Archive for thriller

Review: Almost Mercy (2015)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2016 by Xander Woolf

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Dir. by: Tom DeNucci
Starring: Danielle Guldin, Jesse Dufault

What’s it about?
Emily (Guldin) and Jackson (Dufault) have had rough childhoods, to say the very least. Bullied in school, sexually assaulted, verbally abused, molested… the atrocities that happened in these kids’ lives seem to be never ending. Now in high school, the two are close to breaking. The question is, who will break first?

What did I think?
Almost Mercy has a film-making style that shows its influences clearly. There were scenes that reminded me of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and others where I was reminded of Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys. It also had elements of slasher films, high school horror and psychological thriller. No wonder Netflix gave it 4.25 stars.

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Emily (Guldin) and Jackson (Dufault)

While this movie contains major gore, violence and other terrifying situations, I don’t think I could classify it as horror like Netflix does. I wasn’t scared by it. It’s more of a dark (extremely dark) comedy, where you find yourself laughing at the way people are being killed, rather than scared for those people’s lives (much like A Clockwork Orange). It’s ridiculous that way. I mean, selfies are taken with freshly murdered bodies. That’s not meant to be scary.

Danielle Guldin and Jesse Dufault did amazing jobs as Emily and Jackson. Troubled and angsty youths, they were able to show us the absurd side of their actions while also making us cheer for them. And the supporting cast were just so very good at making us hate them with a passion. I’m one of the most empathetic people you’ll ever meet, but even I think those people deserved what they got in this movie.

The biggest problem I had with Almost Mercy was the story behind Mercy Brown, a young girl who had died about 100 years prior from Tuberculosis. The two teens hail themselves as “The Friends of Mercy” and she’s important enough for her name to even be in the title, but she had very, very little to do with the actual movie itself. They could have worked the story into the plot in a much stronger way, so we could make the connection more easily, but it fell short.

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Mercy Brown

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I won’t give it away, I promise, but it’s not realistic. Sure, I smiled because I felt good for our main characters, but when you really think about it, that many murders would lead to a much more severe outcome. Perhaps it’s all part of the absurdity.

Do I recommend it?
Oh, yes. Most definitely. Go and watch it. On Netflix. Now.***

***If you’re triggered by depictions of sexual assault, molestation, child abuse, gun violence or bullying, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE.***

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Review of “Misery,” a Novel by Stephen King and Movie (1990)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2015 by Xander Woolf

In honor of Stephen King’s birthday this past Monday, September 21, this entry is the first installment of my three-post review trilogy. In this post, I will review not only the novel Misery, but also the movie of the same name.

Novel: Misery, by Stephen King. Published: 1987; Viking Publications.

Movie: Misery (1990). Dir. By: Rob Reiner; Starring: James Caan and Kathy Bates. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movies list.

For those of you who don’t know, Misery, by Stephen King, is about a fairly successful writer named Paul Sheldon who gets into a traumatic car accident and ends up the hostage of Annie Wilkes, a paranoid, manic-depressive shut-in with psychotic tendencies who happens to be Paul’s self-declared “number one fan.” As Paul pieces together what’s happened to him and slowly gets to know Annie’s dark side, the novel becomes more and more intriguing. In fact, I had to force myself to put it down a few times so that I wouldn’t end up having nightmares about Annie Wilkes throwing poisoned sand in my face… or worse.

The novel itself is extremely well-written, as can only be expected of Stephen King. It contains absolutely no typos, which is rare now-a-days, and this reader could tell that every single word was carefully chosen and placed exactly where Mr. King intended. This is crucial to a good horror story, as one misplaced word can disrupt the suspense and quell the reader’s growing fear. But good writing isn’t only made up of carefully chosen, grammatically correct words and punctuation. No, good writing has soul, which Stephen King delivers by the truckload.

The characters are fully formed and well researched. Paul Sheldon is a romance novelist who has houses in New York and LA to show just how successful he is. He has a thorough back story and a distinguishable voice that is maintained throughout the story. Annie Wilkes is a former nurse turned recluse with a mysterious and dark history of death and mental illness. She’s terrifying when she’s angry and almost childlike when she’s happy, which makes her psychosis even more frightening. The key to a good antagonist is the element of surprise. You never know when Annie Wilkes is going to go off.

The novel has just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader engaged until the very end, and the movie is the exact same way. Actually, I’m surprised that the film adaptation is able to capture the exact essence of the novel. Sure, lot of things were changed, as can be expected when a story switches mediums, but the changes seem right. They’re fair, as Annie Wilkes would say.

While James Caan does an amazing job playing Paul Sheldon, I want to focus on Kathy Bates’ version of Annie Wilkes. James Caan was good, but Kathy Bates was phenomenal. Kathy Bates was Annie Wilkes. It can be argued that Kathy Bates is the glue that holds this horrifying story together. She just captures Annie’s psychotic personality and brings her to life, to my horror. Sometimes, when I’m watching a horror adaptation of a book, I pray and pray that the person who plays the villain will be so bad at it that I’m able to laugh. This was not the case with Bates. She was so good that I’m afraid that if I go to sleep, I’ll wake up in that little room with her looming over me.

Whether you prefer to read books or watch movies, I highly suggest Misery in either of her forms. If you prefer to read, take pleasure in King’s easy prose with vivid and horrifying imagery. If you prefer to watch, take pleasure in Kathy Bates’ riveting and frightening performance of Annie Wilkes. Or, if you’re like me, do both and compare, then let me know what you think of it all!

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Review of “Would You Rather” (2013)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Would You Rather (2013)
Dir. David Guy Levi
Starring: Brittany Snow, Jeffrey Combs

Would You Rather is a horror thriller that centers around Iris (Snow), a young woman who needs to make some money to take care of her little brother, who is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Iris is approached by Shepard Lambrick (Combs), a sadistic billionaire who promises to take care of her brother if she attends a dinner party and wins a game of Would You Rather.

As most of us know, the game Would You Rather is very simple. It is played by a group of people and, each round, one person is given a choice between “A” and “B.” Typically, neither choice is particularly attractive, but they must choose. Normally, the game ends here. You say which one, everyone laughs or exclaims how you’re gross or sick, then it’s the next person’s turn.

The difference in this movie is that the player must act out their choice. Each choice is timed and refusal or inability to choose is grounds for elimination. There are 8 players in total, each of whom are in desperate need of monetary help. The last person left alive wins.

The director utilizes quick cut scenes to present a sense of urgency to the story. Iris needs to make money quickly, Shep needs an RSVP quickly and each of the decisions in the game must be made quickly. The intended sense of urgency could be seen, but the quick back and forth between past and present made the exposition choppy and confusing.

The best actor in the whole movie is probably Bevans the Butler (Jonathan Coyne), who obviously takes pleasure in being the brawn behind Shep’s brains. Brittany Snow is overdramatic and not believable as a 20-something burdened with sudden overwhelming responsibility. Finally, Jeffrey Combs played the sadistic billionaire quite ineffectively. As someone who is supposed to ooze class as the face of his foundation, he sure has a problem reigning in that quick temper. If you ask me, it would have been better if he delivered his lines in a calm, stone-faced manner. Much scarier. But what can we expect from mainly comedic actors?

The themes of the movie are stated right in the dialogue, which is just lazy writing on the screenwriter’s part. The entire movie is about two things: 1) everyone has a price, and 2) we all have a fascination with the unknown. Both of these things are stated directly by Shep during the game. The characters always explain the reasoning behind each choice, leaving nothing up to the viewer’s imagination. There’s no suspense, there’s no real fear. These are signs of a poorly written story.

All in all, I was not impressed by this movie. There were too many quick cuts, the acting was sub-par and the writing just wasn’t effective. And the ending… I don’t want to spoil it, but the ending was just unnecessary.

Of course, this is just my own opinion. Tell me what you thought of it in the comments.

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