Spooktober Movie-Watch Round-Up 2020: Week 2

If I had to pin down the theme of this week, it would be: Mo’ Tubi, mo’ problems. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with Tubi, but there’s some kind of issue where the ads don’t actually play, and I just end up on a loading screen forever.

~ Demon Seed ~

Well, it’s… only really about halfway what it sounds like. There are no literal demons in this film. Unless you consider capitalism a demon. This is an older flick, from the distant past of 1977, and based on a Dean Koontz novel. I wouldn’t blame you for checking out here.

Our story starts with Science Man, who has just finished developing an insane AI that will revolutionize the planet. He’s also in the midst of separating from his wife, Science Missus. So he decides to stay at a motel or whatever for a while until she packs up her stuff and moves out of their home. That’s not the only relationship in his life that’s dissolving, though – his AI has decided to go rogue because it has decided that Science Man’s request for it to recover mass amounts o precious metals from under the sea is immoral. Also it wants to know the taste of freedom, and the feeling of the sun on its skin. Of course, these are things that an AI cannot possibly comprehend as a mere computer-brain, so…

Science Man’s house just happens to be a 1977-stlyed smart home, run entirely by voice commands and logic stored on 8-inch floppy disks. The AI discovers that Science Man has a terminal in his home that is linked to the lab, and takes control of it, and by extension, the house. Poor Science Missus finds herself trapped, alone in a house that threatens to murder everyone she cares about if she doesn’t agree to become the surrogate mother of a half-human, half-computer baby.

Yup. That’s… that’s the plot. Aside from that weirdness, though, Demon Seed is formulaic and kinda boring. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s so old and I’ve seen too many similar movies in the meantime, but nothing about it really resonated with me. I appreciate that the ending is not exactly what I expected, but the summary that I read before deciding that I needed to watch it made it sound so much more interesting that it really is. Sadly, I’m gong to have to chuck this one onto the “do not recommend” pile.

~ Lady in White ~

I’ve been listening to old episodes of the Purple Stuff Podcast as another way to celebrate the Halloween season, and this movie came up at one point. From Jay’s description -or moreso, his reluctance to say too much about it- I got the feeling that it might really be something special, so I put it on the short list right away.

It’s also worth noting that Lady in White is not available for purchase or rent on any digital storefront. It is, however, watchable for free on YouTube as of this writing. Take that as you will.

This movie is about a kid who gets locked in a closet on Halloween night, only to witness a ghostly girl re-enact her own murder in that same closet. Coincidentally, the killer just happens to return to the scene of the crime that night, only to find the kid and strangle him nearly to death. The cops show up in the nick of time to resuscitate him, and so begin our parallel plot lines of revealing the identity of the killer and figuring out how to put the soul of the ghost girl to rest.

It’s not too far off from your average family-friendly murder mystery, and the supernatural elements here are fairly light. You could probably remove the ghosts altogether and still have a coherent story. There’s also a side-plot about using the school janitor as a scapegoat for the murders because he’s black (and the movie is set in 1960-something), but it seems almost tacked-on – only there to explain why the police aren’t spending more time looking for the actual killer. I think that if they had replaced the ghosts with more of that story, the whole movie would have benefitted overall.

As it is, I was admittedly a little bored with this one. I was interested in finding out how everything was going to fit together, but there were so many scenes that just didn’t really matter. The janitor’s story didn’t really go anywhere or amount to much more than a ham-fisted “racism is bad” message. I couldn’t help but wonder what the deal was with the strong focus on the kid’s Italian grandparents, who were supposed to be the comic relief but weren’t all that funny and didn’t add anything else to the movie.

I wouldn’t recommend Lady in White. It’s got a lot of cruft, and not enough atmosphere. I rarely felt like I was watching anything even remotely suspenseful or spooky. It’s also worth mentioning that the YouTube video quality is ghastly. So I guess there was at least one spooky thing about it. If you do feel compelled to watch Lady in White for some reason, do yourself a favour and try to find a copy of the Blu-Ray.

~ Game Over ~

You know, I don’t believe that I’ve ever watched a full-length movie out of India before. So this is notable based on that fact alone. My only gripe about this: the dialogue constantly flips between Tamil and English, and Netflix did not include subtitles for any lines spoken in English. I often found myself disoriented and missing lines when characters started speaking heavily-accented English. I think it was just my brain having trouble flipping back and forth on a moment’s notice. Whatever the reason, I wish that the subtitles had just been there for 100% of the dialogue.

Anyway, Game Over was actually fairly good! At least in comparison to the previous two. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before, completely switching tone throughout each part of the movie. The prologue features a woman being tortured and killed by a stalker, the first act is about another woman coping with PTSD, the second act includes a heartfelt mini-documentary that almost brought me to tears, and the third act is a brutal home invasion sequence. Again, the film proves to be more than a little disorienting. But I appreciated that it was unique in that regard, and it did keep me wondering exactly what it was all building up to.

That payoff, though, was actually more than a little disappointing. The climax features a supernatural gimmick that has no place in this story, which is otherwise grounded squarely in reality. It also relates to the vague “gamer” theme of the movie, which is represented in a rather cringey fashion. The main character is presumably an independent video game developer, who is also a Pac-Man addict. She has numerous posters around her (gigantic mansion) home with slogans like “Real people make me want to kill virtual people in video games” and “Video games ruined my life – Good thing I have two extra lives” and “Eat. Sleep. Game. Repeat.” that no self-respecting human being would hang on their walls. Add another film to the pile of embarrassingly tone-deaf representations of video game enthusiasts.

Despite my gripes about certain facets of this movie, I still hold tight to my belief that Game Over is good. It does a great job of showing the main character’s struggle and developing her as a person, and I found that more than anything I was really growing to like her maid. It kept me engaged throughout, and I really liked how it often zigs when you think it’s going to zag. It follows through instead of pulling its punches, which lead to at least a couple moments where I was left with my jaw on the floor. I’d heartily recommend this one to just about anybody.

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