Last Month in Movies – September 2017

I watch horror movies all year long, but it’s only once September rolls around that they really begin to feel on point, you know? So that’s basically how I spent my movie-watching time in September. No room for sci-fi or action or whatever else here!

Los Parecidos – This is a Mexican horror film from 2016 (in English, The Similars), about eight people trapped in a bus station during a wicked crazy rainstorm. The first thing that you notice when you start watching is that it doesn’t look at all like a 2016 movie. It’s got a beautiful old-timey filer and style that make it seem almost like it did actually come out of the 1960’s. That’s a really good way to secure my interest right off the bat.

The plot revolves around said group of strangers, trapped, and as per genre, becoming more and more paranoid and distrusting of each other as time goes on and strange events start to happen. The crux of the strange events being that they begin suffering seizures one-by-one, followed by a facial transformation that results in each person having the same head. Oh and also, they aren’t trapped in the bus station because of the rain, but rather because some invisible force is not permitting them to leave.

While it is a slow-burn kind of mystery, it’s done really well. I was engaged throughout the whole film, constantly unsure (but with some close guesses) as to what was happening. It really comes to a head about halfway through, when the big twist is revealed, and that’s when the cast beings dying off one at a time. What was most notable is that Los Parecidos does a really excellent job of feeling exactly like a really long episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s got a perfectly spooky vibe, and of course a little smattering of the supernatural. Needless to say, I quite liked it. An excellent way to start the (extended) Halloween season.

After – Next up, we look to another random suggestion from Netflix that actually had a moderately interesting summary. It’s the story of two strangers, trapped in an abandoned version of their town, with a black mist quickly closing in on them from all sides.

Did you just say “okay, so they’re dead/in purgatory or whatever”? If you did, you’re almost right. The film opens with a bus crash, the only passengers being our main characters, Ana and Freddy. It’s not long before we get the “big reveal” that they’re both in comas, and the black fog represents the time they have left before Ana is taken off life support. So the plot then becomes about how they try to wake themselves up, rather than the coma being a bad twist ending, and I much prefer it this way.

So you might then wonder, how did these strangers end up in the same coma? That’s never really explained. It makes absolutely no sense, and they do actually address it, but end up just handwaving it away. Basically it’s just for the sake of the story, since we end up being show that the two protagonists have a shared event in their past that neither of them know about. Also it’s an opportunity to sort of blend their backstories together to make something a little richer than if it had been a single person’s dreamscape.

Overall, I’d say it was decent. A little plodding at times. There was a cool GCI monster, but it was sort of unnecessary, the guardian of a key that seemed redundant in light of the ever-present ticking clock. One nice twist is that the film constantly flip-flops who they want you to think the “hero” is going to be, and it ends up being Ana who really saves the day. So there’s that little dash of feminism in there if that’s your jam. I don’t know if I can recommend it in earnest, but it’s certainly in the upper echelon of “movies on Netflix that nobody has ever heard of.”

Spider-Man Homecoming – To set the scene: I am not a big fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. I liked them at the time, but in retrospect I find them nigh unwatchable. Mainly I just hate the majority of the cast. Additionally, unlike most people, I really like the Amazing Spider-Man movies. I have tried to, but cannot, understand why they get so much hate.

Homecoming, though? It’s perfect. Or at least as close as you get to perfect. It’s placed perfectly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe by sitting it on the fringes of the larger story; tying into the greater lore, but but not reliant on it. I mean, sort of reliant. The ties to the MCU give Homecoming a richer background and context, but this movie’s charm is all in the character development and the action.

While there is a typical super-hero tale here, the thing they really want to do is give you a Spider-Man origin story without telling the same old Spider-Man origin story. It’s not the story of Peter Parker getting his powers, it’s the story of him truly becoming Spider-Man. Following Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker has a bit of a swelled head from being recruited by Tony Stark to battle with the Avengers. He gets in too deep, driven by his all-consuming desire to prove that he’s Avengers material, and causes more harm than good, leaving Iron Man forced to step in to clean up Spidey’s mess and take away the fancy-pants suit. Left with nothing but his old DIY getup, Peter has to figure out how to be a superhero and save the day without the benefits of the super-suit.

The line “if you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it” truly epitomizes the appeal of the film. That story of growth and learning to find your inner strength was what really made it click for me. Plus, I really like this set of actors! I’ll never get over the loss of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, but Tom Holland is adorable and we all love RDJ’s Tony Stark. Michael Keaton, of course, was so friggin’ good, and I can’t help but hope that Jacob Batalon gets to come back if there is another MCU Spidey film. And Marisa Tomei? Yes, please.

IT (2017) – Yes, I have seen the 1990 mini-series with Tim Curry. No, I will not be directly comparing the two, because it’s been far too long since I’ve watched the older one and I cannot remember any more than the plot. Also I’ve never read the book, so there’s that.

Simply put, I think that IT was really great. Certainly the best thing to come out of the 2017 Stephen King adaptation craze. If you aren’t familiar with the plot, it’s about a group of outcast kids who are being hunted by a nightmarish clown from the sewers. Spoiler: said clown is actually an ancient, inter-dimensional evil that feeds on fear. And, uh, the flesh of children, I suppose. Most of that is barely touched on in this film, though, so it’s not the biggest spoiler.

IT wasn’t exactly scary, despite being an actual horror movie. I mean, I can certainly see how Pennywise the Dancing Clown is a terrifying concept, but this film banks a lot on jumpscares. And jumpscares almost never feel earned in movies. On the other hand, the creature effects were amazing. The way Pennywise’s mouth unfolds to reveal layers and layers of teeth was endlessly fascinating to me, and I almost wish they hadn’t pulled that trick out so many times,because by the end of the movie you almost end up being used to it. It’s always more fun when they keep things like that to a bare minimum.

Do I recommend IT? Yeah, absolutely! I already said that I think it’s really great. What else do you need? Maybe there isn’t quite enough time to give a proper backstory to each of the seventy protagonists, but the ones that are meant to be in the spotlight shine ever so brightly. All the kids do a really great job, too. And we all know that I have a soft spot for stories about a group of kids going on a surreal adventure (see The Goonies, Super 8, Stranger Things, etc…). The one thing that surprised me was the ending reveal that this is only IT: Chapter One. In retrospect, that was dumb of me, because Hollywood would never miss the opportunity for an easy sequel. Also there’s no way they could have ever fit the entire story into one film while keeping it cohesive and under three hours long.

Gerald’s Game – A Netflix production, which much to my surprise, is based on a Stephan King novel. I… that was completely by accident. I didn’t mean to watch three Stephen King adaptations (I also watch the Netflix series based on The Mist) all in one month. But I think that the entertainment world must have conspired for them all to release within 30 days of each other.

Anyway, this movie was far inferior to IT. Gerald’s Game is about a couple who go out to a secluded vacation hone to try to save their marriage. But when the husband, Gerald, has a heart attack and dies after handcuffing the wife, Jessie, to the bed, things begin to spiral out of control. Jessie begins hallucinating, having conversations with a more assertive version of herself and the “ghost” of Gerald. Also a stray dog wanders in and begins eating Gerald’s body.

This film is 70 minutes of boring, 5 minutes of horrible agony that I could not watch and almost made me barf when Jessie comes up with a plan to escape the handcuffs, and then 25 minutes of conclusion. Said conclusion also includes a completely irrelevant subplot involving a grave robber/necrophiliac/serial killer who had routinely visited Jessie during her ordeal, but she thought was just a hallucination of Death. I am not happy that I wasted so much of my time with this one, and cannot possibly recommend it to anyone.

Curse of Chucky – This is not new. See previous impressions here. The only thing I need to add to that review is that I was very annoyed by how two characters died instantaneously when they had either a) an eye gouged out or b) a jaw hacked clean off. Those injuries would not kill someone on the spot! Maybe the eye gouge if it went deep enough and at the right angle to skewer the brain. Maaaaybe.

Mercy – Oh my f**k. Another secret Stephen King adaptation. Netflix really needs to add that to their summaries. The differences are that this film was from 2014, and it lands somewhere in between IT and Gerald’s Game in terms of quality. Also, it’s very loosely based on a short story.

This story is about two boys and their mom, who move out to their grandmother’s house to take care of her as she dies. Of course, as to movie goes along, weird things start happening and eventually the boys manage to discover that their grandma has made a pact with some evil force. This is confirmed by a priest, who states the the woman had given away all of her goodness to gain everything she ever wanted. At the climax of the film, there’s an epic showdown between George, the main character, and Grandma’s possessed corpse.

To be honest, I have absolutely no recollection of how it ended. I can tell you pretty much exactly what happened throughout the film up until maybe the last five minutes. Then my mind blanks. I think that’s probably a sign that I was disappointed in the ending, which is too bad because the rest of the movie was alright. It didn’t exactly have me on the edge of my seat, but at least I wasn’t proclaiming “I am so friggin’ bored!” to nobody, as I did while watching Gerald’s Game.

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