Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Wonder, or: Crimea River

In a free for all month on the Collab, some of the tonal shifts can be…jarring. This week’s film is one of our more extreme examples, veering from campy ’80s slasher to moody Irish period drama. What can I say? We’re a partnership with eclectic tastes.

The Film:

The Wonder

Director:

Sebastián Lelio

The Premise:

An English nurse takes a job in rural 19th-century Ireland, caring for a child who claims she no longer eats but instead survives miraculously on manna.

The Ramble:

Arriving on Irish shores just a few years after the potato famine, English nurse Elizabeth Wright fully anticipates the rather chilly welcome she receives. What comes as a surprise is the nature of the well-paid assignment she has accepted; rather than provide medical care, Mrs. Wright will be one of two “watchers” overseeing a unique case. Following reports of an 11-year-old girl who claims to live on manna from heaven rather than food, Elizabeth (Lib to her friends) brings a medical perspective; the other watcher is a nun, Sister Michael.

Taking a scientific approach to things, Lib immediately suspects the girl, Anna, of inventing stories. After all, it’s medically impossible for anyone to keep in such good health without eating for months. During their time together, Lib remains skeptical but begins to seek answers elsewhere as Anna truly believes she is experiencing a miracle. Who might have something to gain from the attention: the local officials, Anna’s doctor, her own family?

While Lib begins to unravel the mystery, she encounters a significant amount of sorrow, including her own. Anna’s brother died young, and his presence is very much haunting the family (though not in the literal horror movie way typical for this blog). The trauma of recent (and upcoming) Irish history looms large, as well as the legacy of colonialism across the globe. Closer to home, how much grief is Lib herself holding onto as she was a nurse in the Crimean War, now a widow, and keeps a hidden stash of laudanum to help her sleep at night.

Though Lib initially scorns journalist William’s investigation of the story, their conversations help her to process her theories. Suspecting that Anna’s mother secretly gives food to her child, Lib bans the family from visiting. As Anna’s health deteriorates quickly, it seems Lib is onto something–but whose convictions will prevail in this battle of wills?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s no secret that I love a period drama, and this one is done very well. In addition to the beautiful landscapes and social commentary I’d expect from a quality entry in the genre, there are some careful details that elevate this film. One: most of the characters have ONE outfit–which, as much as a I love a period costume, tracks. Lib’s dress in particular shows wear and tear, and the hem is always covered in mud.

The pace is deliberately slow and reflective, uncovering some of the deep sadness of Irish history and the characters we follow. I appreciate that some of the themes addressed here aren’t typical for a period drama, particularly the contemporary reflection on colonialism and the trauma behind Anna’s self-imposed starvation. No spoilers for this, but it’s quite tragic.

Not to say this is a miserable film devoid of joy; it’s actually quite hopeful in places. Florence Pugh, as always, is best when scheming, but she delivers a compelling performance throughout.

As far as criticism goes, I do find the opening and closing scenes reminding us this is a film rather pretentious and unnecessary. There are also SO MANY scenes of Lib eating in contrast to Anna’s fasting that it occasionally borders on parody. And, if I’m being honest, William comes across as more prop than human. However, these are fairly minor complaints in a film that tells its story well.

Would my blog wife wander the bogs with this one or secretly slip it some laudanum? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Blood Rage, or: Not Cranberry Sauce

Look, Thanksgiving horror is an extremely tiny subgenre. Which, honestly, when you consider the history of the holiday & all of the associated colonization and genocide, is a bit surprising. Thank god for ’80s slasher weirdos then, as this week’s film, set primarily on turkey day, could only come from those minds.

The Film:

Blood Rage

Director:

John Grissmer

The Premise:

Though one twin brother was institutionalized for murder 10 years ago, it’s the other twin who is the real killer & on a murderous rampage again.

The Ramble:

What’s a single mom to do when a babysitter’s not an option for date night? Bring the twins along to nap at the drive-in while you make out in the front seat…clearly. Taking an extremely Oedipal approach to the slasher, it appears evil twin Terry’s violent urges are brought to the surface when witnessing his mother’s romantic pursuits. Sneaking out of the car, Terry finds an axe(?), uses it to murder an unsuspecting teen(?!), and frame his twin, Todd.

Following the trauma of witnessing the murder, Todd is left without any memory of the incident & thus cannot even proclaim his innocence. Until 10 years later, when psychiatrist Dr. Berman makes a breakthrough with the institutionalized Todd, who begins to realize it’s Terry who is the killer. The twins’ mother, Maddy, refuses to accept the possibility that the wrong son has been institutionalized all of this time and just kind of ignores professional psychiatric advice.

Of course, it’s around this time that Terry’s blood lust begins to reawaken. Upon the announcement of Maddy’s engagement at Thanksgiving, Terry feels the urge to kill…basically everyone, honestly. When the news breaks that Todd has escaped the institution, Terry has the perfect opportunity to once again go on a killing spree and frame his brother.

Friends, neighbors, love interests…no one is safe. And no one is more in denial or better supplied with alcohol than Maddy. Will she or anyone else realize which twin is the true killer before it’s too late?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film rivals the most melodramatic soap operas with the evil twins, love triangles, Oedipal complexes, and mistaken identities. I appreciate this so much as it elevates what would otherwise be a very standard story and somewhat nonsensical plot.

The justification for Terry’s behavior is extremely flimsy–it seems to be some combination of Oedipal jealousy when his mother is romantically engaged plus the classic slasher he’s “just a psycho” logic. The tone of the film helps us not question this too much, as the filmmakers are clearly having some fun with the genre. Terry’s wild energy is quite fun onscreen, and his rather creative kills with over-the-top effects are entertaining. The death of his future stepfather stands out as he meets his doom while listening to Christian radio, severed hand still firmly clutching a beer as his fingers twitch.

Even though Maddy is painfully unwilling to recognize the truth or give Todd the benefit of the doubt (for whatever reason???), she’s still rather fun to watch onscreen. Maddy has perhaps the most realistic reaction to a supposed murderer being on the loose: i.e., drinking wine constantly, stress eating Thanksgiving leftovers while sitting on the floor, and furiously scrubbing the oven.

I also live for the dramatic ’80s horror score and adore the final scene, featuring some rather unhinged looks and quite dark implications.

Would my blog wife chase this one down with an axe or pour it another generous glass of wine? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Old People, or: White-Haired Wedding

In an attempt to blog authentically, this post will be written in character as a grumpy & antisocial person who doesn’t particularly want to be at a wedding. Not that much of a stretch? Ok, in my heart I’m a cranky old soul, though thankfully not afflicted by any sort of zombie illness. It’s probably for the best that my disgust with flesh & blood outweighs my disgust for humanity. Can the subjects of this week’s film say the same thing?

The Film:

Old People

Director:

Andy Fetscher

The Premise:

While attending a family wedding in a small town, a woman and her children must dodge violent attacks perpetrated by the elderly population.

The Ramble:

Visiting a crumbling retirement home in a small German village, a young nurse expects a routine check-up. However, things are a bit suspicious when she arrives and finds the patient’s door slightly ajar with no sign of the elderly man she cares for. Seemingly in bad shape, the man asks for her help before violently attacking and murdering her. Ominous.

Happily (for now), Ella and her children are unaware of these sinister goings-on as she prepares for her younger sister’s wedding. Though it’s a little odd that the only people around are elderly folks staring in a zombie-like trance, Ella attributes this to the small-town location that has few opportunities for young people.

When the family goes to pick up Ella’s father from the retirement home, the building seems in disarray, which could be explained by chronic underfunding and understaffing. …In any other movie. Thinking little of it, Ella’s day gets a bit more uncomfortable as she encounters nurse Kim, aka her ex-husband’s girlfriend/breaker-upper of their marriage (implicitly & somewhat patriarchally, anyway).

Even with the high risk of family drama, the wedding goes off without a hitch, and all can enjoy the celebrations. Little does anyone know, they are being watched…by zombie old people. Who are surprisingly fast and strong, interested in biting, cutting throats, and vomiting on people. Not 100% on the how, where, and why, but it’s really only important that they are violent, murderously inventive, and…OLD. People.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

IDK, y’all. It could be the time change/unrelenting dark/constant nightmare landscape that is our news cycle. For whatever reason, I was not feeling this film and honestly got a bit bored watching it. Unfortunately, there were times that the overly dramatic stares were unintentionally hilarious. There was a heavy-handed attempt to give meaning to the plot by connecting the neglect & isolation of the elderly to their outbreak of zombie violence, but this doesn’t help a pretty incoherent mess make sense.

The mythology of the zombies in this film is sparse, though admittedly I wasn’t paying the most attention. It seems like some of the afflicted are in control of their actions, some aren’t; some want to eat flesh, some just want to murder. I also find it unsatisfying that there’s really no rhyme or reason for the zombie plague and its only impacting the elderly. Or some of the elderly anyway. Don’t even get me started on the film’s tacked-on message about love conquering all. Does it conquer a zombie chomping on your leg???

It’s a problem that I can’t particularly root for our protagonists either. They’re really fucking boring, honestly. Perhaps the only interesting moment anyone has is when nurse Kim does something rather morally reprehensible, but then ruins this by making a martyr of herself. I strongly disliked the way the two women involved with annoying Lukas were rivals throughout, fighting over a mediocre man even when fucking zombie old people are after them.

At this point, old people zombie plague feels like it would only make the world about 3% worse.

Would my blog wife stay forever young with this one or cut its throat without hesitation? Read her review to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hellraiser, or: Flay Me Once, Shame on You

Horror Month may be over, but what is the Blog Collab if not one extended Halloween experience? Especially when UK streaming platforms finally catch up with a horror reboot just in time for…Election Day. I would consider the kind of deal with demonic forces in this week’s film if I could never hear another campaign attack ad again.

The Film:

Hellraiser (2022)

Director:

David Bruckner

The Premise:

After stealing a mysterious puzzle box, a young woman discovers she has unwittingly become part of a demonic scheme that requires human sacrifice.

The Ramble:

When you’re a reclusive millionaire, what are you going to do with your resources if not host orgies and dabble with demonic entities? Roland Voight has no qualms about seeking favors from demons, especially when the best way to do this is through murdering unsuspecting party guests in rather S&M-inspired ways. Shockingly, not all goes to plan when Voight messes with a demon Rubik’s Cube and begins making demands of the mysterious Leviathan.

Several years later, Riley lives with her protective brother Matt and his boyfriend, while she actively dodges the L word with Trevor, a sobriety buddy from her 12-step program. Matt is rather stern with Riley as she struggles to get her shit together, making demands for her to find a better job and stop seeing Trevor…in sibling speak basically guaranteeing she will do the opposite.

One night, Riley hears about a scheme from Trevor to break into a shipping container and steal its contents. The container apparently belongs to a rich asshole who has so much money he’ll never notice when all of the black market goods inside go missing. Inevitably, the only thing inside the container turns out to be the demon Rubik’s Cube/puzzle box, which has some strange effects on Riley.

When Riley comes home, appearing to be drunk, Matt snaps and tells her to leave and never return, effectively. Having hit rock bottom, Riley pops some pills and works on the puzzle box, inadvertently summoning those demons we know and love, the Cenobites. And if Riley won’t go with them, they demand an alternate human sacrifice.

That sacrifice seems to be Matt, who has vanished after going looking for Riley. Searching for answers, Riley eventually learns that the cube takes the shape of six different configurations. When someone solves the puzzle, a blade emerges that draws blood, marking the unlucky for the Cenobites.

In order to uncover the truth, all roads lead to Voight’s creepy old mansion, which hosts a crowd very into the human leather scene.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film makes us wait soooooooooo long for a Pinhead appearance, and I do not forgive this. Not only this, but Pinhead and all of the Cenobites have a weirdly sleek & stylish look rather than the gruesome appearance they sport in the OG franchise. It feels like all of the human skin leather was tanned and polished by expert leather makers rather than the DIY skin suits of old. This, along with some of the understated performances of the Cenobites and implied rather than onscreen gore, makes this edition of these demons less than terrifying. As worrying as it may sound, I prefer it when Pinhead & co. delight in human suffering; the Cenobites here go about the business of torture with a disappointingly detached professionalism.

I do really like Riley as a flawed protagonist and genuinely rooted for her to figure things out and best the demons. I can remember zero personality traits of Kirsty from the 1987 version, and on this Blog Collab we are actively team Julia. However, Riley takes an extremely long time to connect the dots, and she doesn’t get to perform many acts of badassery. Though she starts out strong, Riley is a bit of a side character in the film’s most dramatic scenes. I’m also not sure how we’re supposed to feel about Trevor as an audience, but he’s pretty boring IMO.

Some credit for this film: it does set up an interesting villain for a possible sequel (though as great as Julia??? Probably not), and Riley could very easily become a Hellraiser final girl. I also appreciate how there’s a lot of care taken to explain the origins of the puzzle box and the mythology behind it; as much as I enjoy the original film, it does kind of throw us into the fray with very little context.

This is so far from being the most torturous Hellraiser, but it doesn’t seem to savor the camp elements in the way that others in the franchise do. Overly long and without many cool scenes for either Riley or Pinhead, I sadly found this installment just ok.

Would my blog wife help this one clean all of those bloody whips and chains or go vegan? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

She Will, or: In Cold Mud

Believe it or not, this week’s pick is the first witch film of Horror Month 2022! I feel we’re merely at the beginning of a witch Renaissance in horror, so fingers crossed for next year’s Halloween theme. Dare I hope Horror Month may eventually transform into Witch Month?

The Film:

She Will

Director:

Charlotte Colbert

The Premise:

While recovering from surgery at an estate where witches were executed en masse, a retired actor connects with the land and its vengeful spirit.

The Ramble:

Following major surgery, former film star Veronica Ghent retreats to the Scottish countryside. She hopes to find quiet as she recovers, and above all to be left alone. But this is horror world, so chances are pretty slim.

Veronica is haunted by memories of working with a renowned film director, now honored with a lifetime achievement award of some description. According to rather vague accounts, the director approached film-making intensely, to the point of unethical and even abusive. It seems unjust that, as the director is being celebrated, Veronica is suffering from illness and chronic pain.

Good thing Veronica has a nurse, Desi, to manage pain and ensure a healthy recovery…or not. While Desi does her best to help, Veronica disdainfully rejects her advice. Making matters worse, the solitude Veronica hoped for isn’t meant to be as there are other guests at the Scottish retreat, some of whom recognize her. The eccentric artist who owns the retreat (Rupert Everett!) insists on some bullshit rich people activities that you could do at home for $10,000 less, I’m assuming.

As Veronica settles into the cottage, she feels haunted by another presence. Could this feeling be connected to the thousands of witches burned on this site in the 18th century? I mean, yeah. There are creepy effects for days, particularly the ashes and mud that seemingly come to life with the spirits of vengeful witches.

Increasingly, Veronica develops strange habits and powers, connected to the rage in the past and in the landscape itself. In possibly my favorite moment of the film, she manages to light a misogynist’s hand on fire with her mind, and things only escalate from there.

If the synopsis so far doesn’t immediately bump this film up in your queue, I’m not sure this blog has much to offer you.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s been a love it or hate it month in many ways, and this film fits in well. This is a fairly slow build, though Veronica’s simmering anger makes things compelling from the beginning, setting up a conclusion that’s extremely gratifying. The themes and messaging of the film are not subtle at all, but in the best possible way.

From the old-fashioned train cars to the rustic and secluded estate, the film has a feeling of disconnection from any specific time–appropriately for themes of patriarchal control and the power of women’s rage, which really aren’t confined by time. The connection to the physical elements of the land, particularly the mud and ashes, does the effective work of underlining the physical transformation of people and places by trauma. On the other hand, this visceral connection to the past allows Veronica to draw on the power and experiences of those before her.

I am tired and not playing my A game in analysis, though I did very much appreciate this film. It’s pure wish fulfillment, honestly. Retreat to a secluded Scottish estate and develop witchy revenge powers? Yes, please.

Would my blog wife join this one for outdoor mud painting or burn it all down? Find out in her review!

""
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Swan Song, or: Split Ends and All

It’s fascinating to me that we could watch any film that takes us anywhere in the world during free for all month on the Collab…and we’ve ended up in Ohio. Sandusky, specifically–not far from where I would vacation with my family on Lake Erie. I have to say my experiences in the area are quite different than those of our leading character, which is to my regret in many ways.

The Film:

Swan Song

The Premise:

Asked to style a former client’s hair one last time for her funeral, once iconic hairstylist Pat must put aside old small-town grudges…or not.

The Ramble:

Once the life of the party as a hairdresser and drag queen in small-town Ohio, local legend Pat now lives a quiet and monotonous existence. Now cared for in assisted living, the ornery Pat’s only joy is the occasional secret cigarette.

An older man with white hair stands in a convenience store, smoking.

Pat’s routine is disrupted by the appearance of a lawyer and old acquaintance who represents a former client, Rita Parker Sloan. Now deceased, it was evidently in Rita’s will that Pat would do her hair and makeup for the funeral. Pat is less than flattered as the two had a falling out years ago when Rita ditched him for a rival stylist. Always one to hold a grudge, Pat declines the opportunity and the money that comes along with it in favor of allowing Rita to be buried with bad hair.

As Pat reflects on his life and loved ones from his past, he feels inclined to venture to Sandusky to style Rita’s hair one final time. Since he’s too proud to ask for help, Pat escapes from assisted living and begins the walk. With very little money to spare, Pat prioritizes tracking down his preferred old school cigarettes and vintage styling product, Vivante.

An older man wearing a mint green suit sits on a park bench next to a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

Along his journey, Pat discovers many of the buildings and landmarks that were once familiar have changed. This includes the gay bar where Pat performed in drag, which is set to close after one final night. He encounters helpful strangers, familiar faces, and hostile frenemies. It gradually unravels that Pat once had a partner, David, who died of AIDS. Because they had no legal connection, David’s nephew inherited everything. On top of all this, Pat’s prodigy Dee Dee started her own business across the street from his salon, stealing Rita as a client.

An older man wearing a gray tracksuit and a pink hat stands in a beauty salon, looking forlorn.

So barbs will absolutely be exchanged when the two encounter each other. Will Pat make it to the funeral home in time or will the chance to throw shade overrule all other priorities?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I appreciated this one more upon second viewing, having watched this perhaps some time in 2021? Time means nothing. I will say that my biggest problem with it was that, based on the trailer, this should have been much more fun–and I do stand by that. This leans more heavily into drama than comedy, despite Pat’s sharp comebacks being the best moments in my opinion.

I find the film’s inability to explore themes & messaging fully a bit unsatisfactory as well. There are a lot of issues addressed here, but most of these skim the surface before bouncing on to the next idea. The community as well as isolation of small-town life, changes in the identity and experiences of LGBTQ folks over time, the decay of rust belt cities, memory, the sorrows of aging, the erasure of spaces for the gay community,–there are so many ideas that are interesting but don’t feel fully developed.

As a portrait of and tribute to the character of Pat, our film is rather uneven. While he does manage to get his groove back and have one last hurrah, much of the film follows the character’s enormous sense of loss, including of his own sense of style and identity. Pat is often very silent and stoic, though his past seems to have involved a lot of glitter and eye shadow. When we get glimpses of his formerly sassy self, these are among my favorite moments.

And though this is a relatively minor quibble, it did annoy me that almost everyone Pat encountered (except, kind of sadly, the people who knew him the best & longest) was excessively kind, going out of their way to help him in a lot of situations. I think the director wanted to disrupt some of the narratives about small-town bigotry, but it still struck me as unlikely and a bit sinister (chalk it up to all of the horror we watch to some degree). Pat also just had so much luck getting exactly the amount of money he needed by chance that it became somewhat unbelievable.

I do massively appreciate Udo Kier’s performance, and it’s a refreshing story and character study not often explored in film. Some greater time spent focusing in on and exploring ideas here probably would have made more of an impact for me.

Would my blog wife keep this one looking fresh with old school styles or let it rot in the grave with split ends? Read her review to find out!

""
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The House, or: Kitty Condo

I’m a simple human–I see animated stop-motion cats, I’m in. Does that decision-making process hold up for the Collab? Hmmmmm….maybe.

The Film:

The House

Director:

Paloma Baeza, Emma De Swaef, & Niki Lindroth von Bahr

The Premise:

A house experiences changes over time as its inhabitants come and go, and the world around it evolves.

The Ramble:

Split into 3 different tales, our stop-motion narratives are connected by their setting: a house originally built in the English countryside evolving into a refurbished London home, and then a decaying building of studio apartments.

The home’s origins make it seem destined for disaster, along with its inhabitants. Mabel, a young girl living in the countryside with her parents and baby sister Isobel, tries to make the best of things. Her much wealthier relatives look down on the family, particularly her alcoholic father Raymond.

A stop-motion animated child holds her baby sister at an elaborately set table, looking upset.

While wandering drunkenly through the woods at night, Raymond stumbles across a glowing box that looks suspiciously TARDIS-like. If only. The box is actually a rickshaw housing a mysterious figure who will make a life-changing offer to the family. Because the figure is Mr. Van Schoonbeek, an architect, he would like to build an elegant new home for the family to live in, no cost to them. If this feels like an extremely dodgy deal, it’s because it is.

The stop-motion landscapes are beautiful in this segment, but the faces barely seem human with tiny features and little beady eyes. As the house closes in around the family and the architect controls more and more of their lives, the setting becomes dimly lit. …Except for, appropriately, the gas lights in the house.

A stop-motion anthropomorphic cat sits in a sunroom with another cat, looking at their surroundings.

Mabel’s parents behave as if they are in a trance, no longer caring for their children as they are transformed into a part of the house. The home’s future as a flipped house in London with a bug infestation and the last remaining building staying afloat after devastating flooding are not directly connected to its past…though a happy life for its inhabitants seems impossible.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really loved the first narrative, which was delightfully creepy and very much centered around family dysfunction and the fraught relationship with mysterious, wealthy architect of the house. I wanted to like the other segments, but their only connection was the setting of the house. There’s also a lot of emphasis on the renovations & structural changes happening in the home in these other two segments as well rather than a focus on the characters.

Our first segment does set up the unsettling & haunted tone of the film as a whole, though I was fully prepared for an actual ghost story that would parallel or at least echo some of the other families’ experiences. It does seem thematically that the only way to get through life is together…though there are lots of other dark themes about climate change, greed, and class struggle.

I appreciate the experimental nature of this film’s different segments, though some continuity or thread that brings things together felt very lacking here.

Would my blog wife slowly take over this one’s home or sail away from its bug-infested walls? Find out in her review!

""
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Glorious, or: Inglorious Bathrooms

After a sadly disrupted Shark Month, we’ve decided to do whatever we’d like on the Collab this month. Which is probably B horror, but we may surprise you yet. This week’s film could very well be a French documentary about climate change just to show you how little you know us.

It could be…but it’s B horror. About a man stuck in a bathroom with a sort of demon or god. Who speaks to him through a gloryhole.

Garbage forever.

The Film:

Glorious

Director:

Rebekah McKendry

The Premise:

Following a bad breakup, a very hungover man is locked in a bathroom with a god-like creature who has…demands.

The Ramble:

Following demonic dreams while falling asleep at the wheel, Wes is in pretty rough shape. With all of his possessions seemingly stuffed into his car, eventually the pain is too much to bear. Leaving embarrassing messages for his ex repeatedly, Wes ultimately stops for a roadside bonfire to purge himself of all of his memories. And why not make regrettable decisions worse by drinking to the point of throwing up?

A man sits next to a glory hole that has been decorated with a very phallic painting of an alien.

Stumbling into a rather gross public bathroom the next morning, Wes has a conversation with a stranger that seems rather uneventful…until it isn’t (it’s destined to take an odd turn when the voice is J.K. Simmons). The voice is one stall over and appears to emanate from a gloryhole, initially asking harmless questions that take an increasingly bizarre tone. Ultimately, the voice reveals itself to be Ghatanothoa, a god-like creature.

Shortly after, Wes discovers he is locked in the bathroom and has no chance of escaping without doing Ghatanothoa’s bidding. Hoping to get a glimpse of the creature, Wes leans over the side of the stall, only to discover this is strictly forbidden. Ghatanothoa has the power to create all sorts of nightmare scenarios for Wes, including one involving a pleasant drive with his ex turning sinister.

A woman screams in rage.

As Wes learns more about Ghatanothoa’s life(?) and motives, he’s more and more concerned about the god’s insistence that all of this is fated. Whenever Wes disobeys the god, there are horrible consequences. Finally yielding to the god’s will, Ghatanothoa reveals that Wes must satisfy his physical form. Say what now?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s some kind of message about memory and loss here, but it gets mixed up in the jumble. I will give the film some credit for the excellent use of J.K. Simmons, though it does lean way too much on his performance to make the film bearable…and that’s a tall order.

Ghatanothoa has some memorable dialogue, but Wes is unfortunately written as the most mediocre white man ever to exist, so his replies are less than thrilling. His character leans into juvenile humor all the damn time, and it gets old. Admittedly I wasn’t paying the most attention, but it just seems like Wes is having a meltdown because someone broke up with him and said no to him for the first time ever. It’s pretty difficult to like his character.

Beyond this, the decision to set this film primarily in one location is smart from a budgeting perspective, but not overly exciting visually. There are so many bathroom jokes. So many.

I will admit that I endlessly appreciate the absurdity of living in a world where J.K. Simmons, as a god-like being, delivers the line “I have returned to the ether.”

Would my blog wife rain blood down on this one or return to the ether instead? Read her review to find out!

""
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bigbug, or: The Robots Are Revolting

Free for all months on the Collab have the dubious distinction of providing some of our most memorable film experiences…along with some we’ve immediately forgotten. It’s rare we truly regret watching a film, particularly as there’s no better bonding experience than enjoying utter garbage together. Though this week’s film isn’t even close to the worst we’ve watched, it’s certainly not one that I’ll be giving a repeat viewing.

The Film:

Bigbug

Director:

Jean-Pierre Jeunet

The Premise:

Trapped inside a smart house, a group of humans attempt to escape as, unbeknownst to them, sinister AI machines seize power.

The Ramble:

In the year 2045, the world has become conveniently automated to the dystopian degree we’ve all come to expect. For recently divorced mother Alice, the household is run by Monique, an android who looks uncannily human, along with a handful of older models of household robots.

A robot, who looks like a human woman with gray hair, stands looking at herself in a mirror.

While the robots strive to be loved by the humans they serve and even long to be human themselves, self-aware AI known as Yonyx seek to replace their creators. The Yonyx oversee a strange reality show that features the humiliation and torture of humans, rather transparently enjoying this above all else.

Rather than show much concern for what’s happening in the world, the humans in this future are predictably wrapped up in their own dramas. As Alice attempts to move on from her ex with a sleazy man named Max, Monique can sense his intentions are less than noble. Largely for plot reasons, Max’s teenage son Leo is around for the evening as well.

In a colorful living room, a group of 5 adults and a teenager sit together.

Before the evening can get going, Alice’s ex-husband Victor crashes the party, bringing along their adopted daughter and his much younger fiancée, Jennifer. Rounding out the group is older neighbor Françoise and her dog–at least the sixth or seventh cloned version as the other ones have died horribly.

A man embraces a woman sitting in bed, with a group of robots surrounding the couple.

Things begin to go awry when, sensing elevated threat levels from outside, Alice’s smart home locks everyone inside. While Victor and Jennifer fret that they will miss their destination wedding on an artificial island, news reports reveal the Yonyx are taking increasing control over humanity.

As escape attempts fail one by one, the group finally secures an exit at the worst possible time…when a Yonyx arrives on site to “assess” the humans. What does fate have in store for human and robot alike, and even the world?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I liked this one aesthetically and am willing to give it a lot of credit for that. The warm pastels and 1950s-inspired fashion suggest a false sense of contentment and peace, contrasting the cold mechanical appearance of the Yonyx. It is of course not a coincidence that the film is set exactly 100 years after the end of WWII, and the future of the world seems just as precarious here.

In light of this, the tone is super strange, making a lot of the humor feel inappropriate and empty at its core. The film needed to push things much further, either towards a darker or a more comically absurd message. Not a lot makes sense here, from the tone to the character motivations to the plot itself. There is way too much plot jampacked into the film, making things feel disjointed.

In addition, none of the characters are particularly likeable or interesting, and the film’s tacked-on ending is unsettling. The robots are perhaps the most compelling of anyone, but they don’t get a huge amount of screen time to express their personalities. What’s annoying is how little they follow any sort of consistent logic…which is largely because of the film’s message. However, as a sci-fi fan, this especially gets under my skin.

Would my blog wife summon this one for help or wipe its memory card without hesitation? Find out in her review!

""
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Greener Grass, or: Something in the Water

*Spoilers follow*

It can’t be too much of a surprise at this point that, left to our own devices (and the open-endedness of a month without a theme), things tend to take a turn towards the darkness on the Collab. B-horror is our origin story, after all.

This week’s pick, not necessarily classified as a horror film, certainly borrows a feeling of dread from the genre that accompanies the slow realization that all is not well. And, no surprises here, one of the most terrifying places on film is our setting: a seemingly peaceful and quaint US suburb.

The Film:

Greener Grass

Directors:

Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe

The Premise:

A suburban mother in a surreal town begins to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to be perfect…a fact that her closest friend is prepared to use to her advantage.

The Ramble:

A children’s game of soccer in a suburban neighborhood park is not the most thrilling time for anyone involved, but opting out seems impossible. For long-term frenemies Jill and Lisa, the game represents an opportunity to show off their parenting skills and catch up on the most shocking gossip. The latest scandal to rock the town is the murder of a young yoga instructor, though the majority of locals are most concerned with whether or not the suspect bagged their groceries.

A group of parents sitting on and standing around bleachers in a park smile in seemingly perfect harmony.

As Lisa envies her friend’s seemingly perfect life and crushes on her husband Nick, even the queen bee has worries. Jill is secretly frustrated with her son Julian, who she frequently brags about. People pleasing to a fault, Jill is constantly smiling and trying to live up to absolutely everyone’s expectations, clearly an impossibility. Behind her braces-lined smile (which, btw, all the adults in this town wear), Jill is crumbling beneath the pressure of being a flawless Stepford-style wife and mother.

Impulsively, Jill gives her baby Madison to Lisa to raise as her own, and things just get stranger from here. Jill and Nick’s awkward child Julian transforms into a golden retriever after falling into the pool during Nick’s 40th birthday party. Nick, already obsessed with the pool water’s taste, becomes increasingly fixated on drinking only water that has come from the family pool.

A man and woman sit at a breakfast table full of food, a dog in the middle chair between them, eating food from the table.

Meanwhile, Lisa and her husband Dennis contend with the increasingly bad behavior of their son Bob, and welcome an unexpectedly odd new baby into their home. As Julian is no longer enrolled in an accelerated math program or allowed to participate in soccer (no Air Bud rules here), Jill feels like a failure as a parent, particularly as she has no human children left.

Two heterosexual married couples sit around a restaurant table, dressed in matching colors, respectively.

As all of these events unfold, Jill unknowingly has a stalker who periodically drives by in a golf cart (like the braces thing, all of the adults drive golf carts). What does it all mean? If anything, that is.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

The vast majority of the time, all that I ask of a film is that it be weird. This one certainly fits the bill, and it makes quirky observations & social commentary while doing this. Based on the limited amount I knew about this film, it seemed inevitable that I would either love or hate it.

While this is usually described as a dark comedy, its interest in portraying the suburban dream transformed into an unending nightmare aligns this one quite closely with horror. There is always something slightly jarring about the smiles, bright colors, and non-sequitur dialogue that Jill tries to make sense of and belong in. Friendship, marriage, parenthood, divorce–all of these prove to be empty social signifiers above anything else.

No one is particularly likeable, and almost all of the characters are so self-absorbed that they don’t even know what’s going on around them, unless it can be used to their advantage. The humor is pitch-black, and I legitimately laughed at some of the shows within shows the characters watched–shows like a reality baking competition where contestants are judged on others’ bakes or a taboo children’s show called Kids with Knives. Nick’s obsession with pool water is so odd but is never not funny to me, and the scenes he shares with Julian (both in dog and child form) are silly but sharp.

This doesn’t even touch the storyline of Lisa’s new baby being an actual soccer ball, or the children’s teacher (D’Arcy Carden!)’s repeated references to her mother’s murder of the other members of her immediate family.

I will say the film does lack cohesion in some regards, but this didn’t impact my enjoyment. What’s more, some of the approaches that come across as pretentious hipster bullshit in other contexts work quite well here.

Coincidentally, this is the 2nd social satire of the Collab featuring a human to dog transformation (though not quite as literally with Bitch). I’d watch more in this subgenre, honestly.

Would my blog wife love this one like her own child dog or flunk it out of accelerated math? Find out in her review!