. Well, except for Kate McKinnon; she was just plain unfunny here. And when push came to shove, she becomes rather annoying. Whoever hired her made a mistake.

Final Thought: Full disclosure, I’ve never seen the Ivan Reitman original, which to some is considered a blasphemous statement and would furthermore totally negate my opinion on this remake. And to those who think this way, I say: WHO CARES! Like I’ve always said, movies should be reviewed on their own individual merits and any good critic should avoid comparing remakes to the originals, to the point where it mutates the integrity of the criticism of the remake. End of story.

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Suicide Squad

suicide-squad-joker

Markus Rating: 1half star

This wanted to be “Guardians of the Galaxy” so bad!

As the most teased and advertised movie of the year, even with a tsunami of negative early reviews, the “Suicide Squad” hype train was not to be derailed; which meant: No matter what the reviews said, I was still going to see this movie. That said, does this film live up to the hype?

Synopsis: Telling the story of a group of incarcerated supervillains who are rounded up (for reasons unknown) by the government (instead for recruiting actual soldiers; again, “for reasons unknown”) and made to battle a villainous witch (who wasn’t even a threat until after said villains were “rounded up”). Now if that sounds like a movie you want to see, then read on and let’s see if I can’t break your spirit.

Director David Ayer’s style (Training Day, End of Watch) is completely lost in a movie that looks like it was edited by producers into a mishmash of nonsensical cuts, flashbacks and one on-the-nose song after another.  This outcome results in a lackluster plot jumble in conjunction with nonsensical character motivations, in equal amounts. I get why a supervillain would be forced to help the government, but (spoiler alert) there comes a point when they don’t have to, BUT DO IT ANYWAY! (insert head-scratching emoji here).

While Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) do work as entertaining leads, the Joker (played by Jared Leto in an absolutely forgettable performance) is made to look like a Juggalo electronic-dance DJ inspired pimp, whose motivations include wearing purple fur coats and running around the city with no shirt on, showing off his abs. The Joker I KNOW was all about chaos. That’s what makes him scary; the fact that he isn’t much for “feelings” and doesn’t wear a frightening amount of bling-bling. But I guess it’s 2016 and this is what we get; a Joker feat. Skrillex. As for all of the other B-side villains, they are complete throwaways.

Final Thought: As much as I enjoyed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (I know I’m in the minority here) “Suicide Squad” may be looked back upon as the beginning of the end for this particular cinematic DC universe. So, let me be the first to say it: RIP DC.

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