A Quick Look: Murder on the Orient Express (2/5)

So I saw Kenneth Branagh’s new movie Murder on the Orient Express, and I was pretty disappointed.

First off, I have yet to read the book, but I don’t feel like I should have to read the book in order to enjoy the movie. The entire point of a film adaptation of a book is so that the movie can stand on its own, independently from the book. And since I have found this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous novel to be lacking, my interest in reading the book has very much dwindled.

Branagh has always managed to deliver in the visual department, and this movie is no different. I love his establishing shots of the train traveling through the snowy mountains. I love how he creates such a good atmosphere of being on board a cramped train (which he proceeds to ruin every time he cuts away from out of the train) He always has such an eye for costumes and makeup and how to frame his shots.

And while not having the best ability in casting the right person in for each role, he certainly knows how to direct the actors he chooses. And each of the actors, while not always fitting the role they were given, actually do pretty well. I love Judi Dench in everything she’s in. I love Johnny Depp as a sleazy, slimy, no-good mobster. Willem Dafoe needs to work on his fake Austrian accent, but he plays his part well, despite not fitting it at all once his true identity is revealed. And even Daisy Ridley, who I hated in Star Wars VII because she spent every moment onscreen hyperventilating with her mouth hanging open exposing her clenched teeth and her eyes as wide as dinner plates, does all right here. Penelope Cruz, despite a good amount of sex-filled roles in the past, slips into the role of Christian missionary with ease and even dignity. Even Josh Gad, who I normally find painfully annoying, does all right.  And Michelle Pfeiffer is surprisingly good as the mastermind behind the murder. And Kenneth Branagh plays a great Hercule Poirot.

At first, I kind of liked it. The opening scene at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem was a great introduction to Branagh as Poirot. He’s a massive control freak, a funny stickler who demands perfectly cooked eggs, lightheartedly complains about their unequal size, and then doesn’t bother eating them. When solving the mystery of the theft of a priceless religious artifact, he sticks his cane in the Wailing Wall, as if he supernaturally knows who the actual thief is and where he will run in his attempt to escape capture. And then events play out exactly as Poirot predicted. This was fun and actually pretty funny.

But that’s where my liking of the film stops, as the opening scene does the exact opposite of setting a precedent. While I really like Branagh as Poirot, it is much to the detriment of the rest of the cast that Branagh focuses too much of the film on his character and not nearly enough on the rest of the cast. Though I love Judi Dench, she has nowhere near enough screentime to leave an impression. Her lady in waiting fares far worse, and the count with a hair-trigger temper and his wife barely exist. Up until the climax of the film, I was constantly asking myself, “Who are these other characters whose roles are all supposed to be pivotal to the story? What are they like? How are they reacting to being cooped up on this train for a few days? Are any of them not the least bit claustrophobic? What is each character’s relationship with the next?” Because when none of them save Poirot are given nearly enough screentime, I don’t have a reason to be invested in Kenneth Branagh’s fulfilled personal fantasy of being able to play Hercule Poirot. And when I am unable to get invested in the movie, it just becomes very, very boring. This movie desperately needed an extra thirty to forty-five minutes to develop the other characters, rather than focusing on Poirot’s surprisingly fast but simultaneously plodding solving of the case or the handful of shoehorned in, poorly filmed action scenes. And when it is revealed at the end of the movie that everyone in that particular train car murdered Mr. Ratchett/Cassetti, I found myself thinking, Yes, I get it, we’re being told each character’s motivation to murder Cassetti, but we weren’t shown their motivation. When I see people who wouldn’t normally resort to murdering someone engage in a brutal murder, I want to understand why. I don’t want to be told why, I want to be shown why. And each of the characters seems to have drastically changed. They felt like entirely different people, and not in a good way. Though I could tell throughout the movie that they were hiding something, the movie gave no inclination whatsoever that they were hiding something this dark. This ruined the movie for me. I guess the character development and transformations were probably in the book.

And the overall mystery could have been interesting, but I’m completely taken out of the movie when several pivotal clues are seemingly pulled out of thin air by Poirot. For example, I cannot for the life of me tell you how Poirot came to the conclusion that Mr. Ratchett was actually this other guy named Cassetti. Can someone help me with this? Don’t answer me with info from the book; I want your info to be gleaned from the movie, because the movie is supposed to stand on its own. And by the time we get to the big reveal at the end of the movie, it just doesn’t feel earned. I just felt like, Oh. That’s the big conspiracy, huh? They all killed Cassetti? Okay. The buildup to this could have been so much better. And I get that the moral lesson at the end was kind of the right thing to do, but the series of hoops one must leap through to arrive at such a conclusion are damn near exhausting.

There are events transpiring, but much of the movie feels like nothing is really happening. Yeah, Poirot is working feverishly to solve the mystery, but when I can clearly tell that Kenneth Branagh just wanted to make a movie starring himself as Hercule Poirot, I have no reason to root for him. I’m just sitting there captive until the movie is over. And when so little plot is transpiring that I’m just desperately looking to the acting or the dialogue to entertain me, I cannot help but notice the occasional kick to America’s shin or some very distracting virtue signaling, such as at least one or two characters having to correct another offscreen about the other’s opinions of Josef Stalin (who, by the way, made Hitler look like Mother Teresa), or Willem Dafoe’s character being racist. No, really, I burst out laughing when his character refused to sit with the black doctor because he claimed that mixing the black and white races ruins them both. He then tried to make an analogy to mixing red and white wine, but Daisy Ridley just poured her glass of red wine into her glass of white wine. Watch this scene; it’s hilarious in all the wrong ways, most notably how fully it derailed the flow of the movie.

Also, I found it very distracting to the point that it took me out of the movie that the twelve stab wounds to the torso of Johnny Depp produced surprisingly little blood. Gotta keep this movie PG-13.

And can we talk about the big beast of a fuzzy grey caterpillar that is Poirot’s mustache? Whenever I see it onscreen, I can’t help but be slightly amused. This freaking thing steals every scene it’s in, and thinking back on it, I can’t help but chuckle to myself. And the silly little soul patch on his chin. Way to distinguish yourself from every Poirot that has ever been and ever will be, Mr. Branagh.

Overall, Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express looks nice and is acted well, but there’s just nothing else there. That’s why I’m giving this one a 2 out of 5.

I’m not planning on seeing this one again any time soon, but for those of you who haven’t seen this yet, just do what I’m doing. I’m going to go watch the 1974 version.

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Review 88: Wish Upon (.5/5)

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Wish Upon

Directed by John R. Leonetti

Starring Joey King, Ki Hong Lee, Josephine Langford, Sydney Park, Ryan Philippe, Elizabeth Rohm, Mitchell Slaggert, Shannon Purser

Released on July 14, 2017

Running time: 1h 30m

Rated PG-13

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Teen

 

I love how Wish Upon’s cover depicts the gear mechanisms of the inside of the music box as a scary face when that’s not even remotely the design in the movie. It just makes the movie look that much more pathetic.

Wish Upon is yet another PG-13 horror movie that makes no effort to distinguish itself from all the other horror movies released this year. It is one of, if not the laziest horror movie I’ve seen this year. It is one of the most uninspired, clumsy, forced, and predictable movies I have ever seen. It’s just one big bleh.

Before I get to describing the plot, I should probably talk about the director, John Leonetti.. While he’s had a career as the cinematographer on such films as The Mask, Mortal Kombat, and The Scorpion King, he’s made a bit of a name for himself as the cinematographer on some famous recent horror films such as Piranha 3D, Insidious 1 and 2, and The Conjuring. So he’s got quite a resume, and I’m not surprised that he’s been given a few directing gigs. Unfortunately, he should really just stick to cinematography, because he’s directed such amazing classics as Mortal Kombat: Annhilation, The Butterfly Effect 2, and Annabelle. Barf. So, as you can imagine, I’m not too keen on seeing him direct another movie. Yet here we are.

Ooh, a photo negative of the Broadgreen Studios logo. Ooooh so skurry.

A woman walks outside holding something wrapped in some sort of paint canvas and sticks it in a trash can. Her daughter Clare runs outside and asks her how far down the road she can ride her bike. Just down the road and back. Clare starts riding, but her dog Max clearly notices what’s in the trash can. Ooh foreshadowing. But whatever is in the trash can is not important enough to worry about, as Max follows Clare. Clare rides down to a big bush that has a small nest inside. She pets the little chickies in the nest, therefore ensuring that they’re going to die because the mommy bird will just kick them out of the nest if she discovers the oils from human hands on them. I know that the movie is trying to show how pure and innocent she is, but Clare’s a freaking monster. SHE ESSENTIALLY JUST KILLED THOSE BIRDIES! YOU MONSTER! Clare rides back to the house and runs inside. But something draws her upstairs. I don’t know what does, but – oh, right. Plot. Gotta walk upstairs to the attic super slowly to build up suspense as the super spoopy music builds. Open the door slowly. Aaaaaaaand JUMPSCARE! For some reason, Clare seeing her mom hang herself warrants a very loud jumpscare…

…which wakes her out of her nightmare in the present day. And yes, that whole first three minutes of the movie was just to set up that Clare (King) has a tragic past purely for the sake of having a tragic past just so the movie can create some forced sympathy. That’s not a cliché at all.

Clare’s dad and her dad’s friend have been engaging in dumpster diving as a hobby ever since Clare’s mom died. I assume that this is how Clare’s dad makes money (by selling various cool things out of the dumpster), because the movie neglects to show me exactly how Clare’s dad earns money to finance his and his daughter’s lives and keep him and his daughter off the streets.

See? Look how poor Clare is. Look at her second-hand clothes (that actually look pretty new). Look, she rides a rickety bike to school instead of a car. Look how far she has to ride to get to school. See how the popular kids that bully her ride in a nice car and are on their phones all the time? Look how kind she is; she stops by her old uncle’s really nice house to pick up his newspaper for him so he doesn’t have to bend down to pick it up himself and possibly hurt his back? See how Clare almost gets run over by her bullies, causing her to fall off her bike and scrape her knee, ruining her tights? See how they ironically call her “winner”? Oh nose! Her dad is dumpster diving across from her school; how embarrassing! Her dad also doesn’t like her talking to her old uncle! Don’t you feel sooo baaaad for Claaaaaare? This isn’t cliché at all.

Here’s an idea, Daddy Dick: get a job! The Wal-Mart where I work is hiring! It’s always hiring! GET A JOB!

Oh, and we gotta appeal to the mobile gaming audience. Look, we’re showing one of Clare’s two friends playing a Pokemon-Go-style demon hunting game on her smartphone. Look, we’re hip with the youth. And her friend actually takes this awful-looking mobile game seriously.

And then the bitch that bullies Clare walks by and throws her drink on that big poster that she’s been working on for weeks. That’s not a cliché at all. And the way she acts toward Clare makes her look way too evil to be realistic.

COOL CAT: OOH! That person’s just a biiig, biiiiig bully! OOH! ARRH!

You know, you really should just take this up with the staff at your school. If that’s a project you’ve been working on for weeks, you could get her in big trouble. Especially because that project is an advertisement for some sort of school event happening later that school year. That presumably makes that project one that the school asked you to do. If Bully Bitch just ruined a project that Clare’s been working on for weeks that the school presumably asked Clare to do, Bully Bitch could get in some pretty big trouble.

I love how this movie is trying to pass Clare off as some lowly lower-class girl that lives in a rundown house and has few friends and gets bullied. But Clare looks too goddamn pretty! Any modeling agency would have found her at this point.

In her Chinese class (seriously, what high school anywhere in the USA has a Chinese class? Oh yeah – because plot. Also, Mandarin or Cantonese?), a Chinese student named Ryan (Lee, who is thirty-one in this) turns around and tells her that he liked her banner. Yeah, you’re real helpful now, you buck-toothed chink (pardon me – I’m not racist, and I will only ever use racist terms for a character’s ethnicity if I find the character to be unlikable). Clare then looks longingly at another student named Paul (Slaggert) that she clearly has a crush on. That’s not cliché at all.

Shot of a demon gargoyle because spoopy. Clare’s dad and her dad’s friend go dumpster diving outside of this house that we never actually see because it will come into play later (even though I will have totally forgotten about it later). Clare’s dad finds some sort of ornate octagonal box thing in the trash. Another shot of a demon gargoyle because spoopy.

Clare and her friends are at lunch when Bully Bitch and her goons pass by. BB asks them what they’re talking about, and Clare gets up and tells them. Clare says that BB is smegma, but, like, ultimate smegma. These lines aren’t even remotely sayable. What is smegma, you may ask? Well, it is a malodorous, opaque, white or yellow substance produced by the sebaceous glands of male and female genitalia. In response, BB slaps Clare. Okay, now don’t hit her back. That’s assault, and she could spend time in juvie for that. But Clare slaps back. Okay, now you’re both in trouble. I know that it’s self-defense, but school officials will punish you too. Seriously, high school students, if you find yourself in a physical altercation instigated by the other party, DO NOT HIT BACK, OR YOU ARE IN TROUBLE TOO. If someone hits you at school, alert the proper authorities, because that will land the other party in deep trouble. So Clare and BB get into a full-on fight and have to be separated.

But then we cut to Clare at her neighbor’s house. So what happened? Did Clare and BB finish the school day or get sent home? Did they suffer no repercussions from getting in a fight in the cafeteria? Anyway, Clare gets serves some kind of super-vegan smoothie that looks absolutely revolting. I don’t know what it’s made of, but the ingredients on the counter are ginger, apples, lemons, and kale (though the neighbor says broccoli, I can clearly see some chopped up kale). Eff that noise. Seriously, I’ve had a kale shake before, and I almost threw it up because it tasted like gasoline.

JIM GAFFIGAN: Kale is a superfood, and its special power is tasting bad.

Clare and the neighbor, whose name is Mrs. Deluca, then talk about boys. It is confirmed that Clare likes that guy that she was staring at like a creeper earlier. His name, as I’ve already mentioned, is Paul. Paul makes Clare really wet, but he doesn’t seem to be reciprocating those feelings. Clare, I know how you feel, but (and I’m sorry about this, Sean) there are three billion penises in the world. You can find another one.

Clare goes home and gives her dad a bag of salad from Mrs. Deluca. But Daddy Dick doesn’t like the green stuff! But Daddy Dick left a gift for Clare on her bed. It’s the box. Apparently it’s a music box, and it has a bunch of Chinese characters on it. The only ones Clare can interpret mean “wishes” and “seven”. So she’s got seven wishes. Gotta have seven wishes instead of three because three wishes isn’t enough to fill a ninety-minute movie. But this is a horror movie, so there’s gotta be some sort of catch. Like maybe the price for each wish is a death.

But then we cut to Clare doing some artwork. Oh, so she’s an artíste! That’s not cliché at all. How much do you want to bet that those artworks were made offscreen by a professional modern artist just before shooting? Also, she checks what I presume must be a crappy social media site in which she sees that BB is getting a manicure because she chipped a nail during her earlier fight. So this drives her to wish into the box.

WISH ONE: I wish BB would just go rot.

But Max sees her do this and is clearly not willing to step into her room as long as that box is in there.

And as Clare sleeps, the box opens, revealing that it’s some kind of music box. It plays an admittedly kind of creepy tune and closes.

The next morning, after having her friends sleep over, BB gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom, where she discovers that pretty much her entire leg below the knee has gone dead, and there are patches of dying skin on her thighs. And there’s a big patch of rot on the left side of her face. But we can’t make this too graphic or else we won’t get a PG-13. And of course the gay black friend with the phone has to take a picture.

Clare’s black friend named Meredith shows the pictures that she has somehow gotten to Clare and her redhead friend June, explaining that BB picked up a case of necrotizing fasciitis at the spa when she got her manicure. She’ll be losing her toes, part of her leg, and part of her face.

CLARE: She’s rotting! (Gotta use that word to let Clare know that her wish came true.)

But Clare and her friends show no sympathy, act like it’s just karma, and that BB rotting is somehow amazing. Even when BB’s two other friends walk up to Clare and her friends and they ask for cash for BB, Clare and her friends just tell them to go eff themselves. Okay, yes, I get it, BB was a bitch, but COME ON. You’re just making yourselves out to be hypocrites to the point of being actually kind of disgusting. You’re reacting in such an inhuman and monstrous way that I hate you guys now. Seriously, you cannot have your main characters do that and still expect me to give two craps about them when spoopy things start going down. Bring on the body count; I want these bitches to die.

Later that day, …

CLARE: You definitely have my attention, magic box.

Clare takes some pictures of the Chinese characters, but then inexplicably realizes that she can’t find Max. She looks outside and hears his collar rattling under the house. And then, oh great. Yes, yes, spoopy sequence. Just get to the inevitable jumpscare and move on. Aaaaaaaaand now. Jumpscare! Max’s disemboweled, rat-covered body falls from…somewhere and jumpscares Clare. Aww, the dog died. He was my favorite character. That’s not cliché at all. Her dad and her dad’s friend bury the dog. Yes, Joey King. Don’t actually cry. Just make trembly breathing sounds and scrunch up your face. Maybe force a single tear out if you can. Your job is to act, Joey. Act. And if you viewers don’t yet understand just why the dog died, then you are definitely in this movie’s target demographic: idiot teenagers with no expectations.

The next day, Clare takes the pictures of the Chinese characters on the music box to her Chinese teacher, but he can’t translate them for her because they’re in ancient Chinese. She’ll need to talk to a Chinese scholar. Because we need to save what they translate to for later in the plot because reasons. That’s not cliché at all. Ryan offers to take her to visit his sister who’s really into ancient Chinese, but she turns him down because plot.

That night, Clare flips through Paul’s…uh…social media page and sees him with his girlfriend in multiple pictures. This influences her to pick up the music box and make her second wish.

WISH TWO: I wish Paul would fall madly in love with me.

Why do I get the feeling that the music box is going to take that literally, that the operative word is going to be “madly”? Also, totally not cliché at all.

The next morning, when Clare closes her locker door, Paul is there. Oh, goody. He and Clare start to talk, but are interrupted by Paul’s soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend. He blows her off, and is about to continue talking to Clare, but the bell rings, so they separate. Clare realizes the circumstances and is now really wet.

This scene is intercut with her old uncle getting ready for a bath. He gets naked and steps into the filling tub, but he slips and bangs his head on the side, dying instantly. Scratch that – he wakes up a few seconds later in a jumpscare, but bashes his head on the faucet, and that kills him. If you still don’t see where this is going, then get an appointment with your nearest psychiatrist.

Clare gets home and is told by her dad that not only is the old uncle dead, but if he has a will, then the two of them are definitely not in it. After a brief spat about how Daddy Dick is such a hoarder and can’t get rid of anything (so he doesn’t sell all that stuff? How does he finance his and Clare’s lives?), Clare goes upstairs. She sees the music box out of the corner of her eye, and she gets an idea.

WISH THREE: I wish that my dead uncle would leave me everything in his will.

That’s not cliché at all.

Of course, the dad gets the call saying that Clare was left with everything. And I love how no other relatives ever call them about any sort of funny business. Nobody suspects anything. Does the old uncle not have any other relatives that just might be a little pissed that he didn’t leave them a thing? Did he not have children? Did he not have other siblings or nieces or nephews? Nobody suspects any funny business with Clare somehow being left every last thing in the uncle’s will? Seriously?

And this brings me to something else: the events influenced by each of Clare’s wishes, to different extents for each wish, feel like they would have happened regardless of whether or not Clare wished for them. Clearly the music box’s role in this story is pivotal, but the progression of events in the story almost make it feel pointless. It makes it feel like Clare’s wishes are not what is driving the story. Hell, this story feels like it has very little, if any, drive whatsoever.

But back to the movie. Clare and her dad move into the uncle’s place. Clare gets her own car. Does she have a drivers’ license? Apparently the uncle had a crapton of money saved up, because Clare calls up her friends and they go on a big shopping spree, spending oodles of cash with reckless abandon. That’s not cliché at all. I guess even poor teenagers can’t resist shallow fulfillment. And it’s all accompanied by an awful pop song that I could listen to as I cut my wrists. I absolutely despise scenes like this in movies when the main character gets a crapload of wealth that she didn’t earn and spends a scene buying a bunch of stuff and getting pampered either by herself or with her friends and reveling in her newfound wealth. And the three walk out of the store carrying bags and bags and bags of stuff. F*CK RIGHT OFF. HOW RICH WAS THIS UNCLE? I thank God every day that I’m not this vain.

Cut to Mrs. Deluca chopping some vegetables and dumping some waste into the disposal in the sink. It was at this point in the movie that I realized something: All of the characters save for Clare are not even characters. They’re merely devices to move the plot forward. They’re just slabs of meat that are only there so that this movie can have a body count. That’s not cliché at all. So yeah, Mrs. Deluca hears a strange noise coming from the disposal in her sink. Yes, yes, yes, meat. Just die already so the plot can move forward and the movie can be over quicker. And this scene is really stupid. First, when she stuck her hand into the sink disposal, I was thinking she was going to maybe accidentally hit the switch and shred her hand to such a degree that she would be unable to remove it and bleed out and die, but then I remembered that this movie is PG-13. There is a shot of her hand in the disposal, but the vegetable waste in there hasn’t even been slightly chopped up. Second, the movie starts setting up this red herring with a pot of something that’s starting to boil over. But this amounts to nothing, as Mrs. Deluca reaches over and turns the stove off. Third, she puts more waste into the disposal, but hears the weird noises again. She bends over and tries to get a look at what’s going on with the disposal, but her braid of hair falls into the disposal. Being too blind to see it, she hits the disposal switch, getting her hair caught and yanked in. She tries to hit the switch to turn it off, but the disposal yanks her head into the sink and she breaks her neck over the rim. Oh, nose, not Mrs. Deluca. She brought so much to this movie with her…uh…yeah. See, this scene could have been clever with all the little red herrings it was building up; it could have made me wonder just how exactly Mrs. Deluca was going to die. But when the actual method of death reared its ugly head, it was really freaking stupid. That’s not cliché at all.

Clare and her dad have a heart-to-heart about why her mom killed herself. I would like this scene, but it all feels so forced and unnatural. I really do not believe that these two could be father and daughter. That night, Clare’s dad picks up his tenor saxophone for the first time since Clare’s mom killed herself. And he sounds pretty damn awesome after having not played for twelve years. I really hope it wasn’t dubbed.

After a terribly constructed nightmare in which it is revealed that carved into the underside of the top of the music box is a demon (jumpscare, by the way), Clare wakes up to see some hooded figure run off. OOOH STALKER! If you can’t figure out who her stalker might be, then check yourself into the nearest mental hospital. After all, Clare did specifically say “madly”. Clearly that involves acts that are less than appropriate.

Speaking of which, the next day, Paul breaks up with his girlfriend. He then asks Clare to go out with him to the school event that Clare’s banner was advertising. Jeez, you barely know her and she barely knows you. Give it time, Speedy Gonzales. Turn your ándale meter down a tad.

Why are you on your phone in class?

And now Clare asks Ryan to take her to visit his cousin to translate the inscriptions on the music box. That’s not cliché at all.

By the way, that five-second shot of the storm approaching the city? That’s supposed to be foreshadowing.

On the way to Ryan’s cousin’s house, Ryan inexplicably brings up the time in first grade when Clare farted and blamed it on Ryan, causing Ryan to be labeled McFarts until the sixth grade. Gosh, look at how much character these two people have. Isn’t this movie just amazing? And then there’s some dialogue about multiverses. Uh muy gawsh, this movie is so deep! That’s not cliché at all.

Clare and Ryan arrive at the cousin’s apartment. Though the rest of the complex is rundown and covered in graffiti, she lives in a rather nice studio apartment. Her name is Gina, and she has the most haphazard hairstyle ever.

It turns out that this music box is a variation on a Chinese wish pot, in which you write your wish on a piece of paper, put it in the pot, and wait for it to come true. The music box will grant seven wishes, but there are rules. You must be touching it to make your wish, and if you abandon, lose, or sell it, then your wishes will be undone. Also, when the music ends, something happens. Even though we already know what happens (someone dies in a ludicrous way), the movie insists on keeping what happens a mystery until the plot says so. There are other characters that Gina cannot translate because plot, so she’ll contact a professor at UWA. That’s not cliché at all.

The music box also has a name stamp on the bottom, reading “Lu Mei”. In 1910, when the bubonic plague swept China, Lu Mei and her family were suspected of being infected. They were locked in a train car, where all except Lu Mei died of heatstroke. Lu Mei took the family’s most valuable possession – their music box – and went to a nearby temple to pray for revenge. After seven days and seven nights of praying (how did she not die of thirst?), on the seventh night, a being known as a yaoguai entered the music box. What’s a yaoguai, you may ask? Why, it’s a Chinese demon, of course. Lu Mei became wealthy, and her enemies were vanquished. But in 1922, she died of an opium overdose. The music box has a dark history and is possessed by a demon. That’s not cliché at all.

So all this spoopy backstory and Oriental mysticism has got to mean something, right? It has to be building up to something, right? What bearing does this have on the plot? The answer, of course, is nothing. I’m not kidding. All of this backstory and mythos surrounding this music box is completely pointless. By the way, there was never a Lu Mei as described in this movie. The closest person I could find to a Lu Mei was a Song dynasty official and general named Liu Mei. But this Liu Mei is a guy. So yeah. This was all total BS.

Clare and Ryan are driving back to Ryan’s place when Clare spots her dad dumpster diving again. Why is he dumpster diving again? Oh, yeah, to influence Clare’s next wish.

WISH FOUR: I wish my dad would stop being so embarrassing.

Of course, with the movie cutting to Gina, this means she’s next to die. And if you still don’t know why she’s going to die, then God help you. Gina gets her return email from her guy at UWA. Apparently the translation disturbs her. But then the power goes out because of the storm, and Gina has no cell service. She goes outside and tries to call Ryan. He doesn’t pick up, and when she tries to leave a message, the door slams behind her, startling her, and causing her to drop her phone several stories to the ground. She doesn’t go fetch it because the movie forgot that unless lightning is literally right on top of you, lightning and thunder never occur at the same time. Ever. That’s not cliché at all. She starts making her way through the apartment, and I can already tell that that bull statue with the long sharp horns is going to kill her. And it does. She trips on the rug and impales her face on the bull horn with a silly stock squishing sound. We can’t have any blood, though, or else we won’t get a PG-13. That’s not cliché at all. How did it pierce the back of her head?

Intercut this with Clare’s dad getting a little jazz trio together (sax, guitar, drums) and putting on a private concert for Clare and her friends. June tells Clare that she thinks that her dad is super hot. Ooooookay. I did not need to know that. But I’m personally wondering where I can buy this jazz trio’s album. Seriously, this is my jam.

The next morning, Ryan goes back to Gina’s place for some reason. He discovers her broken phone and runs up to her apartment, where he finds her dead.

Ryan confronts Clare at school and asks her if she’s wished into the music box. Clare then gets super defensive, as if she already knows what it does to the people around her. She doesn’t, but she will now. Ryan reveals that when the music ends, the blood price is paid. He tells Clare that Gina is dead. Oh, and Ryan says that Gina’s death happened a few nights ago. Wait, what? A few nights ago? I thought it was last night! Has it really been that long? How long is it between each scene? The movie’s conveyance of the passage of time is terrible!

So yeah, that’s the box’s gimmick. For your wish to be fulfilled, the yaoguai demands a very high price: someone close to you will die. That’s not cliché at all. And Clare has been too unbelievably stupid to notice. Has she not wondered how Max got disemboweled? Has she not visited Mrs. Deluca at all?

Paul has Clare sit with him at the popular kids’ table at lunch, much to the ire of his friends, who leave. Okay, Clare, now ask if Paul wants to sit with you and your friends. But no, she doesn’t, and her friends get pissed too. That’s not cliché at all.

But even though Clare knows full well what will happen now, she still makes her next wish.

Let’s do a recap of her wishes so far.

WISH ONE: I wish that BB would go rot. BLOOD PRICE: Max.

WISH TWO: I wish Paul would fall madly in love with me. BLOOD PRICE: Uncle.

WISH THREE: I wish my uncle would leave me everything in his will. BLOOD PRICE: Mrs. Deluca.

WISH FOUR: I wish my dad would stop being so embarrassing. BLOOD PRICE: Gina.

And now, WISH FIVE: I wish I was the most popular girl in school. BLOOD PRICE: TBA.

See why I did a recap? They are literally the most cliché wishes ever.

Clare gets a text from Paul, telling her to join him at a party at some person’s house. They go, and she is welcomed to the party with applause and a terrible pop song. I’m surprised that there’s no booze. Even the students that formerly hated her applaud. This is why I hate movies like this so much. I hate seeing people’s minds physically, forcibly changed to meet one character’s vain, shallow, magical wishly demands. Also, whenever I see white people dancing in a movie, I want to die.

Paul asks Clare to the school event, and then he kisses her. Jeez, you two barely know each other (unless there were various romantic events offscreen that the movie withheld from me like a dick). Can’t they at least go on a date or something? These two share no chemistry whatsoever.

That night, Clare has a nightmare about her mom’s suicide. Only this time, she’s the one hanging herself. She wakes up to see Pa – I mean, the stalker – taking a picture of her on his phone outside her window. For some reason, she tells the stalker to wait. Uh, why? She goes outside armed with a rake, but her dad startles her from behind (jumpscare). Clare figures that the stalker has been stalking her since she got the music box, so she hides it.

Cut to Ryan, who apparently is dangerously obsessed with this music box.

Oh, now Clare decides to visit Mrs. Deluca. After…wait, how long has it been? Also, the first time I saw this movie, I had almost forgotten that she existed by this point. She enters the house and is immediately hit by the stench of death. She then sees Mrs. Deluca’s body, having not even rotted at all. Wait, what? How long has it been since Clare last saw her? If it’s been two weeks, then the internal organs have decomposed, bloody foam has leaked from the mouth and nose, the body has turned from green to red as the blood is decomposing, the abdomen is bloated, and the internal gas pressure is nearing maximum capacity. Can’t this movie get simple science right?

And so, having seen the consequences of what she’s done, she realizes just how much the music box is ruining her life. She doesn’t like her newfound popularity, and she feels more alone now than ever before. That’s not cliché at all. She apologizes to her friends, takes them to her place, and tells them about the music box. They have a bit of a spat in which Meredith criticizes Clare for being so vain, Clare deflects her criticisms by saying that she would have wished for better stuff had she known how the box worked from the beginning, and I call BS on Clare’s claim. Also, Meredith needs to lay off the spastic arm acting. June momentarily convinces Clare to get rid of the music box, and Clare almost tosses it before giving into her vainness. That’s not cliché at all.

That night, at the school event, Clare lies that she threw away the music box after they left before going off to make out with Paul. I think she finds an article of her clothing on Paul’s person and demands that she see his phone. It is full of pictures of her, including ones of her sleeping. Paul is the stalker. I TOLD YOU SO. That’s not cliché at all. Clare immediately breaks up with him.

And then the movie starts setting up all these red herrings about who will die to satisfy the blood price for the fifth wish. June almost gets killed when the statue in the bonfire falls over. Clare’s dad almost gets killed when he gets a flat tire on the road. He almost gets creamed by two street racing cars. He almost gets crushed when he almost knocks the jack over when he crawls under the car to retrieve one of the nuts. He almost gets decapitated when the spare tire rolls out into the street and gets hit by another car. He just barely avoids several deaths. But who actually satisfies the blood price of the fifth wish is Meredith. After achieving one of her goals on the stupid game on her smartphone, she gets into an elevator, which plummets to the ground. We can’t actually smash Meredith even though she fell twenty-something stories or else we won’t get a PG-13. Ryan appears out of nowhere (seriously, WHERE DID HE COME FROM?!) and takes Clare back to his place.

Ryan tells Clare that the music box has passed from person to person for decades. That’s not cliché at all. Each of these people got very successful, a bunch of their friends died in freak accidents, they lost everything, and they eventually killed themselves. The most recent holder of the music box lived only a few blocks away from Clare’s house. That’s how she got it: her dad found it outside of the burned house. That’s why we didn’t actually see the house: because plot. That’s the whole point of the extra backstory of the music box. It’s to explain how Clare’s dad found the box in the first place. But how did Clare nor her dad not hear about the estate burning down in the first place?

Ryan brings up one last set of characters on the box that he nor Clare nor Gina saw because plot. It says that when the seventh wish is wished, the yaoguai takes the soul of the wisher. Because spoopy. That’s not cliché at all. When Clare tells Ryan that she’s made five wishes, Ryan flips out on her. Clare could have used the excuse that she didn’t know about the blood price until after four wishes. It still doesn’t explain why she made her fifth one, but it’s something. But Clare does nothing of the sort. She just accepts that it’s her fault and asks Ryan to help her destroy the music box.

They try burning it, and they try smashing it. All fail, but they try no other methods. WHY? Can’t they try to find some sort of Chinese exorcist to expel the yaoguai from the music box or something? This isn’t cliché at all. But Ryan goes home and Clare puts the box back in its hiding place.

That night, Clare is woken up by Paul in her room. It seems that the yaoguai took her wish quite seriously, causing Paul to fall madly in love with Clare. That’s not cliché at all. Either the yaoguai has a sick sense of humor (as most demons do), or it’s studied contract law and is a freaking god at finding the smallest loopholes and the most ignored liabilities. I would LOVE to hire this yaoguai as my lawyer. Anyway, Paul pulls out a knife and he’s all like, “I can’t live without you, and I don’t want you to live without me.” So he cuts his wrists. The paramedics manage to save him.

Clare has Ryan over at her place again, but they can’t find the box. They presume that the music box has moved on, and that Clare just needs to move on with her life. But the doorbell rings, and it’s the authorities. Apparently their inherited property is being seized because somehow, the uncle forgot to pay his taxes for ten years. HOW DOES ONE DO THAT? But yeah, Clare has now lost all she’s wished for. That’s not cliché at all.

Hell of a birthday (I totally forgot). She’s back in her old rundown house, and she’s even back to riding her bike to school. Hell, even BB is back, with what looks like the results of just a rash on her face. Paul is back with his old girlfriend (he didn’t get any repercussions from his previous girlfriend for breaking up with her or from the police for stalking Clare? Wow.). She’s lost all her popularity. That’s not cliché at all.

But then she passes by June’s locker and sees the music box in there. Apparently June stole it. HOW? WHEN? AND WHY DID SHE BRING IT TO SCHOOL? And why does June believe she has the moral high ground? Clare snatches the box, and June conveniently catches up with her at the top of a flight of stairs. After a brief scuffle, June ends up falling down the stairs, landing at Ryan’s feet. She’s fine, but Ryan and Clare get into an argument about the music box. Despite Clare clearly having good intentions with the box (to not wish anymore and keep the box from falling into anyone else’s hands), she has dialogue that makes her sound crazy. Oh, so she’s crazy now? Okay. That’s not cliché at all. She even threatens to use a wish on Ryan.

She runs home, apparently ditching school, frantically telling herself that if she doesn’t wish anymore, everything will be fine. But then she gets it into her head to wish again.

WISH SIX: I wish my mom never killed herself. BLOOD PRICE: TBA.

So apparently had her mom never committed suicide, she would have given Clare two more siblings. Oh yeah, it’s Clare’s birthday today. After cake, Clare goes up to the attic and finds the paintings her mom made post-not-suicide. And one is of the music box. Clare realizes that her mom once owned the music box, and that’s why she killed herself. She hears the box’s music and realizes that her dad will be the one to satisfy the blood price of the sixth wish. She runs downstairs to alert him after seeing him and his friend out pruning tree branches with a chainsaw. She bursts out the door, calling for him. He steps away from holding the ladder in place, causing the friend to lose his balance. The chainsaw swings down toward the dad and cuts something behind him. I have no idea what the chainsaw cuts, as it clearly just cut something behind him. I cannot for the life of me determine how he died. Clare runs upstairs to her room as the screams of her mother fill the house. She inexplicably knows how to defeat the yaoguai. She makes her seventh wish.

WISH SEVEN: I want to go back in time to the morning my dad found you.

She wakes up that particular morning. Wow, there’s not even a climax? This time, she insists on going dumpster diving with her dad. You’re not even going to shower or anything? She finds the music box rather quickly and gets to school. She runs over to Ryan, apologizes for the McFarts thing, brings up multiverses, wants to date him, says she’s met Gina, and asks him for a favor: to destroy or get rid of the music box. In return, she offers him a dinner date. She starts walking away, but then she runs back and kisses him.

Things are looking a little too happy. Oh wait. I know what this movie’s doing. All right, show me the twist.

Hey, it actually shows up surprisingly quickly – BB hits Clare with her car and sends her flying into another car, killing her instantly. That’s not cliché at all. Whoa – how fast was BB driving? Well, that’s the twist: since Clare has technically wished for seven wishes, the yaoguai gets to claim her soul. The camera zooms into her eye and the movie ends…with seven and a half minutes of credits. And a mid-credits scene in which Ryan initially tries to bury the music box, but reads the characters on the side, says “seven wishes”, and ponders the idea. Because of course we have to hint at a sequel. That’s not cliché at all. For gosh sakes, the story is over, and this movie barely made twenty million bucks at the box office. Do not hint at a sequel. Hell, the movie sans credits is barely eighty-two minutes long.

You know what I’d wish for? I’d wish people made better movies. I’d wish for the inherent potential to make my own fantastic movies.

This movie is pathetic. How do such cheap, lazy, unoriginal crapfests keep getting made while most quality scripts never even get looked at by major studios? Obviously, this movie was made so some studios with no original ideas and a sole intent to make money can make a quick buck off the teen and preteen horror-loving crowd that eats garbage like this up. But it fails even then, because it makes its scares and plot so safe and so tame that it becomes predictable and boring. It’s too cliché, uninventive, unoriginal, and unscary for horror nerds like me, but it’s too tame, safe, restrained, and boring for even the stupid teenagers and college students that go see this crap with a bunch of friends on Friday night, scream at a bunch of jumpscares, and text all their friends about how soopur skurry the movie was. I’d just scare the absolute daylights out of them by showing them The Devil’s Candy or something like that. Something good.

I can’t even call this movie a horror film at all. Yeah, it’s labeling itself as one, but there’s nothing here to scare us. Yeah, occasionally there’s a flimsy jumpscare, but there’s nothing else. No suspense, no tension, not even a scary villain. It’s just boring and uneventful. Wish Upon is trying so desperately to be a horror film, but it has no idea how to make itself scary. Every scary scene is inserted into the movie in such a random, haphazard way, but even then, when the scary scenes show their faces, they’re always like, “Hey, I’m here! … Now what am I supposed to do? … Okay, here’s a jumpscare or something. Great. Can I go now?” I don’t have much to say about this movie’s attempts to scare the audience because this movie has no idea how to do so. Yeah, most crappy horror movies tend to rely on Jumpscare Porn, but Wish Upon doesn’t even have that. It’s got nothing, and therefore I’ve got nothing. There’s just nothing here. Yeah, we’ve got an idea for a scary villain, but the movie does nothing with it. Yes, there’s the backstory for the wish box, but the movie does nothing with it. The evil yaoguai has no presence, onscreen or offscreen. All that happens here is that Clare makes a wish, it comes true, and some piece of meat that the movie calls a character dies in a much dumber and much less creative version of Final Destination. But even in Final Destination, the deaths were at least somewhat creative or at least gut-bustingly hilarious in how silly they were. But that’s why I find those films entertaining. So many of the deaths are so silly and convoluted that I roll on the floor laughing. But in Wish Upon, the deaths are just boring. Even the jumpscares are boring. I guess the movie might have been trying to be reminiscent of the story “The Monkey’s Paw”, but the writers had no idea what made “The Monkey’s Paw” interesting, unique, relatable, scary, or good.

I can’t even tell if Wish Upon was trying to play it serious or be intentionally campy. If it’s the former, then it’s one clumsy little trainwreck. If it’s the latter, then the movie shot itself in the foot.

Wish Upon is a clunky amalgamation of Lifetime Channel writing and Disney Channel acting. It’s one of the most cliché movies I’ve ever seen. And the characters are ridiculous too. They’re not characters. They’re plot devices. They’re just slabs of meat to give this movie a body count. And every time we get to a death scene, I find myself thinking, Yes, yes, yes, meat. Just die already so the movie can be over faster. The characters around Clare have no plotular function except to die in silly and unimaginative ways. They’re not even likable. The dialogue they share is awful, with the painful slang and pop culture references being so painfully dated that I was having a debate in my head about whether or not the movie was actually a self-parody. And if it was meant to be so, it failed.

Even the acting sucks. Joey King is clearly trying very hard, but the script gives her nothing to work with, and she’s being given some very poor direction. King is so desperately trying to give her character some depth, but all it results in is making her character look like she’s overcompensating for her insecurities by trying harder than everyone else to fit into the crowd. She forms such an oversized and overstuffed personality. She performs such broad gestures, has such animated facial expressions and swooping vocal times, and sometimes even sings a phrase or two of conversation. The tragedy of life is not a musical comedy, Joey King. It’s hard and it’s depressing and it’s sad and it’s frustrating, and most days you just want it to end. Or it could be just me.

It could have been a story almost in the same vein as Death Note. The anime, not the disgustingly awful Adam Wingard movie. Think about it: Clare has received this item that wields unspeakable power, and she could wish for large, grandiose changes to how the world works, and that she slowly becomes more and more willing to let one person die per wish if it means that the world is better off because of what she wishes. Over the course of the film, Clare could slowly be losing her humanity, eventually becoming the very monster she desires to destroy. And these very desires are what eventually claim her life. It could have been another interesting parable about how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Obviously, there would be no Light vs. L dynamic and plotline, and we wouldn’t have the time to develop a super-complex and super-interesting and super-amazing character arc like that of Light Yagami, but at least Wish Upon could have at least tried to do something like that.

It’s not like crappy horror movies like The Bye Bye Man or Rings. The Bye Bye Man was so bad and forgettable that it made me angry. Rings was so bad that it was freaking hilarious. The Bye Bye Man was Jumpscare Central. Rings was a belated sequel to a dead franchise that had no idea what made The Ring so good and so scary. But while those two are undeniably worse than Wish Upon, Wish Upon commits an even greater sin: it’s just a big bleh. It’s boring. It came and it went, and it will be remembered by no one.

John Leonetti is an excellent cinematographer when it comes to horror films. But he should really just stick to cinematography.

Because as a director, he has no talent.

Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars.

A Quick Look: Happy Death Day (1/5)

So I just got home from seeing Happy Death Day, and with a terrible title like that, what do you expect but a silly, stupid-but-enjoyable horror black comedy? That’s what Happy Death Day is: a silly, stupid horror black comedy, but it’s not enjoyable at all.

Basically, the premise for this movie is Groundhog Day, except it’s a horror movie. Tree (short for Teresa for anyone else cringing at the name) wakes up on her birthday, goes about her day, treats everyone around her like garbage, and is murdered that night by a masked assailant, only to wake up that very same morning. Rinse and repeat until she finds out some way to make sure she’ll see tomorrow. In Tree’s case, she inexplicably comes up with the idea that maybe if she determines the identity of her killer and stops him/her, she’ll break the cycle and move on with her life. I cannot explain how she came up with that idea, but I’ll roll with it.

But this premise is applied in such a lazy way. For example, whenever she wakes up, regardless of how long she takes to get out of Carter’s dorm room, the events that happen outside (a creepy guy leering at her, a chick asking her to sign a “stop global warming” form, sprinklers getting a couple wet, a drunk student passing out, a car alarm going off) will still happen the exact same way regardless of whether Tree takes three minutes to leave or just runs out within ten seconds. That’s just stupid and lazy. Also, the manner in which Tree wakes up is stupid as well. She gets roused by the nine o’clock bell from the bell tower on campus, but she is fully awakened by the ringtone that plays when her dad calls her. Now, in the trailer, the ringtone was the song “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, but in the movie, the ringtone that wakes her up was some ungodly annoying trashy birthday-themed ringtone. Why would she be getting woken up by a ringtone? It would make much more sense if it was an alarm. She’s clearly trying to not tell the other characters that it’s her birthday, but she keeps giving it away because of her freaking ringtone. When did she change her ringtone to this annoying garbage? And by the time we get to the third day/attempt, it becomes so obvious just how easily our main character could get out of the situation. All she needs to do is live through the third day/attempt exactly as she did before, except maybe she could get some of her testosterone-filled man-penises into her room by saying, “Someone’s trying to kill me and I have him trapped in my room. Go on in and kick the crap out of him.”

Another way in which the movie is lazy is in its casting. While main actress Jessica Rothe is thirty (because of course we need to cast someone obviously too old for the role), the leading male actor who she is supposed to fall in love with later named Israel Broussard is twenty-three, and the professor she’s having an affair with at the beginning of the movie named Charlie Aitken is thirty-eight. The casting department could have at least hired a young woman in her early to mid twenties, a dude that doesn’t look like a teenager, and a man that’s at least in his forties so that the contrast between his and the chick’s age is actually present. The chick looks like she’s having an affair with a professor that looks her age, and she eventually falls in love with a boy who looks like a teenager. The casting department should have been fired.

Also, the guy who wrote this movie’s dialogue should have been fired. Who says the word “beeotch” in a serious, insulting, derogatory manner? Any usage of “beeotch” that I’ve ever heard in the real world was said in a joking, sarcastic manner. Who drops lines like “You shouldn’t take a girl to Subway on your first date; it’s not like you have a footlong.”? Tell me that that line doesn’t make you want to scoop out your eardrums with a spoon. Also, another exchange between Tree and the professor as she tries to initiate sex:

PROFESSOR: We can’t do this right now, I have patients to see.

TREE: And I’m losing mine.

ME: AAAAGGGH! *slams head against wall*

Also, the movie sets up day-repeating rules that it fails to follow, or in one case, straight-up forgets about. About halfway through the movie, she is told by her professor (who also happens to be a doctor at the university hospital somehow {seriously, how does he fit being both a professor and a doctor into his schedule?}) that she has multiple areas of severe trauma on her body. This means that every time she gets killed and has to start the day/attempt over, she sustains some sort of scarred-over injury. Therefore, she only has a limited number of tries in order to stop her killer before her body gives out and she dies for good. But after that particular day/attempt, the movie just completely forgets about it, because in three particular deaths, she 1) gets hit by a freaking truck, 2) gets blown up in an exploding car, and 3) hangs herself in a scene I will talk about later. But she sustains no trauma from these deaths, even though you would think that such violent deaths would cause some sort of bodily trauma according to this movie’s rules, right? Right? WRONG! The movie is so lazy, inconsistent, and even incompetent that it has forgotten its own rules that it itself set up. While Edge of Tomorrow set up its own rules and then proceeded to break, contradict, and forget them at every turn, at least it was a fun popcorn flick. But I can say no such thing about Happy Death Day. At least Edge of Tomorrow wasn’t lazy.

Also, the mask of the killer is so laughable and goofy. It’s not scary in the slightest. Apparently, this baby mask is the mask of the university mascot, and they are sold at every football game. Is that really the university’s mascot? They never explicitly say it, but how silly would it hypothetically be when the football team’s fans shout out “Go Babies! Go Bayfield Babies! Yeah!” It’s as stupid as it sounds.

Also, the story itself is one of the most predictable stories I have ever witnessed. Literally within the first ten minutes, I had predicted that the killer was going to be Tree’s roommate, Lori, because of just how awfully she treats her. Yes, I know that’s a spoiler, but I think this movie sucks, so I don’t care. But as the movie progressed, I mostly brushed that aside, thinking, They couldn’t possibly go the obvious route. I’ll keep that in the back of my mind, just in case. But then the movie starts going out of its way to make sure you don’t suspect Lori to be the killer. Lori as a character is barely in the movie. It even goes so far as to insert an entire subplot involving a recently-apprehended serial killer supposedly escaping from being held at some hospital after being arrested to apparently murder Tree. This entire subplot only goes to serve as a really awfully implemented red herring to allay suspicion from Lori. And then the movie reveals that the killer actually was Lori! What? Lori was the Origami Killer this whole time? I was completely baffled at just how easily I had predicted the identity of the killer, only for the movie to go out of its way to say that she’s not the killer, only to turn right back around and say that no, she really was the killer. And the supposed twist, when revealed, only creates many more questions than it answers. How lazy-turned-desperate can you get? Another way in which this movie’s story is predictable is that when you see Tree interacting with each character at the beginning, you can tell how her attitude toward each one will change by the end of the movie. Will she fall in love with Carter? Will she sign the “stop global warming” form? Will she call out her suitor for being a fag and tell him that love is love and that he should just embrace his faggy nature and boink a super-hot hunk of man ass? Will she flip her sorority sister’s bitchiness and fat-shaming around on her? Will she tell her sexual liaison professor to cherish his wife? Will she determine that her roommate is her killer? Will she answer her dad’s phone calls and mend her relationship with him? Will she ever learn to stop being such a c–t to everyone around her? The most obvious answer is the right one. Wow, what a super awesome character arc. Don’t you just loooooove Tree by the end of the movie? Oh, by the way, this is all negated by Tree dying that particular night, waking up the next morning, eventually learning that Lori is the killer, and completely forgrtting to resolve the matters that she resolved in the previous day/attempt.

This movie also pulls some half-hearted BS moral out of its ass about how now that Tree has been repeating this same day over and over and over again, she has learned to become a better person to everyone around her. But after the red herring scene ends, the movie just forgets its moral. How lazy.

The movie also ends three times. 1. Tree stops being such a bitch to everyone around her, initiates her relationship with Carter, and mends her relationship with her dad. She then arms herself to go to the hospital and confront serial killer John Tombs. She goes there and after a bit of a fight, she kills Tombs. She then goes back to her sorority house and holds a two-person birthday party in her room with Carter. She eats the cupcake that Lori gave her. 2. She wakes up on the same morning again in horror and thinks she’s trapped in a never-ending time loop. She runs to her sorority house, goes up to her room, and starts packing, intending to run away as far as she can. She starts pointing out that Lori is about to give her the cupcake. She realizes that Lori is the actual killer because at the end of her last day/attempt, she died in her sleep from Lori’s poisoned cupcake, as that was the only day/attempt in which she ever ate Lori’s cupcake. Lori confesses, revealing her asinine motives of jealousy of Tree’s affair with the professor and Tree being a “dumb bitch”. She also reveals that she intended to frame Tombs as Tree’s killer. The two fight, and Tree sends Lori flying out the second story window to her death. Carter and Tree go to lunch together where Carter remarks that her situation is a lot like Groundhog Day, a movie which Tree has somehow never heard of, breaking the rule of not referring to a better movie in your own crappy one. 3. Tree wakes up the next morning after engaging in offscreen hawt, steemy secks with Carter the previous night and thinks that it’s her birthday all over again, but it’s just a prank by Carter. The two make out and the movie ends.

The film takes itself so seriously and lacks any semblance of self-awareness whatsoever. I can’t even tell if the makers just don’t care or if the movie is made in such an incompetent way. It doesn’t seem to even enjoy its own ludicrous premise. It stops being even the slightest bit scary after the third day/attempt and instead just becomes bland and dull. It even tries to make a few really poorly handled and forced politically correct statements. With all the very basic things Happy Death Day forgot to apply to the entirety of itself, it commits the worst sin: it has no idea what it wants to be. A horror movie? A comedy? A mystery thriller? A parody? A romantic comedy? It doesn’t know, and can never just settle on one or two. Therefore, the movie just feels boring.

In one scene of the movie, I have an idea of how to make it better. Consider that the “each death has bodily repercussions” rule actually applies here, and that in this scene, the rule has clearly begun to affect Tree’s body. We’re in the scene in which Carter and Tree are having dinner at some restaurant, and she sees a news broadcast about John Tombs, and how he has just been arrested. Tree realizes that Tombs is being held at the university hospital and believes him to be her killer. She rushes over to the hospital and heads toward Tombs’s room, only to see him kill the police officer outside. Tombs gets the drop on Tree, and is about to kill her. Carter saves Tree, but Tombs kills Carter. Tree runs to the bell tower followed by Tombs, but she beats him with a crowbar. She realizes that if she kills Tombs now, that Carter will remain dead. She then has to make a choice: does she kill Tombs now and save herself, or does she hang herself from the bell rope in an attempt to restart the day in order to save Carter, knowing that she very much risks dying permanently if she kills herself this time? That could be an interesting scene. But Happy Death Day takes no such opportunity.

Had this movie approached its genre in the same manner as Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, it could have been really damn good. Had Happy Death Day been a balls-to-the-wall, hyperviolent black comedy that flipped every trope of its genre on its head while also creating some really lovable and huggable characters, I could have laughed my ass off and had a great time. But I guess I can only imagine.

In the same vein as Tucker & Dale vs. EvilHappy Death Day could have also benefited greatly from not having to constrain itself to a PG-13 rating, because the PG-13 rating effectively neutered this film. But the main reason why this movie was rated PG-13 was because movie studios still think that making a movie PG-13 will make them all the moneys. It’s purely for monetary gain. And that’s just idiotic. While the new IT movie wasn’t all that great (it’s a 3 out of 5 for me), it was a monster hit, and is the highest-grossing horror movie ever made. And what was IT rated? Why, R, of course. Just because you rate a movie R does not mean people will not go see it. And just because you rate a movie PG-13 does not mean that people will go see it. People will go see movies based on overall quality and marketability, not rating. Learn this, Blumhouse. You’re not a bad studio, but you really need to get your head in the game.

Considering how much I’ve trashed this movie so far, is it all bad? Well, no. The acting is at least passable. Nothing spectacular, but nothing career-destroying either. The orchestral parts of the soundtrack are also decent. I’m very happy that it was not just more cheap, lazy, deafening Jumpscare Porn.

Last week, I saw that the new movie Blade Runner 2049 had come out, but though it was number one at the box office, it was not doing well at all financially. I saw that movie in 3D and DBOX at the same time to give the movie as much cash as I could in one sitting. It was twenty bucks for that ticket, and I did not waste a single cent. Blade Runner 2049 was absolutely amazing, earned a 5 out of 5, and made the number two spot on my list of favorite movies of the year. But then this weekend, Happy Death Day took the number one spot at the box office. And the fact that Happy Death Day has been so profitable this weekend is a very frightening sign of audiences’ taste in film. The fact that Happy Death Day is more profitable than Blade Runner 2049 is absolutely disturbing to me. Audiences, by going to financially support Happy Death Day and not Blade Runner 2049, you are voting with your wallets and saying, “No, Hollywood. No, movie studios. We don’t want slow-paced sci-fi mystery thrillers that make us think. We want Standard Generic Stock Bottom-of-the-Barrel Horror Flick Number 76932.” What the hell is wrong with you people?!

Happy Death Day is bad, and you should feel bad. And I’m giving Happy Death Day a 1 out of 5.

UPDATE: I’m really glad I wrote down my thoughts when I did, because I barely remember this movie.

Interesting experiences at work: October 14, 2017

So this guy came through produce earlier today, and he came up to me and asked me if I had some of yesterday’s donuts. I directed him to bakery, but I asked him why he made such a request. He said that he was getting these donuts to feed a bear in his yard. Why? Why would he be feeding a bear in his yard? That is one of the worst things you could do if you have a bear in your yard. Either this bear will become too dependent on human food and will be unable to fend for itself and eventually starve, or it’ll get aggressive and you’ll have to bring in trained professionals to kill it. Because, you know, that’s what happens when you feed a bear. It’s just common freaking knowledge.

That happened. I directed him to bakery without saying so much as a word to him, aside from saying “Hey, if you want some of yesterday’s donuts, go over to bakery,” because if this guy’s gonna make poor decisions with his life, I’m not gonna stop him. It’s his own freaking life, and if I see a newspaper article sooner or later about some guy who got mauled by a bear, I’ll know who it was.

Interesting experiences at work: October 5, 2017

So at the end of aisle 5 (I think), there’s this TV-like thing hanging on the end of it that’s nearest to produce. And on this TV, it’s showing a couple of pictures of Italian food, such as linguine with herby marinara sauce, and gnocchi in some sort of pesto sauce. Don’t get me wrong –  this food sounds good, but it’s not just the pictures playing on this screen. There’s also this melody, this sort of 16-bar waltz being played on an accordion that endlessly loops. It is looping constantly. I can hear it every second it’s being played. Every second I am working on that floor, I am hearing that stupid, stupid music. I was able to ignore it for the first couple of hours of my shift, but an hour or two before I took my lunch break, it had become so ingrained into my mind that I was hearing it even though I was not even on the floor. I could not even feasibly hear it in the places where I was hearing it. I wasn’t actually hearing it – it was just playing over and over and over again in my mind. Because even though it had been playing surprisingly quietly, it was playing just loudly enough to subliminally imprint itself onto my mind to such a degree that when I was on my hour long lunch break, I still hear this stupid jingle playing in my head the entire time. And no matter how hard I concentrate, I cannot get this stupid, stupid music out of my head. And I can only ever hope to get it out of my head if I drown it out with something else.

I find myself less and less able to take this music until about 7:30 (I get off at 8). I am just about to fly off the handle and put an axe through the frickin TV. After I’m done pulling the Meat/Produce truck, I see my support manager standing next to this TV because she hates this jingle too. Not to the extent that I do, but she hates it. And she’s trying to find some sort of buttons around this TV to see if she can at least mute it if not turn it off entirely. I see her over there, and I go over to look for buttons on this TV with her. We find these buttons on the back. There are two volume buttons on there, and we try them. And they don’t work. The volume buttons do not work. Realizing that my sanity may be at stake at this point, I look around the back of the TV and I follow the wiring of the TV to a plug plugged into this surge protector hidden behind a bunch of food. Not even caring what management’s going to say about me, I unplug the TV, because I cannot handle listening to this unbearable music anymore.

Initially, I’m like, “YES! I UNPLUGGED THE DEMON TV! YASSS!” I find myself still unable to get this stupid music out of my head. It has ingrained itself into my mind that much that I am still hearing it now. I am still hearing that music now. And my only hope is to drown it out by listening to something long enough for me to get it out of my head. And I really hope I’m able to do so. Maybe a good night’s sleep will help, but if it keeps going, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I know; crazy situation, right? Yeah, I know. Sounds pathetic, doesn’t it? That this stupid music is ingrained into my head and I can’t get it out?

Interesting experiences at work: September 30, 2017

So this morning, a little while after I start my shift, I walk into the fridge in the produce back room and I hear that one song from Moana, the name of which I do not remember. I think it’s “How Far I’ll Go”. I don’t know – I think that was the one nominated for the Oscar. Hearing that song doesn’t really mean anything to me at the moment because it’s a nice song from a good movie. Great.

But over the course of my eight-hour shift, I hear this song over Wal-Mart Radio a grand total of four times. Don’t get me wrong; I like this song. I like Moana. I think it’s a very good movie. But COME ON. Does Wal-Mart Radio really have that tiny of a playlist? It’s ridiculous.

I did hear later that day that Wal-Mart Radio was featuring some sort of Top 20 soundtracks or something, which probably explains why I heard such songs as  “Stayin’ Alive”, “Purple Rain”, “Ease On Down the Road”, “Let It Go”, “Circle of Life”, and whatever the title to that song from Free Willy. I guess that’d explain why.

But still, that tiny of a playlist is ridiculous for a radio station. Yeah, I get it; it’s Wal-Mart Radio, so it’s not a full-fledged radio station, but come on. This is pathetic. I like the song, but Wal-Mart Radio, come on.

Interesting experiences at work: September 29, 2017

NUMBER ONE:

So a couple of days ago, in the big cardboard bin of giant pumpkins, I saw one pumpkin that had a big streak of mold down one side of it. Clearly, it was not just skin deep. I realize that the pumpkin is bad. I pull it out of the bin, I take it to the back, and I mark it down. But because I possess absolutely no foresight, I think, You know what? This is an opportunity. I can carve a jack-o-lantern out of this and add it to the display for decoration. What a good idea.

So I spend thirty minutes carving this dang thing with my dinky little three or four inch pocketknife. The pumpkin actually looks pretty good by the time I’m done. I’m actually kind of proud of this thing. For some reason, I’m thinking that this could maybe boost sales a little for some reason, because I’m stupid. But then my merchandise supervisor comes in, and he’s like, “What the heck have you done?” I told him, “I’m just re-purposing a bad pumpkin. Maybe we can use this for decoration or whatever.” And he’s like, “No.” So I toss it.

That was kind of depressing.

 

NUMBER TWO:

In the produce section, there’s this display case full of these little ornamental pumpkins that are about the size of a baseball that have these Halloween-related things painted on them. There’ll be a bat or a witch or a Day of the Dead skull or it’ll say “Boo” or something like that. And you can buy one for $3.98. Because I totally want to pay four bucks for this little ornamental pumpkin about the size of a baseball that I can’t even eat or make into a pie or carve into a jack-o-lantern. No; it’ll just sit there somewhere in my house. I can’t do anything with it. They want me to pay four bucks for one of these.

But you can buy this bag of two of these ornamental pumpkins that are not already decorated. And you can buy this bag of two undecorated ornamental both about the size of a baseball also for $3.98.

I think you can guess which one people are going to buy. That’s right; the answer, of course, is NEITHER.