Capsule Reviews: Week 40 / 2020

ending
5/10

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Charlie Kaufman

2020 | USA | 134m
Drama, Thriller
IMDb


There are some interesting elements here, but nothing ever really comes together and it’s all a bit of a meandering mess. It’s a beautifully shot film and the performances are all decent, particularly Toni Collette and David Thewlis as Jake’s parents. The dialogue is often stilted and frustrating, probably on purpose but annoying regardless. The car scenes with Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons are painfully drawn out and dull. Not a single interaction between them is interesting and the ‘humour’ did not gel with me at all. When they get to the farmhouse, there is some real tension and mood and things get quite trippy and the awkward humour plays well. Things seem like they’re starting to come together and then they get back in the car again and then it just gets continually worse. The book its based on sounds much more thematically interesting and put together, but the film fails to address the book’s intentions and I’m not entirely sure what it’s going for here, but it is not enjoyable for the most part.
horse girl
6/10

Horse Girl

Jeff Baena

2020 | USA | 103m
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
IMDb


A pretty good psychological thriller/horror about a woman losing her grip on reality. Alison Brie is great and her character, Sarah is really likable and sympathetic. Her character is developed well and it takes time building up her complex and traumatic past, and the cracks begin to show. The black comedy elements work well and there are some really funny moments, particularly her date with Darren. However, her sudden breakdown comes on too fast and, despite an interesting trippy ‘dream’ sequence, it starts to lose its way in the final third of the film and all the careful threads it built start to fall apart. A solid film regardless and worth checking out if you’re interested in mental illness/losing grip on reality type of films.
mom
6/10

Mom

Patrick Rand

1991 | USA | 95m
Comedy, Horror
IMDb


I’m surprised this is not more well-known, and even I only heard about it a couple of days ago while listening to a horror podcast. It seems like something that should be a cult classic. The first half is quite goofy and charming, Brion James is hilariously deadpan as Nestor and Jeanne Bates is a likeable and sweet as the titular ‘Mom’, but never overdoes anything. The monster effects are goofy but cool and Mom is pretty funny when she transforms. There are some amusing scenes where Mom and her adult son swap roles: she won’t eat her vegetables, he locks her in her room, she sneaks out the window leaving pillows under the blanket etc. But near the halfway point it stops being quite so funny and not really horror. It becomes more of a melodrama and while it’s still sort of enjoyable, I think it needed to keep the humour going all the way and it needed more monster/gore scenes to do this.
harpoon
7/10

Harpoon

Rob Grant

2019 | Canada | 83m
Comedy, Horror
IMDb


A solid dark comedy/horror about a group of friends stuck on a yacht. It is a lot better than the plot summary would have you believe and is not what you’re going to be expecting. The three main characters are all set up early on as being incredibly toxic for each other, they’re all kind of gross and unlikable for their own reasons but there’s something still likable about them (to watch, not really as people). As the friendship falls apart while on the yacht and they struggle for survival, you suddenly realise you’re quite invested in them. The sex chat was a bit too ‘ugh teenagers’ but I guess furthers their awfulness. There are also some great tone and character switch-ups and while some of the ‘twists’ may be obvious, they work incredibly well. The ending is also fantastic and satisfying.
blue monkey
6/10

Blue Monkey

William Fruet

1987 | Canada | 96m
Horror
IMDb


It starts off promising as lots of energy is built up straight away with all these kooky characters coming into the hospital and making it feel really alive. But then all these characters end up being irritating unfunny comic reliefs (the drunk old ladies, the pregnant woman and the annoying husband), useless woman who just flirt or scream, or just kinda boring (the kids, the lead guy, everyone else). Steve Railsback is likable, despite his flat character, and more John Vernon would’ve been great. It is much more stylish than it should be and has some nice 80s aesthetics. A major problem is that while the creature looks alright and there’s a nice decapitation scene, there is not enough of the creature and not enough gory fun moments.
witch
5/10

Noita palaa elämään

Roland af Hällström

1952 | Finland | 80m
Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Horror
IMDb


This is quite fast-paced and yet somehow nothing really happens. It always has a stagey, theatrical feel to it but this kind of lends to the humour at the beginning as close calls with death start happening when they dig up the witch. The characters are also weirdly sex-obsessed with one guy openly lusting over this other’s guys wife–in front of both of them–and this is just kind of laughed off. When the witch finally appears everyone starts going crazy for no real reason. She’s supposedly seducing them, but the character changes and the chemistry between them is not convincing. Mirja Mane, as the witch, is the real highlight of the film though with this child-like innocence and playfulness in her seductiveness/sexiness. Her constant laughter is grating, and actually could’ve added something to the ‘women hate me, men want me’ thing but it never really does any of these effectively. Although the ending kind of makes the craziness make sense, it’s mostly just stupid.
schatten
6/10

Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination

Arthur Robison

1923 | Germany | 90m
Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance
IMDb


This is a pretty nice looking film, pretty typical German expressionist style. The plot revolves around a puppeteer giving a shadowy puppet show to a wealthy group of people forcing their darker sides to come out. There is some interesting imagery of shadows, especially with characters misinterpreting events happening by the shadows through the curtains and there are some pretty cool shots (like the growing shadows as they are all at the dinner table). But I felt the shadow imagery was underused in general and it lacked atmosphere. There are also no inter-titles, aside from introductory ones, which is nice but it can sometimes be hard to follow.
happy death day 2u
4/10

Happy Death Day 2U

Christopher Landon

2019 | USA | 100m
Comedy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
IMDb


I didn’t like the first film much, but it was passable. This was just plain bad. In some ways it’s nice that it wasn’t a complete rehash of the first film with just some other killer after her, they did put some effort into mixing it up a bit. But it just wasn’t very interesting and kind of felt pointless. The humour of these films is too dumb and not funny to me and it just feels like it’s trying too hard to be funny. It also relies heavily on us having invested in a large number of unlikable, very annoying characters with no real personality and if you’re not invested in them, everything falls completely flat. There are so many stupid preachy teenage life speeches (eg, the generic chat about love and ‘the one’) and the emotional moments are so painfully sugary. It does move quite speedily along and it’s never boring, just stupid.
stridulum
6/10

Stridulum

Giulio Paradisi

1979 | Italy | 108m
Horror, Sci-Fi
IMDb


Trippy, weird film that’s somewhat incoherent but involves a battle between good and evil as heavenly alien beings are sent to Earth to save a young girl who has evil powers. The opening film is about as good as it ever gets, with some really strong visuals of cloaked figures and dust-storms and a creepy score. Once it becomes a regular narrative film it becomes more flawed–but it’s nearly as bad as people make it out to be. Aside from the opening scene, the score is completely random and the heroic, adventure music that plays whenever John Huston appears makes for a few laughs. There is some really great cinematography, the skating scene in particular was good and had quite a bit of tension. The editing and acting are the main culprits for letting the film down: they’re atrocious. The birthday scene is hilariously bad. I kinda liked it though, it did have fun moments, cool visuals and some potentially good plot ideas, they’re just never fully realised.
psychopath
5/10

The Psychopath

Freddie Francis

1966 | UK | 82m
Crime, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
IMDb


Really dull ‘thriller’ where everything moves so hastily, yet so slowly that nothing actually seems to happen. People die, dolls are left by their bodies, detective man comes in to talk to everyone a lot and then they find the killer and it’s over. There’s no tension, there’s no real mystery. It’s obvious who the killer is almost immediately, which is not really a problem except that it seemed to want the tension to come from us not knowing who it is. The whole thing felt clumsy, and I wasn’t really convinced by the ending since it needed to spend more time developing the characters. Mostly, the whole film seemed to be an excuse to have the crazy German doll lady.

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