Tag Archives: Twins

Goodnight Mommy (2014)

goodnight-mommy-pstr01

***Warning- This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk,*** Ugh. I had such high hopes for this movie. The theatrical trailer promised creepiness, atmosphere, and a chilling amount of well-thought-out psychological horror. Well, it arguably has some of these things, except maybe the well-thought-out part. Disclaimer- Goodnight Mommy is visually beautiful and atmospheric, set in the scenic location of rural Austria. But as good as it looks, a movie like this needs a satisfying payoff. And that, my friends, is where the film seriously disappoints.

Beware, potential viewers, this is when I get into big spoiler territory- to comment on how Goodnight Mommy fails as a narrative and a horror film. The movie has a deliciously spooky premise, as two nine-year-old twin brothers Lukas and Elias (Played by Lukas and Elias Schwartz) wait for their mother (Suzanne Wuest) in their isolated house, only to have her return covered in bandages and not the same loving woman as she was before her operation.

Whether she’s literally not the same woman or just has suffered a drastic change psychologically is anyone’s guess. This woman-creature, however, is about as far from ‘motherly’ as it is possible to be, slapping her sons around, sleeping with the shades drawn all day, and gobbling cockroaches. Understandably perturbed, the boys decide to investigate.

Initially, we are treated to a visually sumptuous, intriguing build-up, with the boys simply occupying the exclusive,  enthralling, and slightly spooky and sinister world they share together. They wander into caves, run through cornfields, and and at one point enter a underground room which is inexplicably littered with human bones to retrieve a yowling stray cat. Mom’s not well, so they pretty much do their own thing, and this childhood drama laced with the uncanny and outright horror is weirdly compelling.

However, when mom starts addressing one boy and acting as if the other doesn’t exist, I had one fervent plea to ask of the script- ‘please don’t let one twin be dead and the other hallucinating him.’ That’s like, the biggest cop-out twist that it’s possible to incorporate in a movie like this. Well, the film devolves near the end into virtual torture porn, where the little boys brutalize their mother for information. She says she’s their real mama, but they don’t believe it. The long, lingering violence perpetrated by two little kids is unnerving, but not necessary or  crucial to the narrative either, like a sick joke with a pitch-black punchline.

goodnight-mommy-trailer

I sat through it, albeit in relative discomfort, hoping for a kick-ass twist that would exceed my expectations. But no, they insisted on going down that road. The road with the dead kid and his grief-stricken twin too traumatized, or too bat crap- crazy, to acknowledge his loss. Didn’t The Other by Thomas Tryon already do this to better effect? (the book, which was outstanding, not the movie, which is arguably worse than this one.)

There are a handful of creepy moments to be had here (just seeing the mother swathed in bandages is enough to give me the willies.) Mostly it is an overlong (even at 99 minutes) movie which stretches out it’s screen time by featuring unnecessary visits from unnecessary additions to a paper thin script. That would be okay if the twist was worth half a turd squirt. It isn’t. Many small horror films with ultimately little to say can achieve a near-perfect balancing act from their chilling sense of suspense and mounting dread.

Take the movie Honeymoon. it’s a small, modest, low-budget horror. It works at holding our rapt attention. The Living and the Dead has a tiny plot (a woman with cancer imprisoned in her house by her irrational son) and could certainly be cut down ten minutes or so but somehow it earns our grief and sympathy. Goodnight Mommy has a spectacularly Gothic atmosphere (despite being set in a modern-style pad) and is even chilling at times, but ultimately lets us down with it’s distinct lack of anything new, innovative, or original to offer.

goodnight-mommy

 

Advertisements

People Places Things (2015)

610full-people-places-things-poster

Will Henry (Jemaine Clement) is a socially awkward graphic novelist and a native New Zealander living in New York whose world caves in the day of his twin daughters (Audria and Gia Gadsby)’s fifth birthday parties, when he heads upstairs during the festivities and catches his longtime girlfriend Charlie (Stephanie Allyne) banging her pudgy, affable lover Gary (Michael Chernus)

One year to the day, and Will is still feeling majorly bluesey in the wake of his big break-up. Reluctantly allowed to see his girls on weekends, Will is teaching graphic art at a local college but really doesn’t have his heart in it, preferring instead to immaturely lecture his students on why life, and people in general, totally sucks. Kat (Jessica Williams,) a blunt but good-natured student introduces the lonely Will to her attractive divorcee mother Diane (Regina Hall,) and after a rocky start sparks begin to fly.

However, Will still has feelings for his moody, fickle, and completely exasperating ex, who’s having doubts about her marriage to the girlfriend-stealing Gary, and Will must choose to get over his bitterness and self-doubt and find out how to best serve the interests of not only him, but also his daughters, and ultimately move on.

“People Places Things” is one of those little movies that has completely flown under the radar, and unless, of course, you have a soft spot for the Kiwi funnyman Jemaine Clement, you’re likely to go your whole life without hearing about it. This is a shame, because “People Places Things” is good and true in a way that few American films aspire to be. Will is a very believable character, sometimes delightful, sometimes infuriating, I found myself dubbing him a ‘loser’ over his immaturity and unprofessionalism and at the same time admiring his undeniable love for his kids and his creative spark.

This movie should be called ‘When Nerdy College Professors With Too Much Knowledge and Not Enough People Skills Fall in Love.’ The humor in “People Places Things” is not as much of the ‘laugh-til-you-cry’ variety and more wry, subtle, and oddly relatable, there are no huge happenings in this film and we don’t hold that against it in the least. There is a refreshing lack grand comic misunderstandings in the arguments between Will and his love interest, Diane, they are all messy disagreements that not only very often happen in the real world, they do, every day.

When Will and Diane first have dinner together, Diane callously dismisses graphic novels as an art form. This understandably miffs Will, it is important in a developing relationship for someone to care about the things we’re passionate about, or at least try to understand why we like them. They part on less-than-friendly terms, and the viewer patiently waits for their lives  to converge again, because, hey, maybe these two could have something here. After all, the majority of movie lovers start out on relatively shaky grounds.

The actors do an outstanding job with the material they’re given, and that includes the two child actresses, whose performances are smooth and unforced. They share a genuine comfortableness with Clement, a naturalism that makes us believe they are kin. Jemaine Clement plays a man for whom social skills do not come naturally without the over-the-top ‘geek’ theatrics of popular television programs like The Big Bang Theory and Chuck. He played a similarly awkward protagonist in Eagle Vs. Shark, but his Will is infinitely more relatable and more sympathetic than Eagle…‘s creepy, maladjusted Jarrod.

People Places Things is one of the relatively ‘small’ films that get ignored yearly in favor of bigger, more robust productions. For a bit of wry real-life observational humor, don’t let this charming little comedy pass you by.’

people

The Other (1972)

600full-the-other-poster

Life on an 1930’s Connecticut gorgeous family farm is idyllic… or is it? Twin brothers Niles and Holland Perry (Chris and Martin Udvarnoky) share more secrets than most- but can those secrets kill? To find out, I highly suggest you read the book by Thomas Tryon, rather than bothering with this schlock-fest. To say that the film adaptation by Robert Mulligan in a misrepresentation seems like an understatement, because while the movie is technically a faithful adaptation in many ways, it can’t hold a candle to it’s book in terms of quality scares.

This movie is considered a classic by many, but my God is it cheesy. One of the reasons the film is unconvincing is the acting. The performance of Uta Hagen as the Perry boy’s Russian grandmother is laughably ham-fisted. Her ‘accent’ consists mostly of screwing up her face and crying “Babushka!” as she gesticulates wildly. Mrs. Rowe, as a lonely spinster lady (Portia Nelson)  who was very likable in the novel gives one of the worst acting performances I’ve seen in a critically-acclaimed film. The movie unwisely changes her cause of death from ‘ambiguous’ to include a ludicrous sequence of her dying from a heart attack while the film’s little psychopath wields a rat.

While the child actors gallivant around in pedobear-approved short shorts, the film reaches new levels of unintentional hilarity as the one kid acts as effeminate as fuck while his twin brother tries to be a bad-ass, and all the Gothic suspense Tryon strove for comes to naught. While the big reveal was chilling in the book, the twist simply doesn’t work here, neither does 99% of the acting. I actually found the literary equivalent  of the scene where the boy visits his paralyzed, veg mother to be disturbing, but now all I could do was laugh at at the mother (Diana Muldaur)’s overacting attempt at a glazed stare contrasted with the boy’s manic, exaggerated cheeriness.

“The Other” might of been a chilling viewing experience at one time, but calling it outdated is putting it mildly. There isn’t a scare to be had; there is, however, a whole lotta laughs. Get your money’s worth of hilarity as the kid plays the ‘game’ that was so haunting and memorable in the novel, sweating and screaming “I see it, Grandma, I see it!” like he’s going to jizz his pants.

View for your enjoyment as Uta Hagen tries to cover up her utter ineptitude at a Russian accent by adding ‘Babushka’ to the end of every sentence. “Ya, ya, Play de game, Bbbaaabbbusshhkkaa.” Combine this with the worst attempt at a foreign accent you ever heard, and you’re getting close. If unintentional humor is your forte, than by all means, see this film. But if some real scares are what you’re hoping for do yourself a favor and  read the book.

600full-the-other-screenshot

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.

Imagination (2007)

I’ll admit it, I didn’t come to this film with high hopes. I had seen Netflix reviewers trash it again and again, but I hoped that it would at least be original. By the middle, when the talking fruits showed up, I was waiting for the one hour ten minutes to end.

By the credits, I was wondering how such a horrific train wreck ever came into existence. There’s a vague possibility that this could have been a good, albeit strange, film. What went wrong? As it turns out, almost everything.

The plot (if you can call it that) follows two prepubescent girls named Anna and Sarah through their joined imaginary realities. Their parents are struggling — Sarah is nearly blind, and Anna has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. As their psychiatrist attempts to understand their increasingly bizarre fantasies, we watch dream-like sequences done through stop-motion animation and special effects. When tragedy strikes, the girls retreat further into their imaginations, causing the psychiatrist to wonder what the visions mean.

That’s pretty much the sum of the story, avoiding spoilers. It actually was an interesting idea, visualizing two introverted girls’ secret world. The result, however, is horrendous. First of all the acting is pathetic — it’s hard to watch. As you watch the actors’ pitiable attempts to be “emotional,” you wonder how they could have possibly set themselves up for this kind of humiliation.

It feels like the director went out to a local park, watched people for a while, and chose a few, asking them to be in a movie. They agreed, despite their complete lack of dramatic skills. The two girl’s performances are understandable — they’re still young, after all. However, watching the adults, especially the psychiatrist, desperately trying to play their roles leaves you shaking your head in horror.

The other problem with Imagination is that Anna’s “Asperger’s Syndrome” and Sarah’s blindness are pointless, more or less just there to rationalize bizarre dream sequences. What may have helped this film is to explain why the girls “live in a world all their own.” Anna, we are told again and again, “can’t socialize,” but we rarely see her interact with anyone in the film.

It would have been interesting — more interesting, perhaps, than the weird trip scenes — to try to explain Sarah and Anna’s need to go into their own realities. Ben X did this efficiently. We understood why the main character, Ben, became obsessed with the virtual world and tuned out of real life. Imagination, however, is obviously a miserable attempt to play with hallucinogenic effects and claymation, without a glimmer of character development or logic to make sense of it.

There is one good quality, however. Even though the filmmakers got so many other things wrong, their skills at claymation are apparent. One scene, in particular, is darkly creative and weird, in a good way. In this case, the bizarre imagery actually attracted my attention. It makes you kind of wish they had kicked out the actors and let the clay figures take center stage.

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this movie to practically anyone, unless they are especially fond of weird for weird’s sake. Do not watch this looking for a realistic or informative view of Asperger’s — you won’t find it here. If you want something unusual, watch The Fall — in fact, watch practically anything else. Just stay far away from this bizarre, pointless mess of a movie.

The Returned (Les Revenants)- Season 1 (2012)

the-returned

Attention, horror fans! The zombie genre has been revived. I have always found dramatic/’realistic’ zombie films and shows to be inferior to the funny ones (I do not find “The Walking Dead” or “28 Days Later” to be better than “Shaun of the Dead,” for instance.) Okay, I still don’t think this measures up to “Shaun of the Dead,” but “Les Revenants” is kind of invigorating the way the tosses the zombie genre on it’s head. Gone are the zombies that go ‘brains-brains’ and limp along on broken legs and out of sight are the brainless, running, ravenous creepers from “28 Days Later” and countless survival-horror video games.

THE HORDE

What’s special about “Les Revenants” is the way it strikes at the emotional heart of the matter. You are forced to feel for the ‘zombies,’ who do not know they are dead at first, and who are often greeted by the living with apprehension and horror. In a small French town surrounded by a mountainous region, the citizens are coming back from the dead, fresh, and seemingly alive and well. Young Camille (Yara Pillartz) arrives home from a bus wreck that put her schoolmates to permanent rest, only to find that years have passed and her twin sister is now grown.

Lonely lesbian Julie (Céline Sallette, ) single and a survivor of a sadistic attack, takes in a mysterious little boy (Swann Nambotin.) But how innocent is he?  Meanwhile, happily married Adele (Cotilde Hesme) is visited by her dead fiance (Pierre Perrier) and hefty bartender Toni (Grégory Gadebois) tries to keep his unhinged brother’s body count under check.

Les revenants

The approach here is quite different- the show is more artsy and laid-back than the more frenetic tales of it’s kind, but if there’s one thing for sure, it’s never boring. Mysterious plot-lines abound; secrets lurk in the souls of the most open-hearted characters.  Some details are puzzling and other’s don’t make sense at all (akin to the twists and turns of “Lost”) and I hope the show doesn’t get overloaded in it’s second season.  There’s certainly flashes of brilliance in this script.

The acting in the show is very powerful, and reinforces the ‘real’ approach to the premise. This is not the show for you if you want muscle men blasting away zombies with uzis, but PATIENT viewers will find a lot to love as the plot slowly unfurls.  My favorite character died in the last episode, but I’m convinced he’s not gone for good, and that I will see him in the 2nd season.

tumblr_mq9uihNzfk1qa0qkbo1_500

If you like your zombie stories serious and pensive, with an emphasis on creepiness and mystery rather than guts ‘n gore, “Les Revenants” should quench your thirst for an alternative zombie thriller.  This and”The Walking Dead” are both great, and I love them in different ways, but this wins for me- by a hair. I for one can’t wait until Sundance Channel broadcasts the second season. One to watch as soon as possible.