Friday, February 8, 2019
You wouldn't normally expect to see a movie that combines feral kids and ghosts, right? Well, 2013's "Mama" is unexpected that way...
Years after their disappearance, Lily and Victoria are discovered living in a supposedly haunted forest. They are taken to live with their Uncle Lucas and their Aunt Annabel (no relation to the doll).
But something has followed them from the forest... something that wants the girls back...
Guillermo Del Toro's "Mama" is not, unfortunately, one of his better movies. The story idea is great, but the execution is a little flat in my opinion. The plot progression is steady and moves towards an interesting- though predictable climax.
The main flaw is the characters. The two girls- Victoria and Lily felt like they were more or less a MacGuffin, rather than fully realized characters in themselves. Victoria gets a bit more growth and development than Lily... but not much. Lucas doesn't get much development either, and felt like he was just sorta there without any real impact. Annabel, the aunt gets the most- but even then you're not really felt engaged by the character. I was also really disappointed by the character of Mama. Beyond the very basic revelation of her story, you're not compelled to feel much towards her.
I can't say too much about the acting. It was standard in my opinion- not great, but not shitty either. I liked the performances given by Jennifer Chastain (Aunt Annabel), Megan Charpentier (Victoria), and Isabelle Nelisse (Lily) though.
There was some decent camera work, but the CGI used for Mama was very obvious CGI.
Ultimately, I was left feeling, "meh".
"Mama" might be good for a single viewing, but certainly not more than once. It's going into "The Bad".
Monday, January 21, 2019
Sometimes, a bedtime story grabs you in a dark grip... one you just can't escape...
Amelia is trying to raise her son alone after the death of her husband. One night, she reads a strange book called "Mister Babadook" to Sam- a book that warns that the Babadook will never stop tormenting you once you become aware of it.
Soon, they become of something dark in their lives... a dark thing that just won't go away...
"The Babadook" is one of those movies that works on a metaphorical level in addition to the literal "what's on the screen" way. The theme of dealing with grief is very much an element behind the horror in this movie, and adds a level of depth and relatability to it.
The story is very similar to many other "ghost in the closet" movies, but is strengthened by the thematic element, and the strength and believability of the characters. I wanted to find out how the characters ultimately dealt with the events unfolding, and how they would grow from them in the end.
As mentioned above, the characters were quite believable. They weren't perfect people. They were flawed, and unique. I couldn't help but be engaged by them and the emotions they were feeling as the story progressed.
The quality of the characters were enhanced by the skillful acting. Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as Sam were great. They were able to carry the movie- which except for small scenes, was reliant of their two characters to give the story substance.
Jennifer Kent brought us a movie that was emotionally deep, believable, and stylish. Here low tech approach to it only helped to add to the uniqueness and surreal nature of it. Using stop-motion for the Babadook monster was bold, and in my opinion created a very cool look and feel to it.
I would certainly recommend this to people, and I'm putting it in "The Good".
Thursday, January 17, 2019
One of my favorite paranormal cases to study is the British "Enfield Poltergeist". When I heard that "The Conjuring 2 would concern the involvement of Ed and Lorraine Warren in it, I was understandably interested- though I was well aware that the Warrens had only spent one day as part of the investigation. I was still interested. Wary, but interested.
The Hodgsons are being tormented by strange phenomena: knockings, moving furniture, levitation and possession. Spurred by a vision she has during the Amityville investigation, Lorraine and Ed travel to England to assist the besieged family. Their investigation draws them into the clutches of a demonic force that has been stalking Lorraine for some time...
I'm going to get my main negative comment out of the way: the historical accuracy of this movie as it relates to the Warrens' involvement in the real life Enfield Poltergeist investigation is thrown out the window. If you go into this film looking for an accurate portrayal of the case, you will be disappointed.
Right- with that out of the way, let's talk about "The Conjuring 2" as entertainment.
The story from a purely entertainment viewpoint is pretty solid, if somewhat standard for the genre. It hit pretty much all the beats you'd expect from a ghost movies these days. Even so, it's strength is that it's fairly grounded in tone and pacing. It's not over the top in what it's expecting you to believe for the most part, and does contain kernels of truth incorporated from the actual case. Even if it wasn't based (very loosely) on a real event, the story itself is sufficiently well crafted to be engaging, and keep my attention from wandering to thoughts of why my bowl has no more cheesy poofs.
The characters, from what I have read, are fairly accurate to the real life participants. The fictionalized versions have depth, and a nice believability to how they act.
I have to say that the acting was really quite good. Every single performer brought these characters to life in a substantial way that helped to draw you into the story. I also loved that there was a real effort to make the look of the actors match the actual person they were portraying. This is especially apparent with Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson, and Simon McBurney as Maurice Grosse.
Praise also has to go to the art direction. I was really impressed with how closely they made this film match up visually to photos, etc of the real events. From the red nightgown Janet wore in the famous "levitation photo", to the posters on the walls. It was close enough that I didn't mind it wasn't exact.
As an accurate telling of the Warren's involvement with the Enfield Poltergeist, I would have to give "The Conjuring 2" a borderline "Ugly/Bad". As a piece of horror entertainment, I'd put it 'The Good".