Tag Archives: Death Of Child

Movie Review: Reservation Road (2007)

reservationroad

Rating: B-/ I’ll begin my review by saying this; people who rent this movie probably know what they’re getting. The acting is terrific all around, but the movie itself is overwrought, filled with shrieking and heated accusations. It gained my sympathies and tugged on my heartstrings, but I feel like it did it kind of dishonestly, if that makes sense; instead of being extraordinarily well-written or featuring interesting characters it jack-hammered it’s way into my heart by presenting me with lots and lots of showy displays of grief. The excellent actors are compensating for the fact that there isn’t much below the surface here. Continue reading Movie Review: Reservation Road (2007)

Movie Review: George Washington (2000)

gerogewashingron

Rating: B-/ Some Spoilers Ahead. Read at your own Risk. Eight years before he made the mediocre (and utterly mainstream) stoner comedy Pineapple Express, filmmaker David Gordon Green directed his first feature, a very different affair entirely. This movie, George Washington, is a very slow, abstract, and mysterious mood piece about a group of kids coming of age in rural North Carolina.It held me at a distance, I never fell irrevocably in love with it, but at the same time I appreciated it’s refusal to be anything but a true original. Twelve-year-old Nasia (Candace Eavanofski)’s lilting monologue drips off her tongue like honey; everything- the dialogue, the characters, the brooding atmosphere, is presented in a way that was both real and unreal; natural and absurd, almost dreamlike in  it’s unrelenting strangeness. In the end it is a movie that has kind of a idyllic quality in terms of how the characters see each other, yet it was very bleak at the same time. In the end, I can’t urge you to see this movie or advise you to stay away from it, you have to decide for yourself. You know what you like. It’s strange, that’s all, occasionally beautiful, but extremely odd in it’s execution. Continue reading Movie Review: George Washington (2000)

Every Secret Thing (2014)

every_secret_thing_xlg

Hey, at least they got a child actress who looks a little like a young Dakota Fanning. That’s something, I guess. :/

Ronnie Fuller (Dakota Fanning) and Alice Manning (Danielle MacDonald) are out of juvie, incarcerated for an unthinkable crime they committed as little girls (where they are played by Eva Grace Kellner and Brynne Norquist.) It is a truth universally acknowledged that baby-killers never catch a break (poor homicidal dears,) so when another child goes missing, Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) is on the case, sorting the ugly lies from the even uglier truth.

Despite a decent cast, ‘Every Secret Thing’ falls a bit flat. It rings even more false when compared to “Boy A,” a British drama film with a slightly similar premise. While “Boy A” had strong characters and outstanding acting jobs from the entire cast, “Every Secret Thing” feels, at best, like an extended cop-show episode. That is not to say, however, that “Every Secret Thing” does not have its charms.

There is some enjoyment to be had in seeing the mystery unfold, and the acting is decent, if not exactly award-worthy. Figuring out what really happened is based mostly upon sorting out the unreliable testimonies from the two girls. Alice, a outwardly sweet, obese teen, seems like the most vulnerable, but a second glance alerts you to the fact that she’s a bit of a manipulative twat. Her ditzy mother (Diane Lane) is not cooperating with the police force, but does that make Alice the main instigator?

Ronnie, on the other hand, a blunt Goth girl, seemed to have been the main offender in the murder of the infant seven years ago. It is fun to try to figure out the truth behind all the bullshit, or maybe the girls are equally guilty, each a malevolent little psychopath who found her own perfect match in the other. The presentation of this mystery, though, is pretty standard. A lot of investigating by a tough yet vulnerable lady detective, talk talk talk, followed by a big confession accompanied by some incrementing cop-show-esque flashbacks.

“Fargo” this is not. It’s a perfectly efficiently acted and directed motion picture. But it’s also painfully paint-by-numbers, a decently designed thriller without a new idea in it’s head. Not to mention the outright implausibility of some of the scenarios. They’re horrifying, yes, but that doesn’t mean they’re particularly believable.

Danielle MacDonald is cute and looks kind of like a chubby Shailene Woodley, but Woodley she is not. Although she does okay in most of her scenes, watching her screw her face up and try to cry at the end, only to eventually give up and settle on an irate scowl, is just plain awkward. She’s not bad at all, more like a little underwhelming, but can she or Fanning compare to Andrew Garfield in “Boy A?” Not by a long shot.

On the up side, a person close to me has convinced me to read the book adaptation of “Every Secret Thing” by Laura Lippman saying it is ‘much better’ and ‘more complex.’ than the movie. “Every Secret Thing” is not unwatchable, but it is unlikely to stick in my head in the long run.

every-secret-thing-556x314

The Other by Thomas Tryon

the other tryon

Being an identical twin can be murder. Just ask Niles Perry, a well-mannered thirteen-year-old whose twin brother Holland possesses a sadistic streak and a penchant for causing deadly ‘accidents.’ Niles both loves, fears, and is in intense awe of his enigmatic brother, but all is not what it seems in Thomas Tryon’s Gothic psychological horror novel.

I had a rocky start with this novel, because I kept on wondering how Niles could not suspect his brother of wrongdoing. I was relieved to find, however, that the (cleverly wrought) twist midway through the book rendered these concerns obsolete. If Niles seems outrageously naïve, that just makes the revelation all the more effective.

Novelist Thomas Tryon evokes the homey mystique of a 30’s Connecticut farming town. Pequot Landing, as it so happens, is an idyllic place to grow up for children who are independent and reasonably well-adjusted, because of the freedom such a locale offers (kids can go wherever they want and do whatever they want, within reason,) but the stifling gossip of the town ladies also makes it important to tread carefully while within earshot of anyone who might decide they want your family problems as fodder for discussion.

For the Perry’s, for which insanity seems to  run in the family, the continual stream of hearsay is never-ending. If you can get by Tryon’s penchant for long, elaborate, needlessly wordy sentences, ‘The Other’ might prove to be your new favorite creepy-cool summer read. You might be surprised that despite the fact that it was published in 1971, it’s aged quite well and doesn’t seem watered-down in terms of horror by jaded modern standards.

There are deaths a-plenty in “The Other,” and the one that bothered me most (even more than the particularly taboo murder at the end) was the demise of elderly widow Mrs. Rowe. Damn it she just wanted to have some tea and lemonade with the local children! Why must the lonely old bird be treated so? :_(

“The Other” makes you think about what people do to keep their loved ones out of the mental health system, and how that initial act of mercy can prove to be destructive later on. Doesn’t the boys’ Russian grandmother, Ada, know her grandson is a raving lunatic? Of course she does. But she refuses to anticipate the consequences of keeping such a boy at home with her, and her naiveté is punished tenfold.

I’ve heard of people whose family members continually lashed out at them; people who’s loved ones had to be locked in their room at night. In the end, the decision lies with the caregiver, but sometimes it’s not only easier, but kinder just to let go. This is an extreme version of a situation many people deal with- the seemingly impossible challenge of loving and caring for a severely emotionally disturbed child.

Ultimately, I think Tryon is too hard on old Ada. Yes, it was her ‘game’ that led to much of the insanity in the first place. But she is only human. And If the game had never came to be? What? Tragedy may have been avoided, but sociopathy and madness still ran thick in the Perry’s blood. While Ada’s final act seemed somewhat out of character, it was a decision born of extreme desperation, not evil or cruelty.

Although I found Niles annoying throughout (though he seemed surprisingly less so after I found out the twist,) I thought ‘The Other’ was a chillingly rendered, deliciously Gothic read. I love those kind of Gothic stories involving family secrets and sequestered craziness, so this was right up my alley. Now I want to rent the movie.

Baby Blues (2008)

600full-baby-blues-poster

This movie made me want to take a hot shower. A soulless, brainless slasher pitting a group of prepubescent siblings against their homicidal, postpartum mother with the worst twist ending since “Orphan?” Who thought that was a good idea? Okay, I admit, a good movie could have been made with this subject matter. Why do you think I rented it? In hope of an edgy, subversive good time.

But that would require the film to maintain a somewhat serious attitude. Instead, the kid-mangling mama (Colleen Porch) at the center of this sick little horror film shoots off one liners like fucking Freddy Krueger while dispatching of  her clan. “Playtime is over,” she snarls while tracking her ten-year-old son Jimmy (Ridge Canipe, who admittedly does a great job with the material he’s given.)

And later, after slaughtering Jimmy’s younger brother like a pig, “When are you kids going to learn that this hurts me more than it hurts you?” A satire of family values, you say? But it just feels so cheap. Meanwhile, the kids run around the family farm covered in blood and pissing themselves in fear and the filmmaker’s ugly, nihilistic vision comes full circle.

Postpartum Psychosis is a real and terrifying condition, and offering it up to the masses as a cheap schlock-fest isn’t doing anyone anyone any favors, especially those affected by the disorder. The way the filmmaker blithely beats you with a blunt, ridiculously kitschy ending only makes the film more of a failure. I know, I know, any good real-life horror and thriller film is a exploitation of something. Don’t be so sensitive, you say?

There was just something so sleazy about the proceedings. If the director has at least tacked this slaughterfest with an honest, true ending, the worst transgressions might have been forgiven. But the ending is so bad- so irredeemably, utterly, inconceivably bad- I have to be honest with you. This one is a dud.

I’ll admit, there’s something luridly fascinating about watching a child take an adult role under extreme circumstances- Daddy (Joel Bryant)’s away on business, and Mum’s cracked under the burden of mental illness and is determined to kill her kids- what will the newly appointed “man of the house'” do? What is he capable of in order to protect his siblings? But that’s where the fun ends.

Visually “Baby Blues” isn’t bad for a low-budget film. The richly saturated, intense color can be jarring, but ultimately doesn’t distract from the story too much. The sound is questionable, but still audible. I many ways, it is technically well-made. The set-up of the terror is pretty standard. Everything fits together a little too easily- if something is mentioned early on, be assured that it will very obviously come into play later into the film.

There are scenes- the ending, the sequence where farmhand Lester (Gene Witham) does the unthinkable and turns his back on the killer to examine the injuries of a freshly killed dog, exclaiming, “Some kind of animal…” that the film reminds us that it is just that- a movie.

A cynical, small-minded movie that is determined to make a profit on viewers’ morbid curiosity. Don’t buy into the urge to watch a movie sporting an ‘extreme’ premise. After a questionable build-up, the payoff is worse, cheaper, lamer than you can readily imagine.

babyblues3

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

StephenKingPetSematary

A rule of thumb- after your daughter’s newly resurrected cat comes back ‘stunted,’ 99.9% experts would advise you against burying your kid in the same Godforsaken place and in hopes that he will return from the dead as well. But that doesn’t stop Louis Creed, does it?

Believe it or not, this is my first Stephen King, though frankly I was a tiny bit disappointed at what I found to be solid yet somewhat overhyped prose. Don’t get me wrong, King has a great story to tell and some interesting commentary on grief and the dangers of meddling with the unspeakable, but I found the writing in general to be a bit underwhelming.

First, let’s dig into the premise itself- family man Louis has a loving wife, Rachel, and two great kids, Ellie and Gage. Together they move to a small town in Maine and Louis strikes up a friendship with grizzled local Jud Crandall. The damper on their otherwise happy life- the creepy burial ground built by the Micmacs years before unnervingly close to Louis’ property.

This is not the eponymous ‘Pet Sematary’, but a site relatively close behind it. Once the haunted locale gets hold of Louis, all bets are off (a string of disasters follow soon thereafter.) Despite Jud triying to convince Louis that ‘sometimes dead is better’ in the wake of tragedy, Louis in compelled to meddle with things that are not to be meddled with- with predictably horrific results.

In the dark, dank world of “Pet Sematary,” the beautiful, the natural, the wholesome can all be taken away with a domino effect of chaos. Stephen King does a pretty good job of playing on our basest fears, and on the inside the very old hardcover copy I read it said that this book was the one that Stephen King himself had trouble finishing.

I don’t know if this was legit or a marketing ploy- I didn’t think the book was that shocking, but I guess it’s different if you’re a parent of a small child (considering the gruesome death and reanimation of a very lovable child character.) However, I had some problems with the writing.

I hate repetition in prose when there isn’t a good reason for it, and there was lots of unnecessary repeating of words and phrases here- the nonsensical utterance of “Hey ho, let’s go” (I know it’s a line from a song, but what the hell does it have to do with anything in context, anyway?) Every so often Louis would think something ‘randomly’ or ‘stupidly,’ or refrain from bursting into hysterical, horrified laughter at the drop of a hat.

How often does one burst into maniacal laughter, I wonder? I was also driven to  interpret moments in the story in a totally inappropriate way. For instance, I found myself feeling sorry for Church (Ellie’s cat, who returns from buying the farm only to be kicked around by the repulsed Louis) and disturbed by the portrayal of Rachel’s disabled sister Zelda as a deformed, evil freak.

I found this book a little overlong at almost 400 pages, even though it’s one of the shortest books Stephen King wrote (!) To be fair, I was having a lot of mental health problems at the time, including repetitive re-reading, one of the staples of my OCD diagnosis. Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to read that “Under the Dome” book I bought cover to cover.

Now, for a question for readers- is the “Pet Sematary”  worth watching? Also, what Stephen King books would you recommend to a newbie?

Antichrist (2009)

I was apprehensive about seeing “Antichrist,, but not primarily for the reason that you might expect. Yes, the film’s allegations of rampant misogyny (not a new accusation for controversial filmmaker Lars Von Trier) and graphic violence were daunting, but I also heard that the Von Trier’s new work was linked thematically to “Melancholia,” a film I found almost unbearably aloof and pretentious.

I am, however, a fan of the director’s earlier works “Dancer in the Dark,” and especially, “Breaking the Waves” (the film that made me fall irrevocably in love with Emily Watson), so I decided to  give this one a go. This movie didn’t make me fall in love with anybody, least of all the characters (though the acting is very good.) It made me want to hit something. Or crawl into a fetal position and cry.

Not that “Antichrist” is a bad movie. It’s certainly a well-made one. Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg act their hearts out as the otherwise unnamed He and She. It’s just… let me put it this way. Von Trier was in a period of deep depression during the conception of this film. The production was a disaster. Lars Von Trier’s hands shook as he held the camera. To see this movie is to take a close look into its creator’s tormented soul.

Don’t watch this movie if you have a weak stomach. On second thought, don’t watch this movie if you have anxiety, panic attacks, a love of children (the cute, cherubic youngster kicks it pretty early on in this dark story), or if you want to have a normal, functional life and healthy relationships. This coming from the girl who laughed at “The Human Centipede II” and was barely fazed by Haneke’s “Funny Games.”

I know. By building it up, I’m just making you want to watch it more, so I stop here. It’s like the Mormons who tell you “Don’t watch that, it’s filth!” So you go see it, naturally. The thing is, I’m not telling you not to see it. I’m just saying, tread carefully. What might be harmless for one person could be the last straw on the road to a mental breakdown.

In a visually rapturous black-and-white opening, He and She (Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) have passionate sex while their infant son, Nic, escapes from his crib and falls out the window (the similarities between Nic’s fate and the death of Eric Clapton’s son need not be mentioned.)

She collapses at the funeral and is taken to hospital. In He’s infinite wisdom, he pulls She out of the care of the government and decides to take her to the place that she fears the most (“Trust me- I’m a therapist”) — the woods. To be specific, one place in the woods: “Eden,”  a place She went with her son to write a thesis.

Almost immediately, She’s verbal taunts begin: He wasn’t there, He is indifferent to his son’s death, He’s cold and distant. Meanwhile, nightmares start to penetrate Eden’s placid exterior. And they’re not the only things doing so — He and She engage in weird, compulsive sex acts and mind games.

I didn’t love “Antichrist”- I’m not even sure I liked it, but it taps into a sense of primal fear like few films I’ve ever watched. However, the meaning is as obscure as the film is unnerving. One thing I notice is the unsexiness of intercourse and the frequent use of sex as a temporary distraction and means to an end. Does this mean the film’s theme revolves around sexual politics? I don’t know? The meaning is akin to an unsolvable problem.

“Antichrist” is not fun, entertaining, or easy, but it gets under your skin and creates a creeping sense of dread, so a certain respect for it must be retained. Because Lars Von Trier isn’t fun, entertaining, or easy, but he pours out the dark contents of his heart for the world to see and finds strength in the darkness.