Ash vs Evil Dead is also worth watching

Again, not really a review. But while cooped up in lockdown, when not working, we have to do something… and I choose to watch movies and series.

So the other day I decided to download Ash vs Evil Dead and now I’ve watched the first season. I didn’t really think I’d enjoy it. An old school friend, one who I met up with on Facebook, told me about this series when it started a few years ago. The funny thing is, I was the one who introduced him to it 30 years before. Back in our school days, poor old Eric visited my home, and anyone who visited me there was forced to watch a few movies, two of which were the original Superman with Christopher Reeve, and Evil Dead Part II. I watched both of which at least once a week back then.

And Oh boy! Eric freaked out when he watched it. He shouted; he screamed; he squirmed! And he loved it. I forgot all about it in the years since then, but he remained a fan, and I didn’t even know the movie became a cult classic.

So I downloaded it, and I’m glad I did. The protagonist, Ash, played by the sadly underrated Bruce Campbell, is a moron. He’s vain, arrogant, not too bright and has zero self awareness, yet has a good heart and is a reluctant, and sometimes not so reluctant hero, killing zombies called ‘deadites’ in the most gory and hilarious ways.

It doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s corny, goofy, filled with slapstick, and cheesy, but horror comedy genius. Somehow it isn’t campy. I don’t know how but it never gets campy, unlike something such as those awful Pirates of the Caribbean snorefest movies. Each episode is only about half an hour so it moves along quickly too.

The last two episodes of season one guest star Samara Weaving, and by the way, if you haven’t watched 2019’s Ready Or Not, which is another bit of comedy horror genius, you should check that out too.

Home movie reviews–Depraved; Sweetheart; Bliss

On Saturday I lost track of time – found myself watching random YouTube videos and ended up on a list of horror movies from 2019. I can’t remember the channel; might’ve been WhatCulture… Anyway, I settled on three movies and watched them; thought I’d share my experience and recommendation for whether or not they’re worth your time.

I don’t want to spoil too much and I’m not going to give a rating of a number of stars or any usual kind of review. So in each case below, I’ll give a brief summary and rate it according to two points… thumbs up/down and watch/don’t. The titles link to each movie’s page on Rotten Tomatoes.

Depraved

It’s a modern take on Frankenstein without the depth, some unnecessary plot details tacked on that add zero value, and nothing redeeming about any of the characters the monster kills.

  • Thumbs down.
  • Give this one a miss.

Ignore the Rotten Tomatoes critics rating for this one.

Sweetheart

A girl washes up on a small island and struggles to survive. It’s a monster movie – there’s some kind of monster that comes out of the water at night, a monster that drags its victims, sometimes dismembered and sometimes alive, into a hole in the ocean floor.

The movie gets a little predictable with the plot after some other survivors show up, and makes one major mistake near the end in that it sets up its own rules regarding the behaviour of the monster, and then breaks them for a cheap scare. But overall a good watch.

  • Thumbs up
  • Yeah… watch it.

Bliss

A struggling artist is about to be kicked out of her apartment and gets dropped by her agent as she hasn’t finished a painting in three months. So she goes off on a bender, ingesting some weird drug called Bliss, a mix of cocaine and DMT.

Starts out poorly – some sex scenes where we are led to believe we can fuck with pants and panties on, and I thought that was just silly. And we’re treated to several minutes of nothing happening but our protagonist getting progressively wasted. (I spent several years in a drug-fuelled delirium in real life. This does a good job portraying and glamorizing that, but I have better things to do than watch people being wasted.) But around 17 to 20 minutes in, things change, and if you saw the trailer it would have been given away… it changes to a vampire movie. Lots of gore, great music and atmosphere with disturbing visuals, and you’ll forgive the poor start as well as the silly explosive ending.

  • Thumbs up.
  • Watch this shit.

The funny thing for me is that I nearly stopped watching this movie in those first fifteen minutes, but it turned out to improve enough to be my favourite of the three. I’d elected to watch Depraved first, expecting it to be good, and Sweetheart was my second choice. Turned out my preconceptions were wrong, and this was the best of them, with Sweetheart being good too. Depraved was a disappointment.

Watch Doctor Sleep, the director’s cut

I just watched Doctor Sleep, without realizing that this was the director’s cut, but what a movie it is! I highly recommend. I’m not going to write a review because I could not write one without spoilers, but all I’m gonna say is that if you haven’t seen it, you should.

I started reading Stephen King when I was twelve years old, having already watched some horror movies, including Amityville II:  the possession and Videodrome. I also watched the Evil Dead part 2 the year it was released, though that was a few years later. Likewise I watched The Shining as a child before I read the book as a teenager, which I think I read at around 13. Having started with Carrie about a month before my thirteenth birthday, thirteen was a bumper year because there were already quite a few books he’d written by then. (1986)

So, all these years later, horror is still my favourite genre. I can’t say these movies or books scare me… it isn’t about that. It started out being about fear – fear of the supernatural and a fascination with all things spooky. I believed I lived in a haunted house as a child (aged one to three) – hell, I even had my parents convinced that the supernatural was real. And that, that place of deep fear, of terror, of overactive imagination fuelled by grim nightmares and sleep paralysis, is what drove me into my love for all things horror. And when I say horror, I don’t mean trashy slasher flicks like Friday the 13th, I mean real horror like Stephen King’s books and this excellent movie I just watched. And before that, it was horror comics, which for me were as important as the super hero ones.

Thank god (god isn’t real but those are the only words that work) for my parents who supported my interest in all things horror and didn’t stick to age restrictions. It would have been awful if I hadn’t been allowed to watch and read what I loved. Parents ought to support their children, even when that means breaking the rules when the rules don’t make sense.

Anyway, this one, just for moment, sent a chill down my spine, that scene with the ghost from the bathtub brought back a memory from the first (and only) time I watched The Shining as a child. So I’ll repeat… if you haven’t already watched it, you should do so. Maybe not alone at night – not everybody has quite the same temperament for these things that I do… but if that makes it scarier and more fun, then maybe that is the way. It’s the only way for me.

Eli – An unfortunate twist that leaves the movie making no sense

This past weekend, I watched two movies. One of them, Coherence, is a few years old now, so I guess most people have seen it. (It was excellent and worth watching if, like me, you missed it. Heck, it’s worth watching even if you’ve seen it before.) The other was Netflix’s Eli, which I thought looked worthwhile from the trailer.

It wasn’t. Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

The premise seemed interesting. A boy has to live in a plastic bubble, or makeshift spacesuit when going out, because he’s so ill, exposure to the world will kill him. He gets taken to a spooky old house and has a friend outside, in Sadie Sink, made famous in Stranger Things as the newest cast member and red haired girl who joined the cast in Season 2… seen in the trailer getting his attention by throwing stones on the windows from outside.

Except right off the bat, the movie doesn’t make much sense. Knowing that this was made by the producers of the Haunting of Hill House, I knew there’d be clues throughout. And sure enough, there were…

Some of the clues:

  • Some hillbilly types at the gas station mock him in his spacesuit at the start, and he “makes a wish” for his mother (something she does to calm him down kind of like Martha Kent calms little Clark in Man of Steel), and he wishes he could mess them up (I forget the exact words because I only watched it once), hinting at a hidden darker nature.
  • They rock up at the secluded spooky house, and the Sadie Sink character, who obviously doesn’t live there, is just hanging out in the yard, even though it’s in the middle of fucking nowhere. Not out of place at all.
  • They walk in the house, greeted by Lili Taylor as Dr Horn, and two seriously creepy nurses who stare suspiciously at the boy, making it quite clear that they are obviously not nurses.
  • In a conversation between Eli’s parents, she mentions needing to have faith, and he replies sarcastically, “I’ve always been faithful”. Too much emphasis on the word and obvious double-meaning.
  • Then the ghosts start to show up, in a trope that I am too lazy to look up but that one where the spooks are there to help kiddo realize the true nature of the house and that they are former “patients” who died at the hands or doctor Horn.
  • Another scene features his parents sitting at the base of a staircase, with her praying and he comments, “Do you think praying will help us?”

After that, the movie tries really hard to convince you that there isn’t a plot twist coming. Dr Horn and her two minions carry out bizarre medical procedures on the kid, and the movie limps along with him getting clues from the ghosts and the girl outside who mostly just hangs around, but also warns him that the last patient disappeared after medical procedure number 3. Convenient as he’s just had procedure 2.

Eventually it turns out –  surprize surprize – that Dr Horn is really some kind on super nun. He’s not really sick. His mother, having given up on god after praying to him for a child with no success, eventually prayed to the devil. So Eli is literally the Son of Satan. Da da daaaah! I kid you not!

The problem with this twist, though it seems to make sense at the time, is that since the “doctor” was not really a doctor, the medical procedures she did make no sense at all. The twist renders the whole movie plot pointless. It wasn’t an exorcism because they couldn’t remove who he is… so what the fuck were they doing? Nobody knows, and this is one case where the plot twist is so “clever”, it’s stupid, and makes the movie a joke.

On the whole, the movie wasn’t a bad watch. It was entertaining, but for something with such a twist, terribly predictable. And the twist kind of messed up everything that happened before it.

I finally saw Avengers: Infinity War

There will be spoilers here. Don’t read it if you don’t want to see spoilers. They won’t be major because I’m not going to tell you who dies, but they will give away plot details.

So I finally took my son to watch the new Avengers movie this past Saturday. “Finally” after it was only released a week ago may seem like an odd word to use, but I’ve been seeing spoilers everywhere so it felt like a long time. Firstly, I can not understand why it has a 13 age restriction. Josh is 10. Fortunately nobody looked at him too closely so they let us in.

Overall, I liked the movie. It was better than Thor Ragnarok, which I hated. The acting was good. The chemistry between the various actors worked. The comedy was not too excessive and was effective. The script was good. No complaints about any of those…

It was the plot I didn’t like. Thanos is the big bad guy, literally, and really all he does is get all the infinity stones for his gauntlet. In other words he does Big Bad Guy Stuff. He wins, of course, because there’s a second movie coming. His objective is to bring balance and “mercy” by wiping out half of all intelligent beings, which is similar to what he achieved with force a while back, as shown in a flashback. Having achieved his goal, he then sits around. He could just as well go fishing.

Thanos’s plan is to eliminate half of all life so that we do not have limited resources. In his mind that is mercy and ensuring that there is plenty for all. But why would he want to do so on Earth? It’s a place he’s never been. The same goes for most other places. Is he doing this because he loves everyone? It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t really much of a plan. It works in a comic of limited panels of rich colour drawn beautifully, but for me this doesn’t translate well to a movie plot. I want more. I want a villain who has more than two dimensions.

Although there are some deaths in the movie, the “shocker” comes at the end when Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet to snuff out half of all existence. In other words, people simply vanish in a puff of CGI smoke. But among those who vanish are some new Marvel characters who have movie sequels confirmed. (As far as I know, they do.) So to me, it feels kind of cheap and tacky.

Furthermore, there’s a clue in the post-credits scene that Captain Marvel is coming. Who exactly is she and how will she undo the work of the Gauntlet? I don’t know… sorry about that. But I do recognize a deus ex machina when I see one. For those who don’t know, deus ex machina, Latin for “God from the machine”, is a plot device where some unresolvable situation is lazily resolved from outside of the narrative.

Overall, I liked the movie. My ten year old son did too. And I know it’s based on a comic book, but still… The flaws in the plot could have been ironed out. Maybe a standalone Captain Marvel movie and some minor changes could have saved us from the cheap ending, but that would have meant doing away with the cliffhanger. And movie studios love their cliffhangers…

There were other issues I had with the plot. I can’t reveal them without writing greater spoilers, and I don’t want to do that, since the movie has only been playing for one week here. I do recommend seeing the movie.

We had a good day yesterday.

Yesterday was a public holiday here. As usual, I didn’t know what day it was… I think maybe Human Rights day. And although I wanted to write something about it, I am stuck on being quite unable to come up with a title. Not sure why that is…

The day started off with me playing Diablo 3, and now my characters are up to Paragon Level 508. I was disappointed when my Monk character died for the first time… while playing a greater rift that was only level 20. It sucks as I was hoping to have one character that has never died, but that’s not meant to be… I have a demon hunter that can play level 37 greater rifts, and a mage that can play level 30, but the demon hunter has gotten frustrating to play. She does too little damage but her armor is ridiculously high. (Around 266 million while using her main Vengeance skill, which she uses constantly.) So playing her is a slog and higher level rifts have a time limit that gets difficult to make if you don’t do enough damage. My mage does millions of damage but can’t play those high levels because he can be wiped out at any time. Enough about that…

After that, my son and I spent most of the day at Johannesburg zoo. It’s a lot of walking, but he had a good time and took plenty of photos of the animals. I’m writing little about it, but that was most of the day.

Then, I went to check if Justice league and Thor: Ragnarok are out on Blu-Ray. (They are.) So even though I already watched Justice league twice, we watched both of those, starting with Thor.

I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed with the third Thor movie. I knew it had good reviews, so I was expecting a good movie. Instead, we got a slapstick comedy with mostly bad dialog and some terrible dialog. The movie is campy. And if anyone doesn’t know what I mean (someone always doesn’t), I mean the comedy is overdone to the point of it mocking itself. Possibly not intentionally. Kind of like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which bore me to a deathlike slumber… But I did watch to the end because Josh asked me to. (I’ve never watched to the end of any of the Snorefest of the Caribbean movies.)

But anyway, it was a good day. We were in especially good spirits and didn’t let anything get us down… There were a few things that might ordinarily have left me angry, and they are worth mentioning… While we stood in the queue at the zoo for nearly an hour, a stupid girl near the front of one of the queues (not my queue fortunately) lit a cigarette and proceeded to smoke right there in the crowd. There are no signs indicating you can’t smoke, but still, that’s just not something you do. It hasn’t been for many years. Then, the woman in front of us was on the phone to friends the whole time we waited, and just before we got to the front of the queue, her friends joined her in the line. With their ten children. (I saw the tickets. It was ten.) So two adults and ten children pushed in front of us right before we could pay. They were not with the woman they spoke to on the phone; she and her family didn’t wait for them and they paid separately, so they should not have been allowed to push in. I didn’t speak up, because they were black and I’m white, and I could see they might make it about race. I almost commented though, because I saw them argue and try to get a ticket for one of the children for free. I almost sarcastically said that the type of people who push in would typically be the same type who try to con their way into getting free tickets. Anyway, it was good to find myself not getting angry and enjoying the day despite a few annoying things along the way.

I finally watched the remake of It

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Of all the movies we went to see in 2017, the remake of Stephen King’s It was not an option, because of the age restriction which would have prevented me taking my nine year old son along. Ever since then, he nagged me to get it. So when it finally became available, I did.

He could not watch it to the end – in fact he didn’t even make it halfway and I had to send him out the room. He was too scared and covering his eyes most of the time anyway.

Here’s the thing… He’s watched many horror movies, including Evil Dead 2013, the Insidious movies, The Purge movies (which really get more B grade and lower in quality with each sequel), the Conjuring movies, and the spinoffs Annabelle (boring) as well as Annabelle Creations (not too bad), and Silent Hill Revelations. Obviously there were others I’ve left out. The point is, none of those movies scared him, but It did.

I was thinking about why that might be… Modern horror has become quite a predictable genre. The movies are like memes, copying tropes and trends from each other. Many of them remind me of jigsaw puzzles the way they glue their cheesy repetitive plots and jump scares together. All their characters are even carbon copies of one another. (With the exception of Silent Hill from the movies I mentioned.)

What made It so much better? Well, for me it brought back so many memories of reading the book, even though I only read it once in my late teen years and I’m 46 now. They changed a lot, and as far as I remember, the children grew up to defeat the antagonist as adults, but that was left out to make way for a possible sequel. They also turned up the gore, but the movie felt like a Stephen King story, more so than the dreadful It miniseries from years back – which everybody besides myself loved.

The characters are all believable. They’re deep, and the relationships between them are familiar. They’re all a little larger than life, but that’s OK because it is fiction. You have children coming of age, bullies, abusive parents, overprotective parents, romance, a child overcoming his stutter, and other bits I’ve left out… all taking place in a town where people go missing and things are clearly wrong, but the adults are indifferent and have learned to carry on like nothing is amiss. And let’s not forget the killer clown. That is a recipe for terror for a child because he identifies with the characters and feels their fear.

I shouldn’t  have considered letting my son watch It yet, and now we will wait until he’s a little older. But it’s a good movie, worth getting the Blu-ray or downloading if you haven’t seen it yet. It isn’t a horror movie, not in the sense of others in this genre, but for some it may well be scarier than the horror movies on circuit for the last ten years.