Hubie Halloween (2020): Comedy / Fantasy / Mystery

A man who has always been mocked and bullied in his hometown takes it upon himself to save this year’s Halloween.

I hadn’t watched an Adam Sandler film in a while but I watched Uncut Gems (2019) last year, I was happily surprised, and I said “why not”? Well… now I’m saying “why”?! Hubie Halloween‘s audience is very, very, very, very restricted. The film’s level of humour barely scratches the bottom from start to finish but that’s not what bothered me the most. Hell, it wasn’t even Sandler’s voice.

The film’s theme is walking on thin ice. 99.7% of an American town, with a dark history of hunting down people with pitchforks and torches, in 2020, is making fun of and is brutally bullying someone having a mental illness – whatever that is. It gets worse though… That town’s once most beautiful woman – Julie Bowen, who still is that town’s most beautiful woman – happens to be that very same town’s nicest girl and part of that 0.3% that actually likes him; with the 0.2% being her nerdy son and the girl he wants to get who also happens to be as merciful and that town’s most good looking high school girl. The rest of the characters are just caricatures. Seriously messed up characters in regard to their role in society, sank at the dark pit of Hollywood’s cliché.

Sandler and Bowen worked together in Happy Gilmore (1996) and admittedly they are A-list actors. Ben Stiller, June Squibb, Michael Chiklis, Maya Rudolph, Shaquille O’Neal Rob, Schneider, Ray Liotta, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, for better or for worse, become part of it. Almost everyone from Grown Ups 1 and 2 but also other films too. Sandler is a great collaborator and top-shelf comedian. Sometimes though, he just seems to be signing for everything under the sun, and Netflix seems to constantly condone such mentality. The movie is dedicated to the late Cameron Boyce who was meant to be part of it. It’s shuttering he’s not with us…

For films that can easily get misconstrued or go under the radar, I always advise to spend a couple of hours forgetting about the real world’s real problems and enjoy these films regardless of their flaws. This is not the case here. Go for all-time horror classics instead. The film’s message seems dumb, but deep down is actually mean-spirited, and I’ll dare to say harmful.

Stay safe!

The Invitation: Horror / Drama / Short

A young man recovering from a loss is invited for dinner by his boss and his wife during Halloween, but the night takes an inexplicable turn.

Halloween special episode!

DISCLAIMER: This story contains mature situations/themes and violence, and is intended for an older youth audience. Listener discretion is advised.

Based on my homonymous short horror script, The Invitation.

© 2020 Konstantinos Papathanasiou.  All rights reserved.

Books of Blood (2020): Drama / Horror / Mystery

A man looking for a priceless book, a young girl looking for redemption, and a mom looking for answers cross paths in a dark journey, leading to the unknown.

Have you ever wondered what distinguishes a film from a TV movie? Is it the narrative; the way the story is told? Is it the photography? The editing? The acting? Something else? Despite of what I believe or I may know, give it some thought while watching this one.

Books of Blood has the 80s scent, and how could it not? It is from Clive Barker after all. Well, the source anyway… The first story is ultimately all over the place. It seems that there is no beginning middle or end. And what disguises as an end does not give enough justice to what could have been a true Barker story on screen. The sound somewhat annoyed me. I know it was meant to be disturbing for Jenna but literally, on occasion, it was getting on my nerves. The night terror is, arguably, the best sequence even though the tribute to The People under the Stairs (1991) was quite suspenseful.

The second story is a lot tighter. No one deserves to die from cancer, much less a young kid. So yea, a single mom having to deal with that qualifies it as a strong drama. But strong is also the horror of what happens at the end of it. Shame that digital visual effects take away the atrocity it was meant to deliver. Regardless, think of the punishment’s gravity, especially, in regard to what he says afterwards. Did he deserve it?

The third story smartly stitches everything together and while watching it you might realise that my review as misleading as the stories themselves, and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Or not. As I said, it is from Clive Barker after all…

Enjoy Halloween and stay safe!

P.S. You would never think to see Seth MacFarlane sitting at the producer’s chair next to Barker’s. It must be 2020…

Found Footage: The Beginning, the Escalation, and its Societal Impact

Tonight, Erik Kristopher Myers (ekm) is talking about the roots of the found footage subgenre, its evolution, its contribution to the cinema, and its effects on society. Myers is a writer and filmmaker. His film Roulette (2013) won numerous festival trophies and his latest feature Butterfly Kisses (2018) shot to the top of the Amazon charts for New Release Fantasy, scoring rave reviews. Myers has also won numerous awards for screenwriting and editing, and among others, he has been a producer for XM Satellite Radio, a reporter for WTOP News, and film critic for The Dagger and Ain’t it Cool News.

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020): Drama / Horror / Mystery

A young traumatised American au pair is hired to look after two orphan kids living in a mysterious manor, in the English countryside where reality is nothing but deceitful.

As I was watching, I couldn’t help but think ‘how am I supposed to write about it without giving away spoilers’? I have tried to avoid hearing or reading anything about it but sporadic negative whispers managed to find their way to me. I would presume that the audience that has, is, and will be watching the Bly Manor is the same audience that has already adored the Hill House. Thus, a line must be drawn between the two.

Mike Flanagan, who once more proves to be a great filmmaker, as well as Amblin Entertainment and Netflix are still behind the mini-series – even though, past the first episode, Flanagan is not wearing the director’s hat. The same applies for most of the cast who we get to see in different roles. Also, both of them are parts of the same anthology, marking Bly Manor’s 35th adaptation for the film or TV of Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw – Flanagan pays a lot of tributes to The Innocents (1961). Due to the similarities, please don’t think or try to find connection between the two. The producers have announced more series and they have stated that there is no link whatsoever – if they go down the American Horror Story (2011- ) road or not, that is a different story.

Bly Manor’s directing, photography, editing, costume design, and make-up department win the impressions from the first episode and you’ll get no grief about their quality. The Newton Brothers have also done an excellent job with the film’s score and I guarantee you, you won’t be able to shake off the “O Willow Waly”; it will be humming in your ears for days. Furthermore, all actors deliver top-notch performances that will knock your socks off. All of them get enough screening time to unfold and develop their characters and make sure that each and every one of them will make your heart, one way or another, skip a beat. I mean, how can Amelie Bea Smith act this way is totally beyond me.

The narrative is left deliberately for the end because it is the source of comparisons, contrasts, controversies, and contradictions. I can understand all four of them but imagine if the Bly Manor was like Hill House. What would be the point? Some might prefer the latter because behind the ghosts there is a strong family drama that pins you down. And Flanagan’s protracted shots are giving that drama the justice it deserves (that’s why I missed his directing on this one). But here’s what I think it happened…

Convoluted narrative that will end up to a mind-blowing resolution requires hiding clues and overall information BUT, even while misleading with the fabula and syuzhet’s timeline, the filmmakers need to make sure they don’t leave their audience completely bamboozled. Because this is where they lose interest and even when something big happens in the end, they will have already missed a lot and, eventually, will not understand it or not care about it. That’s my two cents anyway. I highly recommend it and look forward to the next haunting.

Oh, before I go, there is actually something connecting the two; love or the lack thereof…

Stay safe!

P.S. Victoria Pedretti shone as Nell Craine, shines as Dani Clayton, and she very much reminded me of Piper Perabo when I first watched her in Coyote Ugly (2000).

P.P.S. My beloved Ioanna, as promised, this one goes out to you!

One Night in Bangkok (2020): Action / Crime / Drama

A man arrives at the airport of Bangkok, gets a gun, hires a young female taxi driver, and people with no obvious connection between them start dropping one by one.

One Night in Bangkok is more or less what you expect it to be. Producer/writer/director Wych Kaosayananda builds up the narrative slow enough for the audience to get to know Kai and Fha to justify the film’s denouement. The editing’s rhythm and pace put the film together harmonically, but quite early into the film one can realise that Kaosayananda doesn’t want to get rid of anything he has shot. And that becomes quite problematic. There is too much dialogue that could have been avoided, firstly, to tight the script up and reduce the film’s duration, and secondly, to edit out everything that the audience would have understood anyway without the heroes and villains saying it. The latter is a greater issue simply because, personally, I felt as if I don’t get enough credits as a viewer. I truly believe that about twenty minutes could have been cut out, leaving much to the audience’s imagination and also focusing on the action.

The action is another issue though that could have been done better too. By now, we have seen action films in the last couple of decades that are equivalent to a cinematic miracle. Prachya Pinkaew and Gareth Evans have offered us Thai and Indonesian productions that have left us gobsmacked. Ever since, action sequences have evolved and raised the bar sky-high. Going back to mediocre action scenes, especially starring Mark Dacascos, an avid martial artist, coming from a family of martial artists… lowers the expectations and generates mediocre reviews. Shame really.

The thing is that Dacascos is a good actor and I really hope that, even now that he is nearing 60 he can still impress us with something better written, directed, and produced. Lastly, Vanida Golten, who appears for the first time in a film, does a magnificent job. Lets hope that we see her in more projects.

Stay safe!

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020): Comedy / Horror / Thriller

Brutally savaged bodies pile up in a small mountain town during full moon and an alcoholic sheriff must solve the crimes, keep the town in order, and his estranged daughter safe.

Comedy/horror… How does one put the two opposites successfully together? I don’t know if there is a universal answer but, in this instance, it’s how actor/writer/director Jim Cummings puts them together. The comedic acting contrasts the dark and haunting photography and the soundtrack either adapts to the tone or interestingly causes antithesis. My round of applause though goes to the editing team not for the impressive flash forwards during the killings but for balancing Cummings’ vision on how to find humour in dramatic but also horrific situations.

I’ll deliberately keep this one shorter than usual. Turn the lights off and give it a go. Films such as The Wolf of Snow Hollow can be the escape we need against the depressing and abhorrent reality we currently live in even though we have to return to it eventually.

Last but definitely not least, rest in peace Robert Forster. You will always be remembered.

12 Hour Shift (2020): Comedy / Horror / Thriller

In a local hospital, a drug-addict nurse and her small organ trafficking business “partners” find themselves in dire straights when a transaction goes awry.

Should ever anything happen to you and you end up in the hospital, that is the nurse you need… NOT! And that applies to the rest of the staff, police, family, patients, villains, and every other caricature that decides to appear on screen and lower the IQ to the extreme. But don’t cast any stones yet…

Writer/director Brea Grant spent every penny she had in her pocket, and it wasn’t that many, very wisely. She knew exactly the kind of film she wanted to make and she did. 12 Hour Shift is (almost) as funny as it intended to be, maintaining the horror level to the point that it doesn’t overshadow the main genre – comedy. The editing is the first indicator of this, effectively controlling the pace and rhythm, and keeping the story’s development very tight. Angela Bettis, David Arquette (also the main producer), Chloe Farnworth (who you wouldn’t believe she’s British), Nikea Gamby-Turner, but also the rest of the cast, are meant to be funny and they most certainly are. Amazing chemistry between the actors that will make you, at times, laugh out loud.

Now… I will say that producer/cinematographer/composer Matt Glass knew what he was doing while composing the film’s score. I can see how the soundtrack could potentially come across as annoying, accompanying every sequence of the film but it is there to serve a purpose. And that is none other than to exaggerate on something that it is far-fetched already. The story’s level of implausibility is sky-high, the plotholes are lurking in every corner, and the acting is over the top… DELIBERATELY!

I really do recommend you to watch it. We live in abhorrent times where death is first news. 12 Hour Shift is a horror that will make you laugh, and certainly, for just less than an hour and a half, will make you forget about what’s happening out there. Grant’s intentions are noble and I for one admire her for making such a film.

Stay safe!

The Horror Inside Us: Leading Anxieties and False Certainties

Tonight, Dr. Michael Lee is talking about the horror inside us and why and how one’s inner certainties and anxieties can render the everyday person monstrous. Dr. Lee teaches courses on 20th-century music history, American music history, film music and film studies at the University of Oklahoma. Over the years, he has been teaching courses on the history of horror films and one of his many specialties is Vampire Cinema. He is music historian, loving horror movies with passion and began researching their film scores and their diversified styles, especially, from the 1930s and 1940s. Listen to how our perception affects the way we interpret horrors and what was Val Lewton’s contribution.

Alone (2020): Thriller

A woman who has suffered a personal tragedy decides to leave everything and everyone behind but a man with sinister intentions will turn her life into a living nightmare.

My stomach was tight and I could hear my heartbeat throughout all three acts and every chapter. If that film title referred to a drama, I would be depressed in advance just by speculating what it is about. In a thriller though, that I admittedly knew nothing about, I had no idea what to expect. It was tempting to cheat and read the logline but I didn’t.

The nonverbal opening sequence speaks volumes; when there’s nothing to say, say nothing. The sequence with the heroine trying to overtake the SUV is defining as it is the inciting incident that marks the way director John Hyams builds up suspense. From then on, it is like a heart attack waiting to happen. The moment Marc Menchaca knocks Jules Willcox’s window, you know that everything is gonna go tits up. I will not give you any spoilers but pay attention to the protracted shot at the pit stop, the close-up in the basement, and Menchaca’s monologue. These are but a few examples of sequences that indicate high quality level of pre-production, and meticulous execution during the production, and consequently, the post-production stage. Needless to say, excellent chemistry between Menchaca and Willcox.

Mattias Olsson, who wrote the original Swedish film Gone (2011), pens the script for the adaptation too, giving it the justice it deserves for the American audience. Well done to all cast and crew who seem to have worked under quite unfavourable weather conditions. My round of applause will go to the department of sound this time for their thorough work on the diegetic sounds. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears wide open for the last Oskar-level shot.

Alone is a spine-chilling thriller about loss and acceptance, and how catharsis can come as wolf in a sheep’s clothing. My challenge for you is to try and find what the villain wants… but also what the villain needs…

Stay safe!