185: The Black Phone

Garrett and Carson answer the call of Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone.

Review: Antebellum (Carson’s View)

Antebellum is the next victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With Lionsgate opting for a digital rather than their planned full theatrical release, Antebellum is going to try to take advantage of the new platform and lack of any solid new competition.  On a budget of less than $15 million, it seems likes a sound strategy.

The main issue the audience should have with Antebellum comes before they ever sit down to watch.  The trailers create a false perception of the type of movie they are about to see.  Using clips and editing tricks that are not in the actual movie, they paint a very different “horror” expectation.  It does still fit in the horror/suspense genre, however, not in the same way the marketing suggests.

Antebellum doesn’t waste any time throwing you right into the terror.  The graphic and disturbing depiction of life on a southern plantation for a slave almost makes you welcome the lull in the middle of the movie.  Janelle Monáe stars, who in the last few years has created quite the filmography for herself.  She doesn’t disappoint by delivering another dynamic performance.

Before you click play on the latest Bruce Willis straight-to-Amazon-Prime-vehicle thinking “I know the last 8 were terrible, but maybe this one will be like Die Hard,” go ahead check out Antebellum instead. It leans more on concept than substance, but is still an entertaining watch. Just do yourself a favor and avoid all trailers.

133: The Invisible Man

Garrett and Carson hope to see a solid horror movie in Leigh Whannell’s reimagining of The Invisible Man.

Review: Us (Carson’s View)

Us has all the right components to be an all-time great horror movie.  Great concept, wonderful cast, superb directing, and an unforgettable score.  Jordan Peele’s sophomore outing did almost everything right; except for the writing.  Peele sacrificed his script and concept in an attempt to drive home his social message of class inequality.

Us gave us one of the most brilliant and terrifying trailers I have ever seen.  Using a creepy version of “I Got 5 on It” in the trailer and in the movie itself was a stroke of genius.  It set the stage to be the horror movie of a generation. Regrettably, the movie lost the horror vibe after the first 30 minutes.  In what was done so seemingly effortlessly in Get Out, gave Peele major issues in UsUs spent the remainder of the run-time seeking to force his message into the story which only creates questions and plot holes throughout.

I am excited for Jordan Peele’s next outing as he has proven he is a very capable director with many fresh new ideas.  Unfortunately, until then we are left to wonder what Us could have been if he had just set out to make a great horror movie.

Review: Cube (Garrett’s View)

Sometimes the central plot of a film is strong enough that it can overcome a low budget and sub-par acting. Cube is an excellent example of this. Filmed in what feels like — at most — 2 rooms and with a cast of unknowns, Cube literally drops the characters and audience directly into the mystery. The film takes clear inspiration from The Twilight Zone and specifically the episode “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” Unlike most Twilight Zone rip-offs or homages though, Cube manages to take the core idea from the original and expand upon it in different and unique ways.

Cube is a small, tense thriller that slowly unravels in twists and turns with every new room the characters explore inside the enormous, come-to-life J.J. Abrams Mystery Box ™. At its heart, it is a brain teaser. It’s smartly executed in a manner that keeps the audience guessing along with the characters. As it progresses, it manages to develop tension alongside its mystery and keeps the audience engaged until the very last frame.

Anyone familiar with Twilight Zone episodes will understand that the endings can be hit and miss. With Cube taking so much inspiration from the show, it’s understandable that it would have the same divisive ending. Regardless of the film’s resolution, it is a testament to the idea that great storytelling can overcome everything — from bad acting to a small budget.

But whoever had the idea that the characters should talk with buttons in their mouths for half of the movie should have been blacklisted.

Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (Carson’s View)

Bad Times at the El Royale had a tremendous start. I was fully invested from the moment I saw the original trailer. The first half of the movie did not disappoint. I was engaged. Surprised. Excited. My mind was reeling trying to figure out all the possible directions that this movie could go, and I couldn’t wait to find out. Then I watched the second half.

I do not know if the second half of the movie was bad or if I was just disappointed. Disappointed that the movie I had played out in my head wasn’t even close to what ended up on screen. To give a proper full review on Bad Times, I would most likely need to give it a second viewing. That way I could review it for what it is, and not for what it isn’t. So, I will give it an “improper review” instead.

My main issue with Bad Times at the El Royale is the wasted potential. I loved the set up. Seven strangers at a hotel all with a secret in their back pockets. Interesting characters: A priest, a vacuum salesman, a hippie, a singer, a hotel manager, a young girl, and Thor. Each were cast perfectly for their role. They were all introduced in a way that left you wanting to know more about them, and at the same time doubting what you already know.

At the halfway point, so much happens all at once. Then it screeches to a slow, drawn out, pretty basic second half. Feels like a lot like the TV series LOST, where someone had a great idea for an engaging set up, but has no idea how to tie it all together or wrap it up. Bad Times also leaves you with a ton of unanswered questions that you can’t help but wonder if that was intentional or just bad story telling.

My expectations were simply far too high going into Bad Times and were only escalated by the intro. Had “Trailer-Guy” not done his job so perfectly in the teaser trailer, I believe I could have left the theater pleasantly surprised. Instead, I left with only the disgruntled thoughts of what could have been.



Review: Hold the Dark (Garrett’s View)

Hold the Dark, director Jeremy Saulnier’s follow up to Blue Ruin and Green Room, drops the color-themed titles in favor of brightness  — or rather the lack thereof. It is a film that is as bleak as its Alaskan wilderness setting. While Saulnier’s signature moments of thick tension and hyperviolence are still present, what is lost and sorely missed is the razor-like plot.

Saulnier seems to be aiming for a more arthouse take on some of his familiar motifs. It is an undoubtedly intriguing goal, but it’s as though he thought that by simply removing elements of the plot, the film would automatically become “artsy.” Instead, it becomes vaguer and, at times, genuinely confusing as to why things are happening the way they are. Worse, layers upon layers of visual metaphors are used to construct the plot in what ends up feeling like a mess of wet paper mache that hasn’t quite dried and taken shape yet.

The main actors all turn in solid performances though they feel underleveraged. Jeffrey Wright is the stoic, innocent outsider whose primary function seems to be to relate the evil human behavior on the screen to that of raw nature which his character is familiar with. Unfortunately, it never feels like he’s providing any unique insight into what’s happening that the audience can’t piece together on its own. Riley Keough is creepily intriguing but not given enough screen time to really explore the endless possibilities that description represents. Alexander Skarsgård is menacing but never strays from his robotic terminator mode. The best performance comes from James Badge Dale who seems like the only normal, relatable character in this entire film.

Hold the Dark is like a mashup of Wind River and True Detective. It is beautifully shot and has pieces of a story that deserves to be told in a much more coherent fashion. Like a puzzle in which someone has deliberately thrown away some of the pieces, you know what it is supposed to be, but you can’t quite see all of it as it should have been. It is a film with little depth that tries too hard to portray just how deep it thinks it is.

Episode 54: Searching

Garrett and Carson take on Searching in an attempt to find a good movie.