X (2022)

One of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had going to the movies in many moons is when I went to see Ti West’s X. It just looked so glorious on the big screen with its huge skies, stark horizons, and broad, eye-popping aerial shots. It’s like an exquisite painting that uses every inch of the canvas properly, a perfectly designed iconic flag I cannot resist saluting. And of course, it stands on the shoulders of giants proudly declaring its loyalty to horror greats like Hitchcock, De Palma, Carpenter, and especially, the one and only, Tobe Hooper. Yet I forgot to post about it and the reason for that is that I talked about the movie so much to myself inside my head that I honestly thought that I had. But I recently snagged a copy on DVD and watched it again so now’s the perfect time to remedy that.

It’s 1979 and Wayne Gilroy (Martin Henderson) has a brilliant plan to take advantage of the burgeoning home video market by producing a porn movie. He gathers together the perfect cast with his main-squeeze, starry-eyed Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), leggy blonde bombshell Bobby-Lynne (Brittany Snow), and the generously endowed Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi). Helping out with directing duties is RJ (Owen Campbell) who brings along his meek girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega) to handle sound. The film is to be called “The Farmer’s Daughters” so Wayne rents out a rustic farmhouse in the middle of Texas (actually New Zealand) from two of the scariest oldsters you ever laid eyes on. Things get off to an uncomfortable and shaky start and go swiftly downhill from there. I’m not going to give anything away but it’s like watching that “American Gothic” painting by Grant Wood being ripped to shreds by an alligator but both the figures in the painting and the alligator are aging and decomposing at an accelerated speed.  

There’s nothing quite like watching a horror film made by someone who truly loves the genre and X sends off love letter vibes in every frame. There’s a certain type of eerie, menacing magic going on here that truly transports; it’s like strolling at dusk through a midsummer night’s nightmare and when the you-know-what hits the fan the horror is palpable and feels as ancient and ubiquitous as time itself. My public service announcement is that if you suffer to any degree with gerascophobia (fear of aging) make sure you bring a blanket to hide under while watching this movie. I’m pretty sure I grew a gray beard and developed liver spots before the end credits.

Unsurprisingly and as usual, a major reason that I hold this film in such high regard is because of the people in it and the humanity it displays even in its darkest moments. Writer, director, producer, and editor Ti West gallantly makes a point not to look down upon, judge, or mock his rag-tag team of complicated yet personable outsiders. In one simple scene, they explain themselves and their outlooks and you kind of have to admire their freedom and ability to live outside societal norms unapologetically. It doesn’t hurt that Britney Snow’s Bobby Lynne sings a surprisingly moving rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” which seems to momentarily stop the world from spinning. X is simply great filmmaking that is capable of conjuring up a cornucopia of emotions, horror being just one of them. Now, I better go buy some hair dye to cover this gray and maybe get some Geritol and prune juice while I’m at it. (Sobs quietly). Hey, why didn’t I get a senior discount when I bought my movie ticket!?! Whippersnappers!

The Black Phone (2022)

Is modern life so bleak that THE BLACK PHONE, a horror-thriller concerning a boy who is abused both at home and at school and is abducted and kept prisoner by a devil-masked lunatic known as “the grabber” is somehow the feel-good movie of the summer? Yes. Don’t blame the messenger. I’d even say it covertly sports the poignant reminder that we all survive and exist thanks to the acts and sacrifices of those who passed before us.

Ergo, I’d like to thank all my guardian angel ghosts out there. I see you and I’m mentally pouring one out to you.

Finney Blake (Mason Thames) is an affable 13-year-old living in an inadvertently hyper-stylish suburb in the aesthetically appealing golden year of 1978. Because he is modest and unassuming, most of his time is spent trying not to be beaten by marauding bullies or his brutish alcoholic father. Luckily he has a fantastic relationship with his younger sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) who has inherited their deceased mother’s psychic gifts (and is routinely punished for them). Shortly after Finney’s only friend and protector becomes yet another missing boy in their neighborhood, Finney himself bumps into a horrifically bizarre character driving a very conspicuous Magician’s Van filled with black balloons. It doesn’t end well. Finney finds himself in exactly the type of single mattress basement lair all sane minds fear. This one has a phone though- and it receives calls from his captor’s past victims who are generous enough to share helpful advice.

Director Scott Derrickson and screenwriter C. Robert McGraw have already made it abundantly clear they know how to deliver the creeps with their previous collaboration SINISTER (2012). But whereas that film sometimes strained credibility in regards to human behavior, THE BLACK PHONE (based on a story by Joe Hill) has enough heart and soul to fully immerse you in the nightmare it’s selling. Much credit goes to young actor Mason Thames’ portrayal of Finney who comes across as a fusion of the grounded stalwart Laurie Strode (as played by Jamie Lee Curtis) in HALLOWEEN (’78) and the mournful and inquisitive every-kid Mike Pearson (as played by A. Michael Baldwin) in PHANTASM (‘79). He instantly reads as someone you know or have known and if you don’t recognize him it might be because you were him. Ethan Hawke is equally convincing as the chuckling twisted predator who thankfully keeps his monstrous cards close to his chest. And who among us can look the gift horse of a hilarious supporting part delivered by the incredible James Ransone (SINISTER 1&2, IT: Chapter II) in the mouth?

THE BLACK PHONE is able to elicit sympathy for its characters in a way that is sadly too unique in modern horror which ramps the suspense up to stellar heights. It wants to scare you silly on one end of the receiver but the other end wants to remind you that maybe with a little help from some friends (living or dead) all of us are capable of sticking up for ourselves, fighting back, and finally treasuring those closest to us. As a kid from the seventies, I couldn’t help but appreciate how it presented a very recognizable sun-bleached world to me full of humiliations, aggravations, injustices, and the frustration of always getting a busy signal when you give Jesus a ring through prayer.

Ultimately, THE BLACK PHONE is a great reminder that horror films can do so much more than scare us, they can also inspire us to be brave in the face of what seems like insurmountable odds. It’s frightening, yet ultimately exhilarating; like an unholy cross between THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and THE KARATE KID. Additionally, if you needed an extra reminder to stay the hell away from black vans this fine flick provides that too, and in spades.

Re-Watch:: Day of the Dead (1985) By Unk

I finally did it. I finally watched DAY OF THE DEAD again. I’ve been talking about doing it for years. Here’s the thing: back in let’s say, 1986 after DOTD had completed its initial run, me and my younger brother went to see it at a midnight show at a local mall in Texas where my family had just moved to. I thought the movie was great, very thought-provoking and frightening but it also left me with a terrible feeling. It was like this dour, depressive, hopeless ennui that was difficult to shake. It was such a nasty mental residue that even though I’ve revisited George A. Romero’s other films multiple times, I never checked it out again because it seemed like gambling with my psychological well-being. Jeez, I even own DAY OF THE DEAD on VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray knowing one day I’d bite the bullet but somehow I always found an excuse to avoid it until just recently (coincidentally right before the anniversary of its release date). Anyway, here’s how it went…

What was I thinking? DAY OF THE DEAD is awesome and sure, there are a few nihilistic moments but it’s not anywhere near as depressing as I thought it was. In fact, it’s kinda rousing and exciting, introduces the most personable living dead creature I’ve ever encountered (“Bub”) and features a very rare (for a zombie flick) happy ending. Ironically it’s rather an uplifting or at least cathartic affair as all the bad guys are treated to horrible fates and the few decent characters are treated to an island paradise. I couldn’t have been more wrong, there’s plenty of fun to be had here. There’s almost a carnival-like video game shoot ‘em up atmosphere when a couple of the heroes are trapped in a funhouse-like cavern and must press forward to get to the exit on the other side.

It turns out my experience had much to do with my own baggage. I was not in a good place in life and I guess the movie exasperated some of my fears and insecurities at the time. Looking back, I remember that I had recently had some frightening drug experiences, had to say goodbye to a few friends and was living in a new state I felt extremely uncomfortable in. Plus it was the eighties and AIDS was everywhere and I think a movie about a contamination so damning it would lead you to suicide hit my vulnerable psyche hard as a young gay man. Even the idea of the civilization coming to a halt was more frightening to me back then; these days I think I’d have more of a “Well, we kinda deserve it” reaction to such a calamity. Romero’s previous dead-flick (DAWN OF THE DEAD) had that semi- enticing “live in a mall” aspect going for it. Wet blanket DAY OF THE DEAD pointedly confirms there are NO MORE MALLS and that alone was a devastating concept to this eighties kid. Sadly, I’ve gotten used to the idea of “no more malls” at this point (Amazon is its own sort of zombie invasion) and yikes, maybe DAY OF THE DEAD doesn’t seem as dark these days because the real world has gotten so much darker (or maybe that’s my steadily declining eyesight

The Amusement Park (1973) By Mickster

George Romero’s long lost educational film commissioned by the Lutheran Society in 1973 has been found and restored. Upon viewing the finished product in 1973, the Lutheran Society found it too disturbing to be seen. I guess the truth of how the elderly are treated was too much to bear. Luckily for us, the George A. Romeo Foundation restored this lost film, so it can be viewed by the public, if you dare to watch it. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a horror film per se, but it is a highly upsetting and depressing depiction of the mistreatment of the elderly. This depiction comes in the form of a surreal, dreamlike (nightmare) experience Lincoln Maazel’s unnamed character has at “The Amusement Park.” Many will remember Maazel’s performance in another Romero film, Martin (1977). He is the only “real” actor in the movie. All the other “actors” were volunteers, which makes this all the more impressive.

Maazel introduces the film and speaks again at the end. He implores viewers to have empathy and also be cognizant of the fact that they too will be old one day. What happens in between is something everyone should watch and consider. It is quite powerful, and I wish the Lutheran Society had been brave enough to use it back in the day.

Maazel starts his day in the park by encountering himself in a room of white. The beaten down version of himself warns that there is nothing out there, but the freshly dressed and hopeful version wants to see for himself. And boy, does he ever see! Each portion of The Amusement Park has vignettes illustrating how the elderly are systematically degraded. The only exception to this rule comes in the form of a wealthy older man who is treated with great respect because of his wealth. Sound like real life? Yeah, I thought so too. There is even a sequence where a young couple goes to the fortune teller’s tent to see if they will be together forever…the vision is NOT what they were expecting! Elders losing the right to drive, check! See the bummer car sequence! There is even a part with two carnival barkers that made me think of “reverse” mortgages! Romero was ahead of his time! Throughout, a masked “grim reaper” can be seen lurking in the background. For the most part, all the the elderly people in this film are ignored and at worst, pushed around by the younger people at the park, but there is one exception. This exception is the breaking point for Maazel’s character. A young girl is kind to him and wants him to read to her (she even shares a piece of fried chicken with him), but as this sweet exchange is taking place, viewers can see the cruel action that is about to befall Maazel. After this, he is utterly defeated, and as a viewer, I was too.

At 54 minutes, this educational film is a heartbreaking critique on aging in America. The Lutheran Society picked the right person to critique society, but they just didn’t have to guts to let this scathing examination see the light of day. It is sad to me that this film remained lost until Romero, who has a cameo in the bumper car sequence, was deceased. I wonder what he would think of his “lost” educational film finally seeing the light of day?

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

I was all set to let CONJURING 3 be the first movie I went to see in an actual movie theater post-pandemic but then I saw it was on HBO. In a last minute decision, I instead decided to see A QUIET PLACE 2 in the theater and then watched CONJURING 3 on my computer with headphones on. This turned out to be the right decision for sure; AQP2 is the type of flick that works great with an audience (albeit a small one) and CONJURING 3 has an uncharacteristic television procedural vibe (even though it wisely stays clear of boring courtroom scenes). There’s much to love about this latest installment in the franchise but every bit of that love is probably thanks to the remarkable chemistry between Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren. The film, as a whole, comes off a bit meandering with what feels like almost an active aversion to scares beyond the typical.

I was very excited to learn that this series was to take on the famous “innocent by reason of possession” case that took place in Brookfield, Connecticut; a town that my family moved into a couple years after the incident (I wrote about this previously in a review for the TV movie  THE DEMON MURDER CASE (1983) which is based on the same incidents HERE). For the most part, this movie that was filmed in Georgia does an alright job of replicating the small town I know. The sad thing is that somewhere along the line, someone decided to scrape off some of the scariest parts of the tale and replace them with a rather mundane witch’s curse story. Replacing the horrific demon(s) described in the original story with a waterbed and a gaunt scolding librarian type doesn’t seem like the best of plans to me. Come to think of it though, director Michael Chaves did the same kind of careless bastardization of a legend that didn’t need fixing in his previous flick THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA (2019), another passable spook show generously lifted up by the superior acting of its central character(s).

Truth is I’d follow Wilson & Farmiga as the highly idealized, insanely romanticized and unquestionable glamorized versions of the mostly problematic ghostbusters Ed & Lorraine Warren anywhere. This outing that I wrongly assumed I’d feel particularly connected to is the least successful in the horror department but does add something worthy in the area of our understanding of these now beloved (by me at least) characters. It’s kind of hilarious to think of the real Lorraine Warren hanging off a cliff in Connecticut, Indiana Jones-style but avoiding anything resembling reality is exactly what I go to the movies for. CONJURING 3 is not on the level as the previous two films directed by James Wan but it’s still a bit better than most horror flicks that come down the pike. In this case though, instead of thanking the writer or director, you really have to thank the two impeccable leads. Sure, I was underwhelmed overall but how bad can a movie be when my first thought after seeing it is that I can’t wait to visit these characters again?

That’s So Craven!:: Deadly Blessing (1981)

Wes Craven’s DEADLY BLESSING (1981) will always hold a special place in my heart. It was one of the first R-rated horror films I experienced in a movie theater and naturally, it scared the crap out of me. It’s comfort horror that I revisit every couple of years and I always manage to find new angles to this diamond every time I visit. A recent re-watch accentuated for me how many themes and ideas that are present that Wes Craven would further explore or reuse in future projects. Craven is only one of three names credited for writing DEADLY BLESSING (high five to Glenn M. Benest and Matthew Barr) so I can’t be completely sure what concepts are a hundred percent the horror master’s but one thing is certain, this flick has got his paw prints all over it.

The Dream Demon. Craven has stated before that many of his ideas come from dreams. In BLESSING it very much seems that future mega-star Sharon Stone has a disturbing dream about future mega-horror icon Freddy Krueger. She wakes up from a terrible nightmare saying it involved being terrorized by a man with “all gray, like ash” skin and that seems like only a stone’s throw away from a man with burnt skin which would perfectly describe Freddy. It’s almost as if she dreamt of Freddy as he was still forming in Craven’s imagination.

The Snake Bath. Well. This bit is far too on the nose to deny. At one point during the film, lovely Maren Jensen is taking a well-deserved bath only to find she is not alone. A giant snake comes for a visit and sinisterly swims between her legs much like (almost exactly) like Freddy Krueger’s glove will famously threaten Nancy Thompson in a famous scene from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET a few years later. The beats and angles mirror each other to a tee and it’s almost like an early sketch to a future masterpiece. And of course Craven would go on to explore more snake horrors in THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW(’88).

Summer Of Fear. At one point two characters portrayed by Jeff East and Susan Buckner meet up at a local movie theater that just happens to be playing Craven’s made-for-TV movie from a few years before, SUMMER OF FEAR; which East also starred in (Luckily East misses the showing so he never has to endure the two realities colliding. On the other hand Vicki, does presumably watch the movie and is surprisingly tight-lipped about the incongruity). In other words, this blink and you’d miss it, low key self-reference can be seen as a precursor to the ultra meta-awareness that Craven would explore to extremes in future movies like SCREAM (‘96) and especially WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (‘94)

Death in the Barn. When Sharon Stone’s anguished character is attacked by a dark-robed figure in a barn, I swear it could almost be a cut scene from a SCREAM flick (sans the mask). Even the barn setting itself Craven would later revisit in his last film, SCREAM 4.

The Last Scare. Craven apparently was forced by producers to add one last scare to DEADLY BLESSING (probably to ape the previous year’s smash FRIDAY THE 13th). He wasn’t pleased but went ahead and incorporated a reality-smashing jolter involving a demon that breaks through the floor and drags a character into (I’m assuming) hell, followed by quiet normalcy being restored as if it never happened. Crazy that just about the exact same thing happened with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984). Producers wanted a slam-bang closer and Craven came up with a similar scenario; a reality-defying demon breaks through into our dimension (in this case through a door) and yanks a character off to who knows where. Craven wasn’t keen on either late addition tack-ons but I gotta say I love (and fell hard for) them both.

DEADLY BLESSING may not be Wes Craven’s best movie (though sometimes I wonder) but it’s always entertaining and certainly represents a fascinating moment in his career. It sports many of his familiar themes (every parent is toxic and oppressive) and stands in sort of an eye of the storm halfway spot between his earlier, more physical horror films (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES) and his more surreal, cerebral output (NOES, SHOCKER, etc.). It’s also beautifully shot, has a hypnotic James Horner score and is wonderfully suspenseful. There’s an of its time reveal that’s not likely to win a GLAAD award anytime soon but Jensen, Stone and Buckner truly shine as a troika of supportive old college pals and the film is ultimately a surprisingly positive testament to female friendship.

Five favorite Things:: Love and Monsters (2020)

THE DOG. Aw. Don’t tell my cats but I’m legit in love with the doggie that is featured in this movie. It’s really one of the greatest depictions of a canine’s heart and personality that has ever been captured on film. Please never inform me that he was portrayed by more than one pooch. I don’t want to know that. I need to believe he was ONE good boy. By the way, that’s his name, “Boy” and he reminds me of every four-legged friend I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Oh damn, I got something in my eye. It’s like Holly Hunter in RAISING ARIZONA, “I love him so much!!!” I need more of this doggie. I want to see his future adventures.

(Update: I just found out on IMDb that Boy was played by two dogs named Hero and Dodge and it turns out I’m totally OK with that).

THE SCREENPLAY.  I’m kind of absolutely astonished that this wonderful movie was written by Brian Duffield, the same talented dude who wrote the awesome UNDERWATER and also scripted and directed (!) the excellent (and strangely inspiring) SPONTANEOUS.  I mean, I can’t think of (m)any scriptwriters who have written three of my favorite movies in their entire career much less a guy who wrote three of my favorite flicks in one single year! I’m so impressed that now I have to anxiously wait for the inevitable moment my hero disappoints me and reveals himself to be a rotten person of some sort.

THE WONDER. What an endlessly fascinating world that is created here! The whole planet is basically destroyed (yay) or at least ninety five percent of the population and all the animal and insect life has been transformed into monstrous and often disgusting (yay) mutants. It’s truly terrifying and exciting and basically all of my insane dreams come true. I know it’s supposed to be more like a nightmare but I can’t help myself. I would gladly take living in peril every day over having to endure modern life’s stinky conveyor belt of annoying nonsense.

THE HUMOR. This movie really hits my funny bone squarely, directly and consistently. From the self-deprecating lead, Joel (an extremely likable Dylan O’Brien) to the gruff snark of partial companions Clyde (the legendary Michael Rooker) and pint-sized side-kick Minnow (adorable Ariana Greenblatt), these are folks I really dig hanging out with. When Minnow reveals that some of the most gnarliest looking monsters are actually amiable and that their eyes give them away, it’s like a potent dose of humanity injected right into my veins.

THE CRAB. As a kid who grew up watching Ray Harryhausen flavored monster flicks on weekend afternoons, I absolutely adore an impossible creature or two, especially the kind that hangs out on the beach. Giant mutated creatures bring me great joy and my itch to behold them is satiated far too infrequently. Without ruining a very charming and important plot point, let me just say this particular decapod crustacean has a personality trait that warms my cold, tired heart.

EXTRA: THE SCORE. Oooooh the counterintuitive musical score by Marco Beltrami (the SCREAM flicks among many others) and frequent collaborator Marcus Trumpp is all kinds of awesome and even includes banjos (!?!) plucking away. I love the sound of a banjo. Anyway, see this movie at all costs; it rules. I forgot to even mention the lovable robot! Mav1s!

Several Serial Killer Films:: By Ghastly1

The Tenderness of Wolves (1973)
Neuer Deutscher Film fanatics rejoice, Ulli Lommel is here and he brought Rainer Werner Fassbinder along with him. Fritz Haarmann lives the dream life, not only is he a rapist serial killer of boys and young men, who lives in an apartment decorated with kitsch paintings of angels and filled with the rancid meat and moldering bones of his victims, in a highly chic bombed out part of the city, but he has a thriving business selling human meat to local establishments. Jealous much?

Angst (1983)
Loosely based on the life and crimes of Werner Kniesek, this Austrian film descends into the psycho psyche of a recently paroled killer as he embarks on a seriously sick and sadistic spate of slaughter in a manner quite unlike any other. Immediately after having been “rehabilitated” in one of the country’s fine institutions, our “hero” who never stopped seeing red, descends on an isolated estate, where he proceeds to “work out his repressed emotions and meaningfully express himself” by exterminating its inhabitants for his own sadistic sexual self-gratification; all the while, treating us to reminiscences of his childhood torment and systematically laying out all of the fantasies he’d like to make reality; it’s all heartwarming stuff really. Of course, I’m being facetious; this is a rough film to get through, the first two murders are actually unintentionally funny in my opinion but things take an abrupt and stark turn for the decidedly disagreeable with the killing of the daughter which is hard to watch, even for this jaded misanthrope. The film is masterfully composed and seamlessly shot with nary a nick in the narrative. Complimenting the camera work, Klaus Schulze’s synthesizer soundtrack sends symphonic shivers scurrying up my spine, giving the impression these psychopathic sounds are driving the annihilative actions of the antagonist. Clearly auguring later “extreme” movies from western neighbors France, this film also really deserves to be mentioned alongside superlative cinematic treatments of stateside slaughterers such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, though for my money, Angst is infinitely more artful and hermetically unparalleled.

Schramm (1993)
Coming two decades after Tenderness of the Wolves, a decade after the aforementioned Angst and six years after his notoriously nasty necrotic debut, Nekromantik, Teutonic auteur Jorg Buttgereit’s sublimely surreal sadomasochistic sickie swansong character study collage of a sexually deviant serial killer’s final seconds of survival is exactly what it’s subtitle: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer suggests. Through a loose utilization of the reverse chronology technique, later popularized by the likes of Christopher Nolan, we witness the recondite recollections of one Lothar Schramm, the Lipstick Killer, as he lies sprawled out on the floor of his apartment in a pool of his own blood after cracking his skull open following a header off a ladder while painting over plasma stains in the parlor. What is great about Schramm is that it doesn’t allow for any pop psychology answer to the perennially posited query, why? We are left with the patently pathetic personage of masturbating, penile mutilating Schramm himself; he was what he was because he was a loser, nothing more. That is the truly subversive substrate of this film, it’s comment on it’s own ilk.

Cold Light of Day (1989)
We now jump across the pond to Merry Olde for a little looksee at a lunatic Lustmord flick “For those too sensitive for this world” as the concluding tribute to the director’s self-slaying friend states. The film is based on the escapades of “the British Jeffrey Dahmer”, Dennis Nilsen and is shot in a queasy quasi cinema verité style, which adds inestimably to the grubby, grimy, grungy feeling of inhabiting Nilsen’s flat, not to mention his life. Heads are boiled, bodies are stowed under floorboards and none are the wiser until Dennis formulates the fancy idea of flushing flesh down the loo. If I may be allowed a pun, that is when everything goes to shit; Nilsen is promptly arrested and confesses his misdeeds to his Albion accuser Inspector Simmons. As an aside and if I may be allowed one more pun, this film pairs well with the 1993 film, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer starring Carl Crew as the eponymous Dahmer, which, while “fictionalized” sheds far more light on the character and motivations of it’s subject and feels truer than 2002’s Jeremy Renner vehicle, Dahmer.

Godzilla Vs Kong (2021)

As far as let downs go, GODZILLA VS KONG isn’t so bad. It delivers some true eye-popping spectacle or maybe I’m just the easiest mark when it comes to buildings being destroyed and flashy neon colors. I wonder if it’s possible I might have enjoyed it more if I was able to see it in my beloved (but now dead-by-Covid) local movie theater? Maybe. On the other hand, I didn’t mind watching in sweats with a fridge full of beer either. Ah, why blame the victim (me) though? The sad truth is that this is a movie that does a great job with monsters destroying things and a terrible job creating anything remotely human. I’m a big disaster movie fan so I’m not asking for much as far as characterization goes. I just need a few quick but juicy brush strokes. I’m not looking for more backstory, more info or more time spent with the characters; I just need them not to be dried out charmless husks. I’m curious if anyone can confirm if director Andrew Wingard appeared younger after filming because it truly appears that he sucked the life energy from his cast.

We all want to see the monsters fight its true. We all know going in that we’re going to have to endure a bunch of scenes with people looking at maps and computers speaking gobley-goop. It’s an agreement we all sign up for. Usually in a well done film the downtime works to create anticipation for the promised eye-candy and may even accentuate the eventual cathartic release random destruction brings. But GVK seems to take it a couple dozen painful steps further and the non-action scenes play like dead air and white noise. I’d say every other movie in this monster –verse series (GODZILLA, KONG: SKULL ISLAND, GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS) dealt with pretty much the same format but were still able to install a sense of wonder and a variety of good and bad human-types to get behind or root against. I’m not sure how nothing remotely like that happens here. To render Rebecca Hall uninteresting, Alexander Starsgard uncharismatic and Millie Bobbie Brown a dead weight is really some sort of unholy cinematic alchemy.

This is a flick that introduces something called the “hollow earth” a stupid concept that a Saturday morning cartoon would be embarrassed to try to sell and yet it’s sadly appropriate for such an empty vessel. GODZILLA VS KONG is beautiful, mighty beautiful. There are some incredible visuals that brilliantly call back Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES but I’d almost rather check them out in a special effects reel. Again, I don’t think I’m asking for much just to have the bare minimum of believable story and at least remotely relatable characters. Heck, I don’t even think my pal Godzilla came across very well, somehow he even seemed like he was there to pick up a paycheck and split and he’s (to the best of my knowledge) pure CGI; how does one suck the energy out of something that isn’t even alive? Oh well, I loved the fight against the backdrop of neon buildings in Hong Kong, In fact, I’d say its worth the price of admission alone, I guess. Plus there’s a pretty nifty surprise special guest star monster I was Mecha-delighted to see. Maybe next time add a puppy in peril though and give me something to wring my hands about.