Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Quick Takes: Amulet, Beach House, The Siren

AMULET tells an ominous story of men, good & evil, atonement & a fascinating mythology. Stylishly shot with a languid pace unfolding in two timelines the horror suddenly explodes into an absurd, ethereal yet totally incomprehensible finish that still lingers & haunts the mind.

THE BEACH HOUSE is a steady-burn film that starts in one #horror genre & ends in another. The shift is sly with a wicked, calculated & clever plot that leaves you harrowed by the time you realize what’s truly happening. It’s a very effective, trippy, solid debut film.

In THE SIREN, tragedy begets tragedy and then you throw an innocent man from the church into the mix and see what happens. This mermaid tale is grounded in the most unfanciful fantasy with some beautiful shots on a lake, including some tricky night shots. I really appreciated the unique narrative touches, like the dude is hot but mute, the mermaid is really charming but a monster, and the central conflict told with confusing voiceovers is a gay man’s revenge tale. There’s one pivotal moment involving a near drowning that really lost me, along with a relatively  unsupported love story. It never provides much tension or suspense but perhaps that’s not the point for subgenre of horror romance. It’s also a bit too long but the solid performances keep you invested.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Target's Creepy Plants are Back! ...And Already Sold Out

Last year, Target put out a line of creepy faux Halloween plants. They were WILDLY popular and most stores never received any stock. There's another chance this year, but we'll probably not get them this year either. Apparently, there was some undisclosed presale and they're already sold out. They will be officially "released" on August 27 according to the site so maybe there will be more stock? I chatted with a Target merchandising manager, and she said seasonal items are stocked once and done. But they sometimes will shift stock from store to store if it's not selling. 

Here's what they have/had available this year:

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How to Hand Out Candy Safely This Halloween

As Covid-19 continues to rage on in our country (wear a mask!) its becoming clear that Halloween will not be saved. With 106 days to go, it's time to start planning for those kids who do come to our yard haunts and want a treat. I've been thinking about how to do this safely since reaching into a bowl or hand-to-hand handling will not be safe for everyone. 

I bought a bag of orange clothespins last fall for no reason other than the color. (Yes, I'm obsessed with the color. Guess the color of my car, home office, work office, and everything else.) I'm thinking that the safest way to give out treats is to hang them from twine and keep them apart from one another. The twine will eventually go through the center hole of the spring to keep it on the line, and the waxy paper used to wrap candy gives enough grip to stay put while also yielding easily with pressure. 

The candy will go from the bag to the clothespin, with my mask on and gloves on, of course. The tots tug the treat off the line without touching anything else, and it will be in the open air instead of coming to the front door. And yes, I'll be prepared if kids take more than one – because that's the Halloween spirit!

I've been testing this in my office and tomorrow I'll test in the backyard to see if wind, birds or other elements will knock them off. The sun will melt the chocolate so that also has to be factored into the timing. And I will need to refill the lines often but chances are that many parents won't let kids trick 'r treat this year. If they come, I will be ready!

How are you planning to hand out candy safely – or will the porch light be off this year? Message me using the form on the right column, or tweet @senorscaryjerry.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Relic is Beautiful, Sad, & Sinister

slow burns through the anguish, regret, and duty of three generations of women facing a haunting deterioration. The effects dementia has on the afflicted and those around them is devastating and sorrowful, and yet there seems to be something much more sinister at work, as inky shadows lurk in every corner. Our footing is never secure on any one answer. 

Filmed in cold, blue light the home itself is an unwelcoming character with walls that practically breathe, and closets that seem like throats to a dark abyss. It seems to talk through constant knocks on the walls, and yet the house itself is also deteriorating as fast as the grandmother, rapidly being infested by black mold, nauseatingly realized in every stain. 

The superb performances are raw and deeply affecting as the characters face trauma from the past, neglect and abandonment. This is one of the best elements that women screenwriters and directors bring to horror. An emotional core as transcendent as any villain that resonates deeply and universally, and isn’t easy to shake. Just as the ambiguous ghost story culminates into a labyrinthian chase of sinister shadows there is a slight-of-hand, and the emotional through-line lands the ending. A beautiful, sad, horror film and one of the best of year. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Quick Takes: Scare Package, The Hunt, Vivarium

Scare Package. This film is an ode to 80s horror movie fans, from the cover that looks like poster for the 1986 horror comedy House, to the anthology structure that evokes Creepshow, to the many sight gags that remind us of Halloween, Alien, Friday the 13th, The Fog and more. Each segment takes on a horror movie trope or two, and while amusing doesn't quite sustain the energy throughout. Cutting out the two weakest entries and the meta jokes would have helped. There's still plenty to enjoy in the first hour.

The Hunt. Horror movies as commentary on social politics run the risk of tipping into preachy territory, and The Hunt is an ill-conceived face palm. It's capitalizing on our divided country with a violent fantasy that is obnoxious and much less clever that it thinks it is. There’s plenty of bloodshed, explosive carnage, and an epic fight between two women where no clothes are torn off.

Betty Gilpin is the reason to wade into this conceptual muck of a film. Her powerhouse performance is so strong and a heel kick to the teeth that I didn't see coming (even with three glorious seasons of Netflix's GLOW). There is a deep set, emotional core to her character that toggles between skilled warrior and emotionally unstable woman on the brink of a breakdown. And in between, Gilpin adds subtle, throwaway nuances that make for some incredibly funny moments. This performance reminds me a lot of Sigourney Weaver's breakthrough performance in Aliens, and can't wait to see what Gilpin has up her sleeve.

Vivarium. Finding a home is the quest for many couples, and unfortunately this couple gets plunged into the Twilight Zone. The movie is well-crafted and acted but the narrative stalls after the good set-up but its not a deal breaker. There's enough interesting developments to keep you engaged, even if the ending doesn't quite land.