A short review of Episode 1 of “The Passage” (2019)

I’m all for a good vampire story.  But this isn’t a particularly good vampire story.

Or, at least not yet, it isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong — the premiere of “The Passage” wasn’t the worst hour of television I’ve ever seen.  I’d rate it a 5 out of 10 for being somewhat average.  It has two good leads in Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Saniyya Sidney.  Gosselaar is no Laurence Olivier, but he’s good enough, and he looks and fits the part.  He seems like an excellent physical actor in the premiere’s brief action sequences, which weren’t altogether bad.  Sidney is downright terrific — and she’s an adorable kid too.

The show also has a great plot setup going for it, which I won’t spoil here.  It’s based on a trilogy of dystopian horror novels by Justin Cronin, which actually sound like some quite interesting books.  There are even a couple of sly references to well known horror films like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) and “28 Days Later” (2002).

Regrettably, however, “The Passage” suffers a lot from rushed and clumsy storytelling.  The script is a poor one, with a lot of awkward exposition and forced emotion.  (It shares a weakness with this year’s vastly superior “Bird Box,” in that it tries to fit too much of its source material into too little screen time.)  It falls well short of being scary, too, which is probably what will alienate modern horror fans, unless it improves.  (This is a primetime network TV show, and isn’t any more frightening than the average episode of “Star Trek.”)

Weird world — Gosselar is none other than the Zack from “Saved By the Bell” (1989-1993).  And am I the only one that thinks he is the spitting image of Chris Pratt in a lot of shots.  I almost thought it was Pratt from the ads.

 

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Yes, “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. Now get over it and go watch “A Midnight Clear.”

The perennial half-joking debate about whether “Die Hard” (1988) is a Christmas movie will be with us for a long time, I guess.  Yes, it is a Christmas movie — not only does it take place on Christmas Eve, the holiday helps set up the plot.  (Our protagonists are at the besieged Nakatomi Tower for a Christmas party.)  It just happens to be an ironic Christmas movie, that’s all.

And if we’re on the subject of ironic Christmas movies, I have to recommend “A Midnight Clear” (1992).  It’s one of those films that doesn’t deserve its obscurity.  It’s absolutely exceptional and poetic, which makes it maddening to me that a lot of people haven’t even heard of it.

I won’t describe it at length, because it’s one of those movies where “the less you know, the more you’ll enjoy it.”  (Even its central plot development is meant to be unexpected.)  I’ve never seen the trailer for this, but I can only imagine that it fails to avoid at least some spoilers.

Suffice to say that “A Midnight Clear” is a truly great film — one I would rate a perfect 10.  It’s perfect.  It just might make you look at war differently.

It’s a collection of contradictions, too.  It’s a war movie with an (arguably) pacifist message, and a “Christmas movie” that is absolutely mournful.  (I am not actually suggesting that anyone watch it to feel festive.)  It’s also a World War II movie made in the 90’s, but it feels as though it’s channeling the sadness and existential loss of the post-Vietnam 1970’s.

Again, if you choose to watch it, learn as little as possible about it beforehand.  And be aware that it’s probably sadder than you think.  Let me know what you think about it, too.  I’m curious about how other people feel about it.

 

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