Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews, Uncategorized

We Are Still Here, or: Home Sweet Funeral Home

Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab continues!  Not for the first (or presumably last) time, we spend some time in a remote house that may or may not be haunted.  Spoiler alert:  it’s haunted.

The Film:

We Are Still Here

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

It’s the ’70s, which becomes clear through costuming and the really sketchy dudes with thick ‘staches and aviator frames.  Anne and Paul, having recently lost their son, make the informed decision to move to a creepy house in a remote area along the East Coast.  Things get a little strange right away when Anne claims to feel Bobby’s presence in the house, but Paul pretty quickly dismisses this as nonsense.

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Thus the game of how quickly I would’ve been driving away from that house at high speeds begins.

  1.  After a framed picture Bobby hated falls and breaks?  Obviously, yes.
  2. When the smell of smoke emanating from the cellar refuses to go away?  Ugh, so out of there.
  3. After the insanely sinister neighbors pay a visit?  OUT.  SO FAR OUT IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY.
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First sign these are horrible neighbors:  didn’t even bake cookies.

So the neighbors are special people who reveal the charming story of how the shady old house belonged to the Dagmars, who owned and operated a funeral home (naturally).  They were driven out of town by the locals after it turned out they sold the bodies of the deceased and cremated empty caskets.  All of this is punctuated by dead giveaway lines like “It’s been 30 years since we’ve had fresh souls in the house” and “It’s still Dagmar’s house,” along with a note that straight up tells the new owners to get out.

In an ill-advised decision to bring more people into the line of fire, Anne invites her son’s college roommate and his family to the house.  The parents, May and Jacob, believe they have a major connection to the spirit world.  Perhaps they’ll be able to reach Bobby?

However, it becomes clear pretty quickly that whatever is in the house is most definitely not Bobby.  Sadly, for the poor contractor who comes to take care of that freshly cremated smell, this realization comes too late.  He becomes our first victim of creepy burnt to a crisp ghost/demon that lurks in the basement.

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Séances are all good fun until someone loses an eye…

So things aren’t off to a great start when the local bar is called Buffalo Bill’s Lounge.  Presumably after the outlaw rather than the women’s skin DIY-er, but still.  The family arrives, and it turns out that being a skeptic isn’t enough to save you in this scenario.

By the time the group gets around to holding a séance, their ranks have thinned considerably.  With about 20 minutes or so left, our rather slow burning film takes a turn for the violently gory, which feels somehow satisfying and jarring at the same time.  Word of advice:  don’t watch this while eating dinner.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling this one.  It took me a long time to get invested in this, and I didn’t really ever care what happened to the characters.  However, major props to the neighbor with his Scooby Doo routine, who was the highlight of the film to me.  I did also enjoy the incredibly gory finale even if there were some truly nauseating moments.  The ’70s setting was a nice tribute to classic slasher films and provided a surprising amount of period detail.

On the other hand, some really cliché lines of dialogue about all of the death and darkness tended to take me right out of the creepiness.  Not a bad film overall, but I was hoping to feel more engaged with it.

Was Christa still here at the end of this one or did she book it as fast as any sane person would have at the start?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Kolya, or: I’m Czeching You Out

First pick of foreign film-athon! This one is Kolya, Czech film and winner of the Foreign Language Oscar in 1996. A well-deserved win? Mmmmmmm…we’ll see. I’m sure the fabulous Christa has many thoughts about this too!

The Film:

Kolya

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A curmudgeonly old cellist must take care of his Russian wife’s child after she ditches for West Germany.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Based on the trailer and the emotional, cloud-watching from an airplane at the beginning, I expected this movie to break my heart. And it did…it just took a long time. A reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally fucking long time.

Basically, the setup is that Louka is a grumpy old man who plays cello with a quartet, mostly for funerals. Though he used to play with the philharmonic, Louka now performs odd jobs, like restoring headstones because he’s been blacklisted for Communist reasons (I think?). He is also a full-time creep, whether to the woman singing with the quartet, women he tutors, or random young women on the street. I think we’re supposed to take away from this that he’s lonely…but seriously, if you’re going to be that creepy, you shouldn’t be shocked when women stay as far away from you as possible.

{Insert eye roll HERE}
{Insert eye roll HERE}

So anyway…this is the gross version of The Concert (which is an excellent film AND stars Mélanie Laurent). That is until Louka’s friend offers him a way to make quick money: marry this young Russian lady who doesn’t want to get deported. Louka is super fucking skeptical at first, but ultimately agrees as the money will allow him to buy a new car. And in Soviet Czechoslovakia, “new” means “rust-free.” GUYS.

It takes almost 40 minutes for the ENTIRE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE to happen, but it’s pretty great when it does. The Russian lady’s son, Kolya, shows up on Louka’s doorstep as she suddenly left to be with her boyfriend in West Germany. Louka does his best to take care of the kid, but is at heart a bit of a grump. To be fair, the kid is kind of an asshole and won’t even take his hand to cross the street. SAFETY, kid.

Really relating to Louka at this moment.
I’m really relating to Louka at this moment.

Louka pretty much decides to continue as usual with things like giving cello lessons and being really shady. I’m sorry, but what do women find attractive about this dude??? He looks like the Czech Hemingway.

One of Louka’s last attempts to pawn the kid off on someone else fails when Kolya’s grandmother dies. So we get some different montages of really cute days out, honestly, and Louka being nice. Like he buys 5 tickets to a Russian movie so Kolya can see it. And he even speaks broken Russian over a loudspeaker in order to find Kolya when he gets lost in the subway. Now when Louka is calling women late at night, he’s asking if they can read the kid a story in Russian.

One of many heart-slaying moments.
One of many heart-slaying moments.

It turns out Kolya doesn’t know when his birthday is, so Louka invents one and gives him a violin. Everything is going just swimmingly, so of course this is when the social services office shows up regarding his claim from months before.

Not sure I’m selling this one particularly well, but the ending will rip your heart out and stomp all over it unless you are made of STONE. If you make it there.

The Critique:

The emotional moments of this film were so fucking successful, though it really doesn’t take much to overload my feelings right now. Let’s be generous and say it’s not me, it’s the film.

HOWEVER, if we hadn’t been watching for the blog, though, I probably would have given up way earlier and missed out on the emotional payoff. Louka was just such a fucking creep, and he didn’t really change that much through the course of the film. I expected the movie to focus a lot more on the evolution of the relationship between Louka and Kolya, but the growth was really just a series of montages (I need to stop using that word because now I have “Montage” from Team America stuck in my head). There were a lot of angry tirades about the Russians, the Czech government, and Communism in general. It had the warm fuzzies and political indignation of Billy Elliot, but I was totally lacking the context of what the hell was going on in the Czech Republic at the time.

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Pretty sure you’re not really clearing anything up there, Louka.

Maybe if you’re less of a philistine or a better world citizen than I you will like this film.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Honestly, that is a rather arbitrary rating because I’m not sure how to feel about this movie.  When it was good, it was excellent…and when it was bad it was so damn directionless.

See what Christa thought here!