A Quick Look: Annabelle: Creation (1.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing Annabelle: Creation, and while it was certainly a little better than Lights Out and the first Annabelle movie, I still have yet to see David Sandberg make a good movie. Because Creation has his spooge all over it.

Especially when it comes to the story. While not as borderline nonexistent as Lights Out, it is as predictable and then some. Seriously, there is not a single element to this plot that I could not predict. This movie also seems to not know the difference between a plot and a goal. This movie’s goal is to tell the Annabelle doll’s origin story and connect it seamlessly to the first Annabelle movie. And by God, it’s going to do that; damn the consequences. I also need to mention that this is one of innumerable horror movies whose plots cannot proceed, let alone function, unless one or more characters make stupid decisions and things screw up. Like poor Annabelle getting hit by a freaking car that she clearly could see coming when she runs out into the road to grab her dad’s car’s tire nut. Like poor Janice going into Annabelle’s room despite being told

BRICK TAMLAND (Anchorman): NO, GOD! NO, GOD, PLEASE, NO. NO! NOOOOOO!

She not only goes into Annabelle’s room despite being told not to and basically instigates the whole demon infestation thing, but of course gets the living hell scared out of her by some spoopy supernatural fluff. And then she somehow gets the idea to go back in. Either the second or third time she goes in (my memory is a little foggy), Linda even joins her, though at least Linda has the smarts to get out of there. I also love that whenever Janice is being tormented by the evil entity (whose demonic form is played by dear Joseph Bishara (FANGASM)), she’s screaming her head off, but no one comes to help her until after the demon is done tormenting her. Even when poor little Janice gets straight-up possessed by the evil entity, nobody comes until after the demon finishes raping Janice (not really, but it may as well have, considering people’s reaction time, let alone response time). I also love how Janice inexplicably loses her polio after getting possessed. I also love that the demon has opportunity after opportunity to possess Janice but doesn’t take advantage of any of them until the beginning of the third act, instead resorting to trolling her and the audience for well over an hour.

I love a particular scene in which Janice goes into Annabelle’s room. She sees the ghost of Annabelle looking out of a window, and asks her why she is here and what she wants. Annabelle turns around, revealing a laugh-inducing demonic face, and growls, “YOUR SOUL!” How original! Janice flees the room and gets onto the electric stair chair and tries to flee downstairs, conveniently forgetting for twenty seconds that the damn jalopy won’t work unless the seatbelt is fastened. She gets the chair started and it moves down the stairs at a conveniently slow pace. It stops halfway, and Janice starts rapidly flicking the switch to get it going again. But because she sucks so bad, she sends the chair moving up the stairs. I was having a blast. And then when the chair reaches the top, we get a ten second pause before something unseen yanks her up into the dark. She falls to the floor soon after. This scene, much to the ire of everyone else in the theater, made me laugh my head off.

Also, at the climax, possessed Janice is walking aroundthe house, trying to kill everyone. And throughout the entire scene, I was holding back laughter as hard as I could, thinking, Oh my gosh. “Someone be scared of me!”

I also love how the story in general feels just as small-scale and depthless as Lights Out, despite actually having a serviceable running time, explaining why the movie’s pacing is so sluggish. It could have easily been cut to eighty minutes without compromising the movie’s integrity. That also explains how thinly created the characters are. While not nearly as bland and forgettable as the characters in Lights Out, the characters in Annabelle: Creation are still pretty badly constructed. Each of the characters in this movie have one character trait that will determine how they will act throughout the rest of the movie. Seriously. Each of the orphan girls have one character trait (and two of them lack even that). Sister Charlotte has one character trait. The two Mullinses have one character trait each. And Annabelle / the demon doesn’t even have a character trait. It only has a purpose, and it’s purely focused on trolling the orphans and the audience until it can fulfill its purpose.

The only two characters that have any semblance of depth at all are Janice and Linda. These two characters, despite their dumb decisions, are the best part of the movie, as well as the only two actors in this movie with a shred of talent. I’m sure the other actors have talent, but they are either barely in the movie (like poor Miranda Otto), or suffer under David Sandberg’s poor direction. Talitha Bateman as Janice and Lulu Wilson as Linda are legitimately good. Well, Lulu is better, but Talitha is pretty good too. They are easily the best part of this movie. I love the sisterly bond they share. I love how they so easily work off each other to create two characters I actually came close to caring about. I would have cared about them had they not made stupid decisions. Unfortunately, David Sandberg’s crummy direction gets to them too in the third act. Spoilers – Janice gets possessed by the demon (in the same way Bathsheba possessed Carolyn in The Conjuring) and tries to kill everybody. Because that’s totally what possessed people do. And the most obvious problem with this scene was this: possessed Talitha Bateman in Annabelle: Creation is nowhere near as creepy as possessed Lulu Wilson in Ouija: Origin of Evil. Seriously, the scene in which Lulu Wilson as Doris Zander explains what it’s like to be strangled to death is one of the creepiest scenes I can think of in recent years. Also, Lulu Wilson was so effective in Ouija 2 because she had the amazing Mike Flanagan in the director’s chair. But Talitha Bateman, while good, cannot measure up to Lulu Wilson. Couldn’t the two have switched roles?

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the first Annabelle movie, the ending to Creation will be ungodly confusing. It’s a good thing I watched the first one the night before, or else I would have fallen prey to this too.

Oh, and I should probably mention that David Sandberg cannot go one movie without giving his wife Lotta Losten a cameo. That’s not really good or bad, it’s just something I noticed. Also, Alicia Vela-Bailey, the chick who played Diana in Lights Out, has a cameo as a demonified version of Mrs. Mullins.

And now we come to the horror aspects. Knowing David Sandberg’s approach to spoopy sequences like the back of my hand (crap, didn’t notice that mosquito bite there – SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH), I predicted that almost every single spoopy sequence would feature decent cinematography, but also one or more flimsy jumpscares. Those that didn’t end in said jumpscare(s) would still feature at least one. And I was absolutely right. Almost every single spoopy sequence followed the same formula. Maybe the steps to the formula were done in a different order each time, but it was still the same damn formula. And while Annabelle: Creation wasn’t quite at the same level of David Sandberg’s Jumpscare Porn as Lights Out, the Jumpscare Porn was still undeniably there to quite an extent. Though I will be the first to admit that some of these jumpscares were actually pretty effective, the fact that 95% of the spoopy sequences featured one or more jumpscares made the movie feel just like Lights Out: predictable and monotonous, and therefore boring. Worse, every last jumpscare felt entirely unnecessary and took away from whatever tension any of the spoopy sequences might have built. Every single time I got to a spoopy sequence, I thought to myself, Oh, oh, here comes a spoopy sequence. It’s getting super quiet. And since David Sandberg is at the helm, I know that there’s gonna be one or more jumpscares. So I’m just sitting there waiting for the jumpscares. That’s not fear of an evil entity. That’s anticipation of a jumpscare that may or may not happen. And that’s not scary. Getting super quiet to anticipate people for jumpscares that may or may not happen is not scary. It’s predictable and monotonous, and therefore boring. And this is something that David Sandberg does not understand. AND I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME UNDERSTAND WHY SO MANY HORROR FANS ARE PRAISING HIM FOR BEING LIKE EVERY STUDIO-PRODUCED HORROR MOVIE EVER WHILE PANNING BRILLIANT MASTERPIECES LIKE THE VVITCH AND IT COMES AT NIGHT. IT IS BEYOND INFURIATING. I wouldn’t be getting so pissy about this if I wasn’t aware of David Sandberg’s directing style and his ways of trying to scare the audience. I know exactly what he’s going to do in every scary sequence he ever creates. It’s not as if I expect anything good from David Sandberg; after all, he started his career making short horror films on YouTube. Because that’s totally a sign of talent. Oh, and I should mention this: there is one very prominent scary sequence that doesn’t actually feature a massive jumpscare. It’s as if David Sandberg was attempting to throw off Lights Out‘s detractors by having one single solitary instance in which he was being unpredictable. How low. How cheap.

And when you compare it to The ConjuringAnnabelle: Creation looks even worse. Though the scary sequences in The Conjuring did indeed involve jumpscares, the jumpscares in The Conjuring duology were necessary, expertly placed, and further accentuated sequences that were already freaking scary to begin with. And the scary sequences were executed in a variety of interesting and unique ways. No scary sequence was ever going to be the same as another. The Conjuring, while also being a studio-produced horror movie and being legitimately scary in its own right, was not all about the scary sequences. It was about its characters, how they interact with each other, and how they handle a series of events that spiral increasingly out of control. It featured a cast of interesting, unique, developed, lovable characters that you legitimately cared about and sympathized with.  That’s what made the movie as scary as it was: the scary sequences involved characters that you actually cared for and sympathized with and did not want to see die. The movies themselves were made to be good movies first, and scary movies second. And the subject matter that The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 were about was handled with care and love, and required actual thought, effort, and heart to bring to the screen. They were lovingly crafted, and while still covered in studio bullcrap, they respected the real-life events that they based themselves off of and they respected their audience. That’s what made The Conjuring and its sequel legitimately great movies. Oh, and they both had the fantastic James Wan in the director’s chair.

And the worst thing about Annabelle: Creation is that as an installment in the The Conjuring franchise, it, like the first Annabelle movie, is entirely pointless. The Annabelle doll was scary as hell in The Conjuring. It was so much scarier when we had no idea of its backstory. It was scary enough on its own, but it was even scarier when we could only speculate where exactly it came from and how it became a conduit for a demonic entity. That’s what makes Alien: Covenant so disappointing as well: we didn’t need to know where the Xenomorphs came from, or who they were created by. They were scary as hell on their own, and the idea that we could only imagine where they came from made them even more scary. Knowing what stories not to elaborate on is just as important as knowing what stories to elaborate on. Annabelle the doll, much like the Xenomorphs, has been effectively neutered. Well, I guess the correct term would be spayed.

Oh yeah, and there’s this really stupid and pointless sequence in which Sister Charlotte shows Mr. Mullins a picture of her and three other nuns in Romania. When Mr. Mullins tilts the picture the right way, you can also see Valak the Demon Nun from The Conjuring 2 in a doorway next to the four nuns. Mr. Mullins even questions Sister Charlotte about the other nun, and Sister Charlotte says she doesn’t know. This scene has no bearing on the plot, and is never mentioned again. I presume this is just a really terrible ad for the next Conjuring spin-off: The Nun.

As much as I’m hammering this movie, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I still legitimately like the vibe between Janice and Linda, and I really like the setting, as well as the atmosphere to a certain extent. The sound design is actually pretty good. And I am so happy that David Sandberg didn’t write the script. Also, I even have to cut Annabelle: Creation a little slack. After all, last year, the Ouija franchise managed to pull off a complete 180 and make what should have been an even worse installment in an already dead franchise into one of the best horror films of 2016. So they tried to do the same with Annabelle and right the biggest wrong in the Conjuring franchise. No pressure. But to do that, you really needed a better director than David Sandberg. Getting Mike Flanagan to succeed Stiles White was a fantastic move, but they needed to get someone far better than David Sandberg to replace John Leonetti. Maybe they should have gotten Mike Flanagan again.

It’s a failed attempt to fix a big mistake, and they could have actually fixed the mistake with a much better director and a much better writer. And I’m giving Annabelle: Creation a 1.5 out of 5.

“Gender” in It’s Modern Definition Has a Dark History.

The idea that gender is little more than a social construct and that male and female are fundamentally interchangeable was pioneered in 1955 by a sexologist named Dr. John Money. Dr. Money coined the modern usage of the term “gender”, referring to it as not your biological sex, but the sex you identify with as a result of social and cultural constructs, pressures, and expectations. To show you where such an idea gets you, allow me to enlighten you with the story of a two young boys.

On August 22, 1965, two twin boys by the names of Bruce and Brian Reimer were born to Janet and Ronald Reimer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After they were both diagnosed with phimosis (when the foreskin cannot be pulled all the way past the head of the penis), when they were seven months old, the two were to be circumcised. Unfortunately, the operation was performed using a highly unconventional method of cauterization, and Bruce’s penis was burned beyond surgical repair. Brian was not operated on, and his phimosis eventually fixed itself without surgery.

Bruce’s parents, knowing that his future happiness and sexual function were in serious jeopardy, took him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967 to see a sexologist by the name of Dr. John Money. He was a pioneer of sorts in sexual development and gender identity. He believed that a person’s gender was not necessarily his/her biological sex, but the sex they identified as a result of social learning and cultural pressure. He believed that if a boy was raised as a girl and socialized enough to be a girl, then that boy could fundamentally be a girl, as Money believed that there were no innate differences between male and female, despite the entire field of human biology proving him wrong. Money and the few physicians he could get to take his theories seriously believed that though a penis could not be replaced, an artificial vagina could be surgically constructed.

Dr. Money told Bruce’s parents that Bruce would be more likely to achieve sexual maturation as a girl than as a boy, and suggested that Bruce undergo sex reassignment surgery and regular hormone treatment. For Money, this would be the perfect opportunity for him to test his theories, as this was a case in which two identical twin boys were involved with one being raised as a girl. Brian would make for the ideal control because the brothers shared the same genes, family environment, and intrauterine (inside mother’s uterus) environment. Bruce would make for a perfect test subject, as he had no abnormality of prenatal or postnatal differentiation. The parents consented, and Bruce underwent a bilateral orchidectomy. His testes and what remained of his penis were removed and a very basic vulva was constructed. He would urinate out of a hole in his abdomen. In his preteen years, he would undergo estrogen injections to induce breast development. Bruce was reassigned as female and renamed Brenda.

Over the next decade, Dr. Money would annually see the Reimers in Baltimore to consult them, assess the overall outcome, and psychologically support them. But what these visits truly entailed was something I still can hardly believe. Under the guise of believing that “childhood sexual rehearsal play” was imperative to the development of a “healthy adult gender identity”, Dr. Money would have the twins imitate sex acts involving “thrusting movements” with “Brenda” performing the role of Bottom. “Brenda” would get “down on all fours” with Brian coming “up behind his butt” with “his crotch against” his “buttocks”. Another time, “Brenda” would have his “legs spread” with Brian on top. Dr. Money would also force “Brenda” and Brian to remove their clothing and engage in “genital inspections”. On at least one occasion, Dr. Money took photos of the two performing these activities.

Though Dr. Money touted this experiment as successful, “Brenda” never truly ended up identifying as a girl, and described his visits with Dr. Money as traumatic. Brian even ended up becoming schizophrenic. Not only were these sessions with Money highly unpleasant for both “Brenda” and Brian, but Money was either ignoring or concealing evidence that “Brenda’s” gender reassignment was not going well. Their parents even routinely lied to Money and his lab staff that the gender reassignment was going splendidly. After Money started pressuring the family to bring “Brenda” in for surgery in which a supposedly fully functional vagina would be constructed, the family discontinued the visits.

Contrary to Dr. Money’s reports, “Brenda” never did identify as a girl. He was the target of severe ostracization and bullying by his peers, and neither the frilly dresses nor female hormones ever made him feel female. By the time he was 13, “Brenda” was going through severe depression to the point of being suicidal, saying that he would kill himself if his parents ever took him to see Dr. Money again. Following advice from his endocrinologist and psychiatrist, “Brenda’s” parents told him about his gender reassignment in 1980, and “Brenda” accepted his male sexuality when he was 14, renaming himself David.

By 1987, David had undergone nearly enough treatment to reverse his reassignment, including regular testosterone injections, a double mastectomy (removing whatever breast material he had), and two phalioplasty (penis reconstruction) operations. On September 22, 1990, he married Jane Fontaine and adopted her three children.

In 1997, he told his story to Milton Diamond, an academic sexologist who convinced David to tell his story in an attempt to dissuade other physicians from treating other infants similarly to how Dr. Money treated him. David went public with his story, and journalist John Colapinto published a Rolling Stone article and eventually a full-length book about David’s story, titled As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.

Dr. Money responded to this exposé in the way that you would expect: he blamed the media response on “right-wing media bias” and “the antifeminist movement”, claiming that his detractors believed “masculinity and femininity are built into the genes so women should get back to the mattress and the kitchen”.

I know that this seems like it’s going to end happily. I wish it did. I wish I could be shaking David Reimer’s hand right now. But David Reimer never truly recovered from Dr. Money’s experiments. After years of a difficult relationship with his parents, debilitating depression, unemployment, financial instability, marital troubles, and even Brian’s suicide in 2002, David, at the age of 38, killed himself with a shotgun on May 4, 2004. David and Brian’s parents both stated that Dr. Money’s methodology is what killed their sons.

Dr. Money eventually died on July 7, 2006 from Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Money is still seen as an innovative pioneer of the idea of sexual fluidity and “gender” being a social construct. He published over 2000 articles, books, chapters, and reviews, nearly all of which were positively received and are still referred to as scientific gospel. He received over 65 worldwide honors, awards, and honorary degrees. He is still lauded as a progenitor of the gender fluidity movement.

And despite leagues of blind believers in this idea, to this day, there is not, has never been, and never will be even the slightest shred of evidence for the existence of “gender”, as Dr. John Money defined it, in humans, or the entire animal kingdom for that matter.

So remember, kids: when you use the term “gender”, you’re using the speculative-at-best terminology of an insane scientist who committed human experimentation, tortured a pair of twin boys, drove them both to suicide, and not only got away with it, but is still lauded as one of the pioneers of the ideas of 1) sexual identity being only a state of mind and not a biological constant and 2) sex reassignment, to this day.

There’s a special place in Hell for people like him.

As for David and Brian Reimer, may they rest in peace.

A Quick Look: Phoenix Forgotten (1/5)

So I just got home from seeing the Ridley-Scott-produced and oddly titled Phoenix Forgotten, and while it’s not as boring as The Blair Witch Project (the film Phoenix Forgotten copied), it still sucked pretty badly. For example, it hit damn near every note that TBWP did. Instead of three college students getting lost in a Maryland forest while filming a documentary about a local supernatural legend in the late 90s, it’s three high school students getting lost in the Arizona desert while filming a documentary while looking for aliens again in the late 90s. And somehow Josh, Ashley, and Mark are even worse at filming a documentary than Heather, Mike, and Josh. Could PF not even come up with less obvious names? Instead of an invisible ghost shaking the tent, there’s the moans of aliens and the sounds of a flying spaceship. And some random bullhonky about Ezekiel’s Ring is inserted randomly into the movie to make it look deeper than it actually is. At least the trio shot on Hi-8 (or was it 35mm?). But apart from the movie’s threat being much more present and involved in the movie, everything that made TBWP what it is is present in PF. The acting is subpar. The direction is third-rate. The script causes the characters to make unrealistic decisions. The camerawork was vomit-inducing. The runtime was frustratingly short. And, most importantly, I was not scared or invested in the characters or story in the slightest. The only intense sequences in the movie were only intense because the surround sound in the theater was deafeningly loud. Hey, at least there’s no jumpscares. At least the characters in PF weren’t as unlikeable or gratingly profane. If you’re scared of bright lights, raining stones, nosebleeds, hair falling out, and a mixture of flashing lights, deafening noises, blisteringly fast wind, and an alien ship, you won’t sleep a wink tonight. Everyone else will have forgotten this within a few hours of seeing it. It’s just another TBWP copycat that got to the party eighteen years too late, and I’m giving Phoenix Forgotten a…

Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention this: what I described takes up only the last thirty minutes of the film. Yeah. The trailers are lying to you: the movie’s not actually centered on the three teenagers. Rather than treat us to an ungodly boring “slow-burn thriller”, we spend most of the movie in the present day. Josh’s younger sister Sophie is making a documentary about her brother’s disappearance. How original. She goes to her hometown and talks to her parents and Ashley’s parents, but not to Mark’s parents. She talks to some other townsfolk and decides to give up on her quest to learn her brother’s fate. Intersperse this with footage of Josh meeting Ashley, implication of a building friendship, and deciding to take their friend Mark with them to go explore the desert outside of Phoenix. This takes fifty minutes. At least this is actually filmed like a student documentary. And by that, I mean that the movie switches back and forth between the present and the 90s seemingly at random. It switches back and forth constantly in the first act, stays almost entirely focused on Sophie for the second, and completely abandons her in the third. It’s jarring and boring, but not nearly as boring as TBWP. But it’s not engaging or compelling. But then, another camera is inexplicably mailed to Josh’s school with a tape inside it in conveniently good condition after having sat out in the 100+ degree desert heat for who knows how long. On the tape is the last thirty minutes of the movie. Sophie is shoved to the side to make way for the painfully mediocre and generic climax of the movie. Which is a pity, as Sophie was the only character in the movie I could come even the slightest bit close to sympathizing with. Seriously. This entire movie has been building itself up as Sophie’s story. We begin the movie at her sixth birthday party when we see the Phoenix Lights. We’re introduced to the three missing characters because she’s the one investigating. We see every shallow and bland twist and turn of this mystery through her eyes, and in the third act, she’s tossed to the side. She is never seen again in the movie. Ever. What the hell?

But what’s the point? Why was Phoenix Forgotten made? What purpose does it serve other than to put another blemish on Ridley Scott’s career? What does this movie amount to, other than a particularly weak episode of The X-Files? It’s not as if the Phoenix Lights were a particularly scary or memorable occurrence or make for dramatic material. Phoenix Forgotten has no soul, no shelf life, no purpose, and will ironically be forgotten as soon as it leaves theaters, and I’m giving it a 1 out of 5.

A Quick Look: Get Out (3.5/5)

So I just got home from seeing Jordan Peele’s (of Key & Peele!) directorial debut, Get Out. When I first saw a trailer for this movie, it looked like it was going to be yet another one of those “Urmurgurd white pepol r eeeeevil” flicks that are now a dime a dozen. However, it not only got good reviews, but it was also a horror movie. Plus, it looked like a satirical horror black comedy that actually looked kind of disturbing. I figured I may as well check it out. I held my nose and purchased my ticket. And I am happy to say that this movie’s message is not “white people are evil”. This isn’t Assata Shakur’s wet dream. Thank heaven. While racism is a prevalent theme in Get Out, it is used as merely a plot point, and refuses to go anywhere near generalization. It uses racism as a platform on which to create a nice little horror flick. The trailers may have looked preachy, but the film is not. Not even close. While a little of the racially charged dialogue in the first act did get on my nerves somewhat, the movie dropped that gimmick as soon as we got into the second act.

Though I fully admit that Get Out is a good movie, I’m pretty sure that the source of this movie’s glowing reviews are mostly just white liberals desperately trying to virtue signal.

I need to point out something that annoyed me: the handful of silly and unnecessary jumpscares. I remember there being three, four, or maybe five of them. The most obvious one is this one. The second act is starting. It’s the first night Chris and Rose are staying at Rose’s parents’ place for the weekend. Chris wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to go outside and get some air. While he’s walking through the house, Georgina walks into frame in the background. Chris doesn’t even see her, but the soundtrack feels the need to insert a silly and unnecessarily loud instrumental sting. I don’t know if Jordan Peele had those put in the movie or if they were forced into the movie by Jason Blum, but they’re annoying and completely destroy any sense of immersion. Learn from this, Jordan or Jason.

I love the soundtrack, particularly the tracks “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” and “Surgery Prep”. While they’re pretty unsettling on their own, when they’re played in context of the movie, they become legitimately scary. Find them on YouTube.

Now, I went into this movie having only seen the trailers, so the creativity of the plot caught me off guard. I love how the villains are not motivated by racism; rather, by the opposite. This is because Jordan Peele wrote this story as a showcase of the internalized “racism” of white liberals. I especially love that most liberal film critics didn’t even pick up on that, instead coming up with laughable explanations as to how this movie presents racism. I love that the movie not only shoves liberal reverse racism to the forefront with condescension toward and fetishization of black people, but also points out that black people can be racist too. I love how Jordan Peele, a black man married to a white woman, can have such a unique perspective on racial tension in American society in showing that racism cuts both ways. I love the contrast between the slightly awkward actions of Rose’s parents in front of Chris and the depraved creatures they really are. I love Rod and his comic relief. I rarely say that I love comic relief, but Rod is hilarious. The acting is actually pretty good, really nailing each character’s mannerisms. I love just how creepy the exchanges between Chris, Walter, Georgina, and “Logan” are, where you know something’s wrong with them, but you can’t quite place what it is. I love how the first half of the movoe presents the question of whether there’s something really wrong going on, or if Chris is just reacting to stereotypical racial tension. I love the constant sense of discomfort that you just can’t quite put your finger on until we’re already balls-deep and balls-to-the-wall. I love that for a slow-burn thriller, it was never boring. I love just how passive-aggressive the tone is until the movie totally flips the balls-to-the-wall switch. I love just how balls-to-the-wall it gets. If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the twist for you.

Unfortunately, I can only call Get Out a decent horror flick, because despite how original this idea is, it still matches other generic horror films in terms of structure. Its scare sequences still reek of studio bullcrap. And the climax, while balls-to-the-wall, just cannot manage to tie itself together. The exploration of various themes was not as thorough as was necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, Get Out is a good movie, and Jordan Peele has a bright future in Hollywood. But this movie has a few glaring flaws that prevent it from being better than it is, and I’m giving Get Out a 3.5 out of 5.

A Quick Look: The Eyes of My Mother (.5/5)

So I’ve been dedicating this weekend toward catching up on 2016 in horror, as I’ve been incredibly busy at work since November (this is why there’s been no new full-fledged reviews lately). I’ve watched The Autopsy of Jane Doe and Don’t Breathe, both of which were pretty good but not fantastic, and I’d give both a 3.5 out of 5. I then watched Under the Shadow, which was decent but not quite as good as I had hoped, earning a 3 out of 5. And then, unfortunately, I finished off the night with The Eyes of My Mother, which was so ungodly disappointing. This movie has a 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has been considered one of the best horror movies of 2016 by critics and audiences, and I cannot for the life of me understand why. Yes, I know that all the “true horror buffs” are going to get up in my face and shout, “Oh, you just didn’t get it! You should stick to movies like The Forest and The Bye Bye Man! The only horror movies you like are ones with jumpscares, and you find slow-burn thrillers boring! The Eyes of My Mother is more than a movie; it’s a work of art!” SHUT UP AND LET ME EXPLAIN.

The plot: Francisca lives an isolated life. One day, a wandering entrepreneur killed her mother, but she and her father subdued him and locked him in their barn. Francisca cut out his eyes and vocal cords, and kept him in the barn for years. Her father died later in her life, so she preserved his body. Years pass. Francisca has sex with the imprisoned man in the barn. He tries to escape, so Francisca kills him. Francisca brings a lesbian Asian woman home and also locks her in the barn and cuts out her eyes and vocal cords. Francisca kidnaps a baby boy, murders his mother, and raises the baby as her own son. Years pass. The son discovers the woman in the barn and frees her. The woman escapes and the police swarm Francisca’s house. Francisca is killed by the police. There. That’s the plot. That’s it. That’s all. It takes seventy-six minutes to tell this story. A story this lean and short should take thirty or forty minutes at most.

This movie certainly seems to act like it’s an artsy movie because it’s in black and white, it looks like it was shot for a few thousand bucks, and because it moves along like…no, not molasses; that’s too fast. Personally, I think that the only reason that every scene is so ungodly slow, with ten-second pauses between every sparse line of dialogue, every character undertaking his or her actions in such a slow manner, and every shot lasting thirty seconds longer than it should, is because without those ungodly long pauses, the movie would only come out at about thirty minutes. It doesn’t help that the events in this movie were summed up in so little time.

But wait, isn’t that exactly what David Lynch did with Eraserhead? Not quite. Here’s why Eraserhead worked and this movie does not. As slow-paced as Eraserhead was, it at least told a story. It developed the character of Henry and made us sympathize with him. It explored various psychological and sexual themes. Things happened. It took us on an acid trip through surreal sequences, dark humor, erotic and terrifying imagery, blurring of the line between dreams and reality, oppressively claustrophobic atmosphere and crushing sense of isolation, black and white cinematography that actually looked and sounded like a movie from the fifties, and a metaphorical story about the fear of fatherhood. It was never boring. More so; it was actually really scary. In The Eyes of My Mother, there is only one theme: loneliness. It set out to portray the lonely life of Francisca, and oh boy, it does so, to excruciating levels. We sit through seventy-six minutes of Francisca’s mundane life, and despite the movie’s pathetically short length, it painstakingly shows us every facet of her life in agonizing detail. Nearly nothing happens until the final few minutes of the film. Worse, the movie shows no emotion toward Francisca. Is she a tragic character, forever lost in the eyes of any sane viewer? She did lose her parents earlier in life and inexplicably morphed into a psychopath because of it. Or is she just another human, another speck of dust on the wind? I don’t know, and that just makes the movie even more boring. It doesn’t help that the movie spends absolutely no time developing Francisca’s character. Then again, Francisca herself is a blank slate. There is nothing there in that brain of hers. Worse, there seems to be nothing in her life motivating her actions. It also doesn’t help that she rarely has any expression on her face other than bored, and her acting is only slightly better. I think she showed actual emotion maybe three, four or five times in this movie, for maybe a minute each time. I get the feeling that she wasn’t supposed to be a sympathetic character to begin with, but what else are we supposed to do rather than sympathize with a character? We never get anything to go on, and are never allowed to see what makes her tick. Why is this? This does not an interesting story make. Worse, all the other characters are either mute or barely in the movie. The characters are always supposed to be the main focus of the movie, and when a movie deliberately refuses to make itself character- or even story-driven, it completely falls apart. Why would the movie even think of making such a fatal decision? I don’t know; because…”art”, I guess.

And the movie as a whole looks and feels so ungodly monotonous. Not only is ther absolutely nothing driving the plot forward, but the plot goes nowhere until the last two or three minutes, and the characters never evolve. Also, I know that this is supposed to be a horror movie, but there is nothing there that is actually scary. I know that this movie’s ability to elicit fear hinged on the allegedly graphic content and how Francisca processes the events around her, but there’s nothing there. The content isn’t even graphic; whenever something violent is about to happen, the movie just cuts past the potentially interesting events that could possibly wake the audience up. It cuts to the aftermath or cleanup of these events. Come on. Why was this how the movie handled its violence? Could it not afford it? Or was this decision made to be “artistic”? This just makes the movie look spastic and lazy.

Worse, rather than give us some nice cinematography, we instead get a black and white color scheme, eliminating this movie’s potential actual usage of color, painfully static and basic camerawork that at times forgets to use a tripod, and cheap sound design.

The ending. While the rest of the movie is painfully slow, the final scenes in the movie fly by so fast, wrapping up the movie in roughly two or three minutes. It might have been even shorter. This just makes the movie feel inconsistent. The ending feels like an afterthought; a footnote. It’s almost as if the movie almost forgot that it had to end.

Did critics and audiences and I watch the same movie? This movie has been showered with praise by both critics and audiences alike, and I cannot possibly understand why. I can cut the movie a little slack, as this is director Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut, but raising my score from 0 to .5 out of 5 is all I can give.

A Quick Look: John Wick: Chapter 2 (2/5)

So I just got home from seeing John Wick: Chapter 2, and while it’s better than its predecessor, it’s still not a good movie.

It lightened the hell up. The first John Wick was oppressively dark, completely humorless and joyless, and took itself way too seriously, much to the film’s detriment, as a stupid script and silly action sequences had no place in such an unhappy movie. Chapter 2 actually allowed itself to happen in the daytime rather than perpetually at night and/or in the rain. This felt like such a blessing. The cinematography was no longer dark and brooding. And Chapter 2 actually had humor. There were funny lines aplenty, and it felt wonderful to see the action sequences fully embrace the cheesiness. John Wick felt so cramped, but Chapter 2 actually allowed me some much deserved elbow room.

The action sequences were significantly better. They’re still not original in the slightest, and are still as ungodly silly as the ones in the first one, but Chapter 2 understands that its action sequences are silly and embraces it. I giggled with delight when I cringed at some of the gruesomely silly kills. The camerawork is a little shakier, but it adds to how fast-paced the fights are. They actually feel almost fun rather than boring.

The acting is much better…at least from the side characters. Keanu Reeves still sucks, but at least he’s awake compared to his dreary role in the previous film. Laurence Fishburne has a cameo in this, and it’s so surreal to see Neo and Morpheus back onscreen together. Where’s Trinity? Could you not get her? Laurence Fishburne embodies the quirkiness that Michael Nyqvist failed to do in the previous film. Ian McShane has more screentime, and he’s pretty decent. Common is here in probably his best performance yet in his piddly acting career. Peter Stormare’s cameo is actually pretty funny.

Unfortunately, this is pretty much where the good about the movie stops.

I am one of those rare people that watches action movies…for their story and characters. And when I can’t get invested in those, I can’t get invested at all. I understand now that the story is clearly only there to showcase Keanu Reeves in various action sequences, but come on. The story cannot be this thin. It’s barely there and is almost as nonsensical as the story of the previous film. When an Italian mobster shows up at Wick’s house, shows him some sort of marker, and demands that he kill someone else. Wick refuses, so the Italian mobster blows up his house. And then Wick inexplicably decides that he’ll kill the person anyway. It’s even sillier than going on a Biblical rampage because someone killed his puppy and stole his freaking car. It’s so ungodly stupid. So because Wick is a freaking nuke on a hair trigger and will just go around killing people for even the slightest of reasons, I have no reason to root for him. It’s not as if he had any character to begin with, but even if he did, I would have no reason to root for him anyway.

The villains are also even less interesting. It doesn’t help that the main villain and his man-with-breasts-trope henchwoman get barely any screentime and give even worse performances than Keanu Reeves. I barely remember who they were, let alone what their motivations were.

There’s nothing here except for reasons to get Reeves to the next action sequences, which are at least entertaining. Oh, and it’s both funny and bewilderingly stupid to see the fleshing out of this super-secret subculture of hitmen that apparently governs itself so well that it’s practically its own country. I laughed my head off after watching the hilariously overblown fight between Reeves and Common be brought to an abrupt end by them crashing through the window of the super-secret-subculture-owned hotel and being ordered to cease and desist.

This movie is nearly as dull as the first one. It’s just a silly rehash that thankfully has enough improvement over its predecessor to warrant a view. But just one. And I’m giving this one a 2 out of 5. Here’s to hoping the inevitable Chapter 3 will finally be good.

A Quick Look: John Wick (1.5/5)

In preparation for seeing John Wick: Chapter 2 later today, I watched the first one, and despite some decently crafted action sequences, it was really dull and really boring. This is incredibly disappointing, as I was expecting something at least somewhat good.

This movie’s lack of substance and unbelievably small feel is present right from the getgo. Who is John Wick? What makes him a likeable character? What even are his traits? Why would his wife marry him, a cold-blooded assassin? Despite losing his wife, I have no idea of this guy’s history. What made him such a ferociously good assassin, despite more than one of the action sequences contradicting that? Why should we feel for him when he gets a beagle puppy as a last gift from his dead wife in the only moment in the movie when I can tell that Keanu Reeves is actually trying? After 101 minutes with John Wick, Assassin Extraordinaire and James Bond wannabe, I have absolutely no idea who this guy is. Seriously, a dead puppy and a stolen car warrant a quest for bloody revenge. Wh-what? Huh? Oh-okay. This could have been great for a balls-to-the-wall dark comedy, but as a movie that takes itself way too seriously, the mishandled usage of this plot device is glaring.

Much like the other characters. I did a little research and determined that Michael Nyqvist as the villain was supposed to be the quirky foil to the stoic Reeves, but that was completely lost on me, and caused Nyqvist to be a little annoying. I have no idea why he would place a two million dollar contract on Wick to protect his son who he clearly has no love for in the one (I think) scene they actually share. Worse, his son Alfie Allen is one of those selfish, arrogant, entitled little shartheads that I could just punch in the face … had he actually been given screentime and character. What other characters were there? Oh, there was Adrianne Palicki, who is one of the contradictions of John Wick’s fame/infamy, as she kicks his ass for the first half of their fight. Ha; Keanu’s getting beaten up by a woman. What a pussy. Oh, so Keanu’s beating up a woman; what an asshole. (Seriously; do not EVER make your main character fight a woman and still expect me to care about him. It hugely negatively impacts his character regardless of the result.) Uh, there’s Willem Dafoe, who apparently is Wick’s mentor, or one of his buddies, or something.

The acting is subpar all around, save Reeves, who doesn’t even try. I’ve never liked Keanu Reeves as an actor, as he is dreadfully bland, and even in his supposedly emotional moments, he still barely even tries. And in John Wick, he’s just playing Neo again. All he needs to do is to drop a “I know kung fu,” or a “Whoa”, and he’d be playing the exact same character, except with a slightly darker and angstier demeanor. Thank God he can direct. Michael Nyqvist is the only other character who has enough screentime to leave an impression. While he was decently villainous in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and was perhaps one of a precious few saving graces of Abduction (you know – the one with Taylor Lautner), he just does not do very well in John Wick. As for the other actors, none were onscreen nearly enough to leave an impression. Well, some of the bit parts were done pretty decently, but that’s about it. Oh, and Theon Greyjoy was there as a plot device.

All I can say about the cinematography is that John Wick looks like a Bourne movie minus the infuriating overabundance of shaky-cam. It’s such a pity that every action movie is required to have its own visual style, as nearly every possible visual style has now been used, and that to even look good, an action movie has to rip off one or more tired styles. John Wick‘s style sinks into the mire of overdone tripe.

As for the action sequences everyone praises, I don’t think they’re done very well. Chad Staheleski is no Quentin Tarantino. He’s not even a Michael Bay. To justify that little tidbit: action sequences are what Bay does best. He’s legitimately good at crafting them. It’s what saves his movies from being any worse than they are. For example, the first Transformers is a guilty pleasure of mine. And those Transformer fight sequences are pretty damn impressive. But John Wick‘s are not. When I think of a good hyper-violent action scene, I think of the Uma Thurman vs. the Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill. Chad Staheleski is clearly trying to emulate that, but with guns rather than katanas. It’s really distracting. While Kill Bill‘s action scenes were stupid, over-the-top BS, John Wick is clearly trying to emulate it, but without katanas, and it’s taking itself way too serously.

The script at least handles its cliches in a way that is not as obvious or cringeworthy. But it’s still cliche as hell. At least better revenge movies like Death WishThe Crow, and the original Oldboy raised the stakes to an ungodly high personal level, but killing Wick’s puppy and stealing his car causes him to get super cereal and engage in bloody vengeance of Biblical proportions. Come on. Oh, and there’s this super-secret subculture of hitmen. They have their own lavish hotel with its own bar and swimming pool and strip club where these hitmen trade their own freaking currency. And as if this wasn’t head-scratch-worthy enough, John Wick’s own set of super-assassin skills barely register as competent when going up against his own kind. That’s just pathetic. A script as silly as this has no place in a movie that screams in your face, demanding that it be taken seriously.

And the worst crime that John Wick commits is that it’s dullIT’S SO DULL! It’s so boring! I was unable to become invested in the story or characters because John Wick himself is such a blank slate! I had no reason to feel any emotion at all toward what was going on except boredom! And even now, as I type this barely an hour after watching it, I barely remember any of it.

I have no idea how people were able to like this movie and clamor for a sequel, and I’m giving John Wick a 1.5/5.

The sequel had better be good.