Tag Archives: Silence of the Lambs

A very short review of “Don’t Hang Up” (2017)

“Don’t Hang Up” (2017) is an absolutely derivative horror movie that nevertheless manages to be halfway decent.  I’d rate it a 7 out of 10.

We follow a handful of older teenage boys whose favorite avocation is perpetrating cruel prank phone calls and then posting them on the Internet.  The horror genre’s penchant for vengeance should make their comeuppance predictable.  “Don’t Hang Up” seems to borrow in equal (large) measure from the “Saw” and “Scream” film franchises, with touches of “Unfriended” (2014) and even “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Still, this was a halfway serviceable scary movie.  There were nice moments of tension, and it held my interest.

This doesn’t belong on anyone’s must-see list, but it’s a fun enough time-waster if you can’t find a better movie.



A quick review of “Wolf Creek 2” (2013)

Is “Wolf  Creek 2” (2013) a well made film?  Yes.  It’s exceptionally well made.  Would  I recommend it?  I’m not sure.

I’d rate it a perfect 10.  Its technical expertise in undeniable.  The cast is roundly excellent.  John Jarratt is absolutely perfect in the role he seems born for.  He’s so effectively menacing as this film’s serial killer that I think I’d find it unnerving even meeting the actor in real life.  The only other actor I think I can say that about is Ted Levine, who so indelibly portrayed Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs” (1991).

Ryan Corr is damn perfect, as are the actors in smaller roles.  I think Shannon Ashlyn portrays terror better than any other actress I’ve seen.  She isn’t just a horror movie “scream queen;” her performance was so skilled that she rises above such a trite label.  (And I’ve seen a lot of horror movies, people.)

It’s extremely well directed.  The conclusion of an action sequence involving a truck must have looked downright stupid on the page, but damn if Greg McLean doesn’t make it plausible and shocking.

The entire movie is gorgeously shot.  It was enough to make me want to visit Australia … if the story didn’t make want to stay the hell away from Australia.

I just get the impression that some movie studio planned to produce a generic, derivative slasher movie … but just inexplicably employed the best creative talent available for all aspects of its creation.

Now, about my reluctance to recommend this …  Please understand that this film is incredibly dark, even by horror movie standards.  At times it was just too much for me.  I actually stopped playing this on Netflix several times to “take a break with something lighter” by watching “The Walking Dead.”  Yes, you read that right.

The story depicted is just brutal.  There are very few movies that are too dark for me … I think I could count them on one hand.  (And one was 2005’s original “Wolf Creek.”)  And this film is just so masterfully made that its victims seem like real people suffering — something at which the “Saw” films and various other slasher movies rarely succeeded.

I honestly think it might have been so “good” that it went past the point of entertaining me.  Can I honestly recommend a movie that I felt the need to switch off?

You make your own call.  Again — this is exceedingly dark material, even by horror movie standards.  But if you think you’re up to it, watch it.


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I need therapy after watching the Season 2 finale of “Hannibal.” Which is kind of ironic, if you think about it. (Season 2 review.)

It was brutal and amazing.  Where Season 1 was extremely good, the closing episodes of Season 2 have made the NBC thriller nearly perfect.  I actually think the show has reached the point where it actually improves on the Thomas Harris novels, as the better films (“Silence  of the Lambs” and Ridley Scott’s “Hannibal”) did.

I’m not even sure where to begin.  The dialogue is downright beautiful.  And this is a big improvement over the first season — in their zeal to portray highly intelligent characters, the screenwriters seemed to try to make every line sound brilliant — and it sometimes backfired awkwardly.   Repeated phrases and forced wordplay made the story’s accomplished academics sound like garrulous undergraduates trying to impress freshman girls at an off-campus party.  (Trust me, I know how they talk because I was one.)

In the latter episodes of season 2, the writers seemed to have gotten their game on.  You actually do get the sense that these are incredibly bright people discussing their worldviews and motivations.  I am not the most cerebral guy out there, and I’m the first to admit it — but I really feel that there were some goddam compelling examinations of themes like sociopathy, the sanctity of life (or a sociopath’s inability to perceive it), mortality, grief and bereavement, God and morality, and forgiveness.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think the screenwriters actually exceeded Harris’ prose in rendering Hannibal Lecter as a three-dimensional character — and this is coming from someone who LOVED Harris’ baroque “Hannibal,” which examined Lecter at far greater length than “Silence.”  For the first time, we get a coherent sense of an ideology for the character, linked closely to his inability to feel empathy and his apparent inability to feel love for other people.  And because the character is a genius and the dialogue here has improved, it’s very well articulated.

Lecter kills people (and fears his own death very little) because he perceives them as objects, in only physical or aesthetic terms:  “We are orchestrations of carbon, you and me — all our destinies flying and swirling in blood and emptiness.”

The characters themselves are better this season.  I’m sure that many others will disagree, but I think Season 1 failed to give us a truly likable main protagonist.  Will Graham, as scripted and as portrayed by Hugh Dancy, was too weak, self-absorbed and charmless to be a leading man in a police thriller.  It made me miss Clarice Starling, who was strong despite her vulnerabilities, both in the books and the films.  I wanted her to appear, all juiced up with girl power and dead-Daddy-Freudian-sublimation, and bitch-slap a little FBI training into Graham — maybe make him run that Quantico obstacle course a few times to toughen him up a little.   Starling is Naomi Wolf with firearm training, and she’s awesome.  The leading man on NBC’s show, for me, seemed to be Jack Crawford, expertly played by Laurence Fishburne.

That has changed.  Now that Graham has completed a certain character arc (I’m trying to keep this spoiler free), the new, darker, badass Graham (who often seems psychotic himself) is a terrific character to root for.  And he’s now frightening himself — his “Oh, yes.” line at the start of the finale gets under your skin just fine.  Nice work, Mr. Dancy.

I’ve criticized both Dancy and Mads Mikkelson in the past for their interpretations of characters Graham and Lecter.  Now I wish I could take it back.  Their work in the last three episodes was amazing.  They play off each other perfectly, and both actors handle heavy-handed lines perfectly.  Caroline Dhavernas is also wonderful as Alana Bloom — this actress has a great range, and is especially skilled at portraying shock and surprise.  I can’t imagine that’s easy for any actor, especially considering multiple takes.  She’s great as an audience surrogate for any horror film or dramatic thriller.

As has always been the case, the directing, the use of imagery, the recurring motifs and color, and the musical score was just wonderful.

There isn’t much more that I can say without spoilers — beyond the fact that the finale was quite sad, even by the standards of serial killer thrillers.  The ending of Graham and Lecter’s “friendship” was surprisingly moving.  Lecter’s final assault on Graham’s happiness was … sadistic.  And it’s heartbreaking when one character’s kindness to another is not repaid.

All in all, this is fantastic television.  I’d rate “Hannibal” Season 2 a perfect 10.