Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bright, or: Just the Two of Orcs

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Christmas programming for what is the greatest Christmas gift of all on the blog:  a terrible Netflix original movie about cops, orcs, prophecies, and CGI creatures completely real mythical beings.

The Film:


The Premise:

Two members of the LAPD–one orc, one Will Smith–team up to prevent the prophesied return of the generic medieval fantasy-type dark wizard.

The Ramble:

Like any fantasy worth its weight in …unicorn dust(?), this one begins with a vague prophecy that attempts to be intriguing but is really just minorly irritating.  I can’t even remember what it is at this point.  Magic, magic, Dark Lord, orcs, you’re a wizard Harry.  Something along those lines.  Surely these words won’t affect our unsuspecting protagonists in modern day Los Angeles.

Note that modern day Los Angeles is a place where humans coexist with all manner of fantasy creatures:  orcs, elves, centaurs, fairies, dragons, and the like.  As one would expect, there’s an established hierarchy, with orcs as essentially the lowest of the low.  Elves, on the other hand, are akin to the 1% and even have their own district with way nicer cars and cleaner streets.  Humans seem to fall somewhere in the middle of all this.

This includes Will Smith, an officer with the LAPD.  After dramatically being shot by an orc, Will (aka Daryl Ward) is returning for his first day of work in months.  His partner Nick Jakoby is the only orc on the force, and as such is under constant suspicion by the other cops.  The situation for Nick hasn’t improved since an orc shot his partner and then escaped.

BTW, Margaret Cho is in this.

Though Ward tries to keep things professional, he obviously holds a grudge towards Nick, constantly shutting down his partner and trying to undermine him.  Not cool.  When Internal Affairs gets involved with the investigation of Ward’s shooting, he’s ready to be rid of his partner but would rather do so without any shady schemes.  The Internal Affairs reps persuade him to record his conversations with Nick and draw a career ending confession from him.

Meanwhile, Ward and Nick respond to a disturbance downtown in which a crazy guy with a sword is saying shit about the prophecy and making threats.  After they take him into custody, he tells Nick the Dark Lord is returning to claim orc hearts.  This guy is later interrogated by an elf and humans that are part of the FBI for magic.

You shall not…park here!

It may also interest you or at least be relevant for you to know that 3 wands are needed to resurrect the Dark Lord.  The catch is that only a bright can wield a wand without dying painfully.  Most brights are elves, but it is possible for a human to be a bright.  Any human, you say?  Even a cynical policeman whose life thus far has shown no indication of any magical tendencies?

Our story doesn’t go along too much further before Ward and Nick encounter a bright with a wand, an elf named Tikka.  Since the wand comes with so much power and is so valuable, the cops decide to kill Nick and take the wand for themselves.  They pressure Ward to go along with this plan, but of course he ends up being just too honorable.

Collateral Blue-ty?  That’s the one Will Smith movie pun I’ve got for this post.

Just when Ward and Nick escape the corrupt cops, they encounter members of a gang who make their intentions clear with incredibly painful street talk.  Ah-eh-eh-em:  “Word on the street, there’s a wand in this ‘hood” and “The wand belongs to the barrio” are 2 shining examples.

Basically, the point here is that everyone wants the wand.  Ward, Nick, and Tikka must dodge all of their rivals and prevent their worst enemy from rising in the form of the Dark Lord.

This, of course, leads to a showdown between our 3 heroes and the evil group of elves who want to bring the Dark Lord back to wreak havoc, destruction, etc on the world.  Who will emerge triumphant?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Though it promises a genre-bending thrill ride, this one is sadly forgettable.  Most of the plot feels like a carbon copy of all other police dramas, and it’s too reluctant to fully embrace its weirdness.  The fantasy elements seem tacked on unnecessarily rather than fresh or fun.  That’s one of the biggest disappointments of this film–for such an off-the-wall premise, there’s a distinct lack of fun here.

The social commentary about racism tries really hard, but it doesn’t feel particularly noteworthy, nor half as clever as it thinks it is.  In fact, some of the especially cringeworthy gang stereotypes undermine that message.  I want to give this film props for trying, but it gets a lot wrong and handles things too clumsily for it to succeed.

Additionally, the characters and character relationships fall flat.  I think(?) Ward is supposed to be the grizzled old timer and Nick the wide-eyed rookie cop, but both feel bland and tired.  I guess they’re so boring they deserve each other, but at the same time I didn’t get a sense of a genuine connection between the two.  There’s never a time when the relationship between Ward and Nick shifts, even after facing countless near death experiences together.  Beyond that, the minor characters are pretty uninteresting too, and Ward’s wife and daughter are basically props.

There’s nothing to mark this as a blight to film making; on the other hand, there’s nothing much to remember about this one at all.

Would Christa raise this one from the dead as prophesied or push it down a bottomless pit?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Red Christmas, or: Family Is a Blessing

Let the month of Christmas horror continue!  But maybe not with this film unless you’re up for…a rather confusing mixed bag.

The Film:

Red Christmas

The Premise:

A family’s Christmas together is cut short when a stranger appears on their doorstep with a mysterious letter…and an axe (naturally).

The Ramble:

From the get-go, our story is framed by the abortion debate as protesters clash outside of an abortion clinic.  An aborted fetus raises a bloody hand, alive…?  And, to the shock of no one, a key player in the events that unfold 20 years later.

The chaos of Christmas at home takes center stage now, as Diane gathers together her family for the doomed “best Christmas ever.”  This will be the last year in the family home in the Australian countryside, as Diane is selling the home in favor of a jaunt to Europe.  After her husband’s death from cancer, Diane has decided to do something for herself.  Diane’s children have differing opinions about this decision, which will become clear.

It’s all fun and games until…actually, it’s never fun and games.

The grown children at home for the holidays include an adopted daughter heading off to college soon, the token party girl (who is very pregnant), the uptight conservative Christian daughter, and Jerry, the only one of her children whose name I can remember.  Jerry, who has Down’s syndrome, will move to assisted living after the house is sold and seems pretty ok with this.  Also in town is Diane’s brother Joe, playing the role of the drunk uncle, and the spouses of the two oldest daughters.

Diane decides to put some of her money towards fertility treatments for the conservative daughter, who refuses.  Though she’d like to have a child, she believes God will help in that department.  Hey, if it worked for Mary I guess…

When the family all gathers, arguments inevitably arise about the house, sharing what they are most grateful for, and whether to say a prayer (good old Uncle Joe suggests a prayer to his god, medical marijuana).

The family quarrel is mercifully interrupted when a stranger dressed in a dark robe rings the doorbell.  He arrives with an envelope for his mother, which Diane suggests he hold onto.  Making what is likely the worst decision of her life, Diane invites the stranger inside to warm up.  She even gives him a present, though regrets this about 1 minute later when he insists on reading the letter to his mother.  His letter is highly critical of an abortion that happened 20 years ago…provoking an intense reaction from Diane.

Good things always happen when you let strangers with dark hoods into your house.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, you might wonder.  Is the stranger…oh fuck it, you already know this.  Yes, the stranger is exactly who you think he is, aka the miraculously living fetus Diane aborted 20 years ago.  The baby had Down’s syndrome and would have arrived as Diane’s husband was undergoing chemotherapy, which proved too much for her to handle…though she has kept this secret from everyone in the family.

Before he can finish reading the letter, the family insists the stranger leave the house and never return.  They even add insult to injury by throwing his gift at him and threatening him with the rifle that I imagine all Australians have hidden somewhere in every room.

If you want to kill a presumed dead fetus the right way, you have to do it yourself.

Almost immediately, the family is back to that great Christmas tradition of getting into pointless arguments.  This distracts them from the first murder of one of their own.  When they discover the body, it does bring the family together, however briefly.  The family (mostly Diane, TBH) concocts several plans, one of which involves an abysmally bad response from law enforcement officers.

It becomes all too easy for the murderer to pick off members of the family one by one.  When all is said and done, which side of the family will survive?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

There are some successful moments in this film, but overall it’s quite a mess.  The tone is very uneven, at times almost a horror comedy, and at other times incredibly dark and low-budget gory.  Pointless family arguments are on the nose but feel out of place here with the grisly murders.  It’s also really difficult to care about 90% of the characters because they’re cookie cutter family stereotypes and they make THE worst horror movie decisions ever.  Diane is the exception to this as she proves herself to be quite a badass.  Too bad everyone else in the family is so incompetent.

I got a lot of mixed messages from this film too.  It was trying to be a bit more philosophical than your average slasher flick, but at a certain point just sort of gave up on conveying any sort of message.  When we finally see the murderer, he’s disfigured in an unexpected way that seems to be making a point about Down’s syndrome…but at the same time not really making sense.

Also, where the fuck was local law enforcement in all of this???  It takes about an hour for the cops to arrive with ONE officer who (spoiler) doesn’t live for very long or help in any way.  Surely this is not the way reports of armed murderers are handled in Australia unless the Australian version of law enforcement is just giving everyone a rifle and wishing them the best of luck?

Would my blog wife marry into this family or let them all meet the business end of an axe?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Silent Night, Deadly Night, or: Axe Santa a Question

One of the best months on the blog, and we’re off with a bang—or, rather, quite a few swings of the axe and several stabs.  Once again, the month of December is brought to you by Christmas horror and the occasional made-for-tv Hallmark cheese tray.

The Film:

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The Premise:

Witnessing the murder of your parents may result in your transformation into Batman…or a serial killer who dresses as Santa.

The Ramble:

Christmas Eve, 1971.  And so our troubles begin.  It’s certainly going to be a memorable Christmas for Billy, who is off with his family to visit his grandfather.  The catch is dear old granddad is in a psychiatric ward, and seems to have been in a vegetative state for many years.  Conveniently, he becomes lucid for just long enough to traumatize Billy about the nature of Santa Claus as a vindictive old asshole who punishes bad children.  Upsetting, but not insurmountable, yeah?

Give it 5 minutes.

Enjoy this moment while it lasts, Billy.

After leaving the psychiatric care facility, Billy’s parents notice a man dressed as Santa whose car has broken down on the road.  In the spirit of Christmas, the family pulls over to help Santa, which turns out to be a serious mistake.  This Santa is an armed robber who proceeds to murder the entire family.  Billy and his younger brother, Jimmy, manage to survive albeit with deep psychological damage.

Things are going to get better from here on out for Billy, you might think.  Though raised in an orphanage by nuns, one of the sisters recognizes his trauma and tries to help him.  She realizes Christmas is a major trigger for Billy, who suffers from PTSD after witnessing the murder of his parents.

We need to talk about mullets.

Unfortunately, Mother Superior is less than sympathetic and decides to take a page from the how-to guide for raising a child who has experienced trauma in the way most likely to yield a disturbed, troubled adult destined to become a serial killer.  She hits Billy with a belt after he joins the other children for playtime outside without permission, ties him to the bed when he has horrible nightmares, and forces him to sit on Santa’s lap at Christmas.

In spite of this, Billy grows up to be a relatively mild-mannered, polite young man as evidenced by a very ‘80s inspired montage.  He gets a job working in a toy store, which he enjoys but can only end in terrible tragedy once December rolls around.  Noticing a change in Billy, his supervisor sensitively yells at him about being triggered by Christmas and pushes him to do better.  Oh, sir.  You’re not going to live for much longer, are you?

Inevitably, Billy is forced to play the role of Santa for children who visit the store, and is approximately as comfortable with this role as I would be, i.e.  not at all.  Already close to the breaking point, Billy completely loses it when his supervisor kisses and then assaults Billy’s coworker crush.  No one at the store has a particularly great time at the Christmas party.

Pictured above:  A terrifying monster destined to haunt your dreams…and a serial killer Santa.

After ruining the staff Christmas party, Billy decides to spread holiday cheer elsewhere in increasingly gruesome ways.  To his credit, he does leave the family cat alone.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his final confrontation is with Mother Superior.  Who will make it to the New Year’s party in time to become the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop murderer?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

First off, there are a lot of gaping plot holes that are incredibly distracting.  Like, after finding a kid wandering through the woods near a murder scene, no one thought counseling might be a good idea???  And did no one think it would be helpful for the nuns to know about Billy’s incredibly disturbing childhood trauma?

Beyond the plot holes, there is way too much time spent on Billy’s horrific childhood for this to be a satisfying slasher.  At the end, I was just sad after seeing Billy’s continuous victimization throughout his life.  It’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for him when we know a great deal about the trauma he suffered at the hands of the murderer and the sadistic Mother Superior.

Overall, it’s like a less successful version of Psycho with way more boobs.

Would Christa sit on this one’s lap or string it up with some Christmas lights?  Find out here!