A girl and a masked slasher switch bodies. Hilarity and gore ensue.
For decades the people of Blissfield have been attacked by the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn), a masked slasher. During one of his newest attacks, the Butcher acquires the dagger of La Dola. The next day, he attacks local teen Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton), who manages to survive after being stabbed in the shoulder after her police officer sister, Char (Dana Drori), arrives and scares the killer away. The next day, Millie awakes inside of the Butcher’s body and vice-versa. Now the murderer is plying his deadly trade in her body and she has to convince her best friends Nyla and Josh (Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich) to help her get her body back before the high school is a bloodbath.
Taking place in the same universe as Happy Death Day and its sequel, apparently, this movie also took that film’s idea of “take a comedy premise and make a horror film,” this time combining Freaky Friday with Friday the 13th. The film even drives this home by having the events take place on that day, making it quite literally Freaky Friday the 13th. It’s with that kind of deliciously terrible humor that this movie starts and it just keeps going from there.
A lot of this movie’s success is due almost entirely to Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton. Each one has to play both the villain and the heroine and they both nail it. Vince Vaughn’s portrayal of a teen girl in the body of an aging serial murderer (complete with above-average strength) is so perfect that you can even understand why some of the characters in the film start to buy it so completely. Kathryn Newton, on the other hand, has to play Jason Vorhees if he was a cheerleader. She’s cold and ruthless and wants to kill everyone, but also, she weighs like 98 pounds, something that makes many of her attempts to commit homicide genuinely comical.
This movie is further proof that one of the best ways to make a comedy movie is to take a ridiculous premise and treat it completely genuinely. Yes, this dialogue is pretty funny and the movie benefits from that, but most of the humor really just comes from how sincerely everyone plays this absurd idea.
Overall, if you’re a fan of horror or dark comedy, this is a must-see.
Blumhouse continues its new line of “creepy version of nostalgic properties.” It’s lame, boss, it’s lame.
Welcome to Fantasy Island, where all your fantasies become real! It’s run by Mr. Roark (Michael Peña) and his personal assistant Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley). Five people arrive on the island, having won a contest: Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), step-brothers J.D. and Brax Weaver (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang), and Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell). Gwen is there to take her boyfriend Alan’s (Robbie Jones) proposal that she refused five years ago, J.D. and Brax are there to live it up at a high-class party, Patrick enlists in the army to honor his father (Mike Vogel), and Gwen is there to torture her former bully Sloane (Portia Doubleday). However, they soon find that their fantasies are taking a dark turn… Except for Gwen who was there to torture a person, so that is pretty dark to begin with.
This film has 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. I will say that, while this movie isn’t great, I don’t think it’s 7% on RT bad. That’s less than Holmes and Watson and I thought that movie actually gave me brain damage. The problem is that this movie actually could have been really good if they’d just stuck with what seemed like the natural structure for the movie, as opposed to what they ended up with.
The original Fantasy Island show was always about people learning the lesson of “be careful what you wish for,” and usually a specific moral related to the person’s particular fantasy. An episode would typically have 2-3 guests in it who arrive together and then each live out unrelated fantasies, they find out that the fantasies often don’t go the way they expect, and they leave, having learned something. The proprietor, Mr. Roark (Ricardo Montalbon), always seemed to be aware of what was going to happen in the fantasy, giving cryptic warnings, but also saying that he was unable to interfere (though he did once in a while). When I heard that this premise was being adapted into a film, I assumed that it would be a Creepshow-esque anthology, with different fantasies turning into nightmares. When the film started, that still seemed like it would be the case, and that was actually working pretty well.
Unfortunately, the movie decided that, rather than just letting each of the stories wrap up, they start interacting, then end up being part of a larger narrative. While this could have still worked out, the stories really don’t mesh well, and the entire thing feels completely jumbled. Moreover, the larger narrative is extremely stupid and the movie actually takes the time to POINT OUT THAT IT’S STUPID. They try to chalk it up to one character just being nuts, but it feels like a tremendous cop-out. It also feels like they just couldn’t think up full stories for each of the fantasies gone awry and instead decided to just bail out… including bailing on the larger narrative itself.
I think the film really suffers from the terrible third act, because other parts of it were actually working well. I also particularly love Michael Peña’s take on Mr. Roark, because he is much more relatable than Ricardo Montalbon’s “fallen angel” interpretation. This Roark is bound to the island by his own actions and he is forced to cooperate with it.
Ultimately, I would love to see them give this another try, but I can’t recommend this one. It’s not fun horror, nor is it bad enough to be worth watching as a trainwreck.
Blumhouse’s Into the Dark series turns a bad relationship into a mind-screwing horror story.
On Valentine’s Day, a pop singer named Valentine (Britt Baron) plays a show with her partner Julie (Anna Akara), only to find that a group of fans of pop star Trezzure (Anna Lore) are in the audience harassing her. They claim that Valentine ripped off the songs, voice, and image of Trezzure, but Valentine claims that Trezzure’s manager Royal (Benedict Samuel) was her ex-boyfriend who stole all of her songs and created Trezzure. After the show, Royal and Trezzure show up to confront Valentine, and Royal is not planning on taking “no” for an answer.
This film was the first feature written and directed by Maggie Levin and this is a hell of a first at-bat. While I have enjoyed several of the films that have come out in Into the Dark, this is immediately in the top tier. This movie basically turns the act of gaslighting into a monstrous act perpetrated by a cruel bastard, which at least a handful of people I spoke to say can be accurate in real life.
The strength of the film is the interaction between Valentine, Royal, and Trezzure. Benedict Samuel almost perfectly captures a level of sinister egotism in order to sell the premise to the extreme that the film takes it. The best part, and also the most unnerving, is how well he uses common lines from other films or that abusers frequently recite. Most of his abuse is given in flashbacks to his relationships, which appear almost the same whether it’s Valentine or Trezzure. This is magnified by the fact that Valentine and Trezzure intentionally look nearly identical. Both of them were willing to give him power over them because of his manipulations and their own fears, but he always couches his abuse in targeted language. He tells each of them that “no one will ever love [them] like [he] loves them,” something that sounds romantic until you consider it also tells them they are incapable of doing better than him. He constantly covers his threats with “unless you make me,” always putting the onus on the other party. That’s how abusers get victims to forgive them, something he explicitly gets his victims to do in this.
I don’t want to go into the whole episode, but let me tell you that it is well paced and captivating. I really recommend this film if you like horror. The cinematography is more akin to a rock video at times, but since some of the cuts are literally to pop performances, that works. Give it a shot sometime.
Blumhouse gives us a film about a young woman at a purity retreat dealing with her inner demon.
Shay (Jahkara Smith) and her sister Jo (McKaley Miller) are taken by their father, Kyle (Jim Klock), to a purity retreat to affirm their commitment to staying virgins until marriage. Jo, a rebel, has been before and hates the retreat, while Shay agrees to go because she has only just met Kyle. He had an affair with her mother years ago and never found out she was pregnant. At the camp they’re met by Pastor Seth (Scott Porter), the head of the retreat, who gives a sermon condemning Lilith, the first wife of Adam from the Bible, who was sexually unchaste. That night Jo convinces Shay to join her and two other girls in a ritual to summon Lilith as a figure of female empowerment, something which appears to give Shay strange powers and visions. As the “purity ball” approaches, Shay starts to believe that there may be something deeply wrong with the retreat, and with her.
One man’s devil is another woman’s angel. That’s an actual line from this movie (paraphrased, maybe, I’m not rewatching it just to see) and it’s pretty much the central theme. Lilith, a figure who plays a role predominantly in Hebrew mythology, was the first wife of Adam, the first man. She was made out of Earth, just like Adam, and that led to a massive conflict between them because she refused to be subservient. They were created equally, so she wanted to be equal. Naturally, Adam refused this and she left him, leading to the creation of Eve, who is born of Adam and thus below him. Lilith is usually portrayed as a demon for this, even though her sin was just asking to be equal to Adam, not even above him.
This movie uses that as a jumping off point, because we are watching a “purity” ritual which directly requires women to be subservient to men. First, girls are subservient to their fathers, to whom they must devote their purity, and then to their husbands, to whom they devote their fidelity. The film points out that, while this may seem to be upholding God’s law upon Christians, the truth is that most of the time men are given more leeway. When Jo asks if their husbands are also expected to be virgins, the Pastor says that “we all know some things are a little different for men.” Even if men are asked to be chaste, they’re allowed to monitor their own chastity, whereas the women are required to place theirs under a man’s watchful gaze. It’s also shown that women are punished at the retreat for being impure and not just with a stern talking to, despite the fact that many of the men are shown to do much more “impure” acts. Basically, the film is a commentary on the fact that programs and traditions about “protecting” women are really just an excuse to guarantee their subservience.
While the film’s supernatural and demonic elements are focused on Lilith, the real evil in the movie is sexism and religious practices used to justify it. It gives the movie a much greater impact that a plain monster movie. If you like horror movies that have social messages, this is one you should check out.
I can’t do a spoiler-free version of this, but I also think it’s literally impossible to spoil this film, because I’ve now watched it twice and I’m not 100% sure what I saw. Anyway, let’s do this.
Jude (Travis Tope) is a nerd. We know this because he likes classwork and talks down to a substitute math teacher and gets bullied by Derek (Jake Manley), a guy who literally looks like he’d be the bullied one in any other movie. He’s still haunted by memories of losing his father and his only companions are his friend Kent (Dylan Everett) and his girlfriend, Nell (Clark Backo).
One night he goes to a party at another student’s house and gets dragged into a game of “Seven Minutes in Heaven” by Derek and his girlfriend, June (Haley Ramm). In order to decide who is paired up, Derek deals out a deck of nude playing cards he found, one of which appears to be Jude’s mom. Jude and June get paired up and go into the closet where June offers to make out, despite both of them being in relationships (though she denies it). Jude declines and they wait out the whole seven minutes.
When they leave, the house has changed as have the behaviors of the people in the party, but neither of them notice. Overall, the party is now much more violent, leading Jude to leave and head home after texting Kent. When Jude gets home, he is surprised to find himself accosted by his father, who we earlier learned is dead. His father accuses Jude of murdering Derek by stabbing him with a pencil. When he goes upstairs, he finds that his room is completely different, being covered with darker and more violent imagery. Jude tries to flee the authorities and ends up running into his guidance counselor, Mr. Wallace (Gary Cole), who punches him and tries to shove him into his trunk, ultimately putting him in the back seat. Wallace reveals that Jude is in another world and needs to get back into the closet. Jude sneaks back into the house with the closet and waits seven minutes, but it doesn’t work.
Jude goes to find June, in the process finding out that in this universe he’s not friends with Kent, and tries to prove to her that they’re in another world. She believes him after her sister tries to smother her to death and Jude rescues her. Together, they find Mr. Wallace, who helps them get into the closet again. While in the closet, they have sex, something that eats up 3 of the 7 minutes.
Back at the original party, the guests have become concerned since Jude and June disappeared. The police arrive to stop the party, but Kent doesn’t want to explain the missing people, so he convinces the kids to refuse the officers entry. The officers respond by calling the parents of the kids, who still refuse to leave, until finally they get the homeowners’ mother to open the house. During the wait, Kent has suspicions that Jude and June are on another planet.
Jude and June exit, thinking they’re home, and talk to Jude’s mom, who says that she came by the party but they weren’t there. They then get chased down by Mr. Wallace’s car, which they flee, realizing that they are now in yet another dimension. They get a call from Nell telling them to come to Kent’s house, where they find versions of Nell, Kent, and Derek, all of whom are aware of everything that has happened in each dimension. They challenge the pair to a game called “Lie and Die” where, if they lie, one of their family members gets murdered. They manage to turn the game back on the group and escape, with Jude realizing that they can get back to their home if they destroy the closet while they’re in it. They’re successful, but as they walk out together, Derek walks into the closet and disappears, with only a bloody pencil left behind from his death in the other dimension.
This movie is best described as “really good idea, not great enough execution.” That happens with a lot of Blumhouse horror films like this. Let’s go over the good and the bad.
First, the good parts: I like the idea of being sent to other universes where you’re being held accountable for the bad deeds of another version of you, which has been done in comics but not so much in film. The movie actually does that part pretty well because it shows Jude holding a pencil earlier in the movie when being ridiculed by Derek, contemplating stabbing Derek in the throat, which is exactly how his other-dimensional counterpart killed him. Basically, it creates an implication that, in a world where violence is slightly more acceptable, Jude would have done it. The third, even darker, universe is also a great idea, except that it’s so rushed and so little of it is explained beyond “this is a world where everyone’s worst thoughts drive them” that it doesn’t really land like it should.
Well, that brings us to the bad parts: First, I don’t care about anyone in this movie. Seriously, Jude isn’t interesting, June is somehow even less interesting, and they never explain Mr. Wallace enough to have him be anything but a persistent deus ex machina. If I don’t really care what happens to these people, there really aren’t any stakes. The idea of Jude running into the father he lost should be a great scene, but it’s basically glossed over so that they can keep the plot running. There are a lot of scenes like that in this film, where they should be good scenes, but because I don’t really care about the characters, there’s literally no weight to them.
That actually brings me to the second point, they went too plot heavy. There are just too many things happening in this film and with this many going on, none of them feel super important. We have a plotline about finding a naked playing card of Jude’s mom that is resolved with a really unsatisfying explanation. Jude cheats on his girlfriend, and loses his virginity in the process, and seems to feel no guilt or concern apart from worrying that 3 minutes isn’t long enough for sex (Foreplay, Jude, foreplay). We have a huge amount of time dedicated to Kent keeping the police out of the house which, honestly, is interesting, but it kind of adds nothing to the A-plot.
Third, the performances are wildly uneven. I don’t want to call anyone out, but if you’re going to do “show, don’t tell” in a movie where the point is that the universes are only subtly different, then you need some strong performances to really sell the shock of being in a different world. I don’t think the movie delivers, nor do some of the actors. It’s made even more bizarre by the idea that Mr. Wallace apparently exists beyond realities and that, in one of the realities, the people all know what happened in the other ones and use it against our main characters. If you’re going to have a real “darkest timeline,” then you need someone to sell the darkest timeline and if you’re going to have an omniscient character to explain everything then, well, he needs to explain more or better.
Then there’s the ending, where Jude is implied to now be on the hook for murdering Derek in this world, which isn’t set-up well. While, yes, it’s going to look bad that Jude walked out of the building saying “I didn’t murder Derek,” any attempt to charge him with the murder is going to run into the problem that he never actually had the opportunity since the last time Derek was seen alive, and certainly didn’t have the opportunity to kill him and hide the body. It just doesn’t actually scream “trouble pending” as much as “minor inconvenience ahead.”
Overall, this movie had a lot of potential, but it just didn’t fulfill it.