Thursday, August 8, 2013

Last Kind Words (2012)

I'll be honest: I watched this film because I adore Brad Dourif, and I'm happy to say this film shows him doing his best thing - shouting "No!" and curling into an agonized ball. Well done. I am satisfied.

As a horror film, this movie is creepy enough, I suppose. People act violently, unkindly, and unpredictably. Truly, though, Last Kind Words was much more deeply tragic than frightening. The pace was slow, and the scenery artistic. The whole thing just felt so sad. All the misery, the pathetic lives, all the perpetuated violence, made the film feel whistful, and heartwrenching. It was too gentle (in plot progress, if nothing else) and too human to frighten me. It reminded me of lynch photography (for obvious reasons), and struck me not for its supernatural/unnatural danger, but for its entirely understandable, if sometimes overwhelming, pain. As Sam Winchester says once, "they're just people!" And people do horrifying things to other people. And it breaks our hearts, but it doesn't have the same effect as slinging around gallons of fake blood.

I have to give this film extra points for the creation and maintenance of a simple, usable, and believable mythology.

It was surprising, and worth time and attention. It's a little clunky, but probably underrated nonetheless.

A Haunting at Silver Falls

This 2013 (remarkably recent) film possesses a fine example of my favorite pet peeve - the failed beefgeek. Seriously, putting an over-tanned beefcake in pathetically large and decades out-of-date glasses does not make him capable of performing geekery. If you want us to believe your character scored over 2400 on the SATs, hire an actor capable of pronouncing technobabble, and then GIVE HIM TECHNOBABBLE. (I mean, provided you can write it. If you can't write it - just stick to what you know. Write average characters). Really. Technobabble is SEXY. Why do you think we all go nuts for Benedict Cumberbatch? It isn't his cartoony lips, I swear. It's what comes out of them.

Although: points for making your character look incapable of slapping somebody hard enough to make a sound.

Sorry to start a review on a low-note. As a thriller and a mystery, this film passed! It was at least average, if not slightly above on the "smart protagonist" score (that chick was written strong!) especially for her repeatedly and sincerely turning down the drug-dealing, predatory douche-nozzle (although that unfortunately left her in the clutches of the film's mysterious perpetrator). Unfortunately, her preference for a really bad actor didn't win the audience's sympathy, and watching him as a finishing minion, I felt "meh."

Oh - and I think a couple of times the filter was a little too strong. I don't think woods are supposed to be black and white. Although colors are more difficult for the eye to distinguish in the dark, it's not impossible for most people.

They

This 2002 horror story was entirely adequate, although (and this is difficult to say, because I have always hated people who say this) not actually very frightening. The storyteller/director made an interesting decision to keep the nature of "them" and the fate of their victims from the audience until the last few moments of filming. That decision makes sense, because the explanation doesn't allow for the characters to discover it: they're not some legend that can be googled, which is a nicely realistic, if sort of frustrating touch, because it doesn't allow any intellectual movement - which impedes plot movement. 

We WANT to know what things are and what they want. Words like "eat us" are thrown around, but without any kind of substantiation, even at the end. People just disappear, after being very, very frightened. Although understanding the nature of a thing makes it less frightening (which clearly isn't the direction to go, here), even progress towards the main character's final *spoiler* captivity would give the plot some kind of suspense and structure. Instead, Julia (the main character) waffles between belief and disbelief, between stability and insanity, and between strength and fear. This type of film doesn't really use that type of realism very well. They would have been better off offering the audience some kind of cosmic worldview to encorporate Them. Even in the ending, the audience is still largely baffled. Well, I was largely baffled.