Tag Archives: The Ring

A short review of “Truth or Dare” (2018)

Blumhouse’s “Truth or Dare” (2018) isn’t high art, but it isn’t quite as bad as everyone makes it out to be.  I’d rate it a 6 out of 10 for being a passably good fright flick.

It’s a gimmick horror film, but the gimmick kinda works –a powerful demon possesses an oral game of “truth or dare” — then follows its players home from vacation with lethal consequences. It’s actually not quite as stupid as it sounds; I had fun with the premise, which sounds like the basis for a decent “The X-Files” (1993-2018) episode.  An exposition-prone minor character explains to our protagonists late in the game that demons need not infect only people and objects, but also “ideas” like games or competitions.  The notion of an idea or a philosophy being demonically possessed has a hint of creative brilliance, and I’d love to see it fully developed in an intelligent, well written horror film.

Alas, this isn’t it.  And instead of lovable heroes like Mulder and Scully, we get a predictable, throwaway group of unlikable teens on spring break.  The movie’s most interesting character is the one it sets up as the stereotypical jerk, Ronnie, adroitly played by Sam Lerner.  The film would have been much better if it had fleshed him out as a three-dimensional character, and had the story revolve around him as a surprise anti-hero.

“Truth of Dare” also borrows maybe a bit too much from “It Follows” (2014) and “The Ring” films (2002-2017). Finally, it confuses the viewer with some head-scratching plot turns near its end.

Oh, well.  The movie still doesn’t deserve the hate it gets.  I figure it’s at least a fun time waster before bed on a weeknight.

 

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A tiny review of “Southbound” (2015)

I can’t quite muster the same enthusiasm as everyone else for “Southbound” (2015) — I’d give it a 7 out of 10.  Yes, it’s clever how the five interlocking tales of this horror anthology are finally shown to weave together at the end (and it nicely parallels the equally clever movie poster below).

But the tales themselves were sometimes a little difficult to follow, with too little exposition.  One seemed incoherent.  And … exactly what was the role of the woman we see using the pay telephone?

It does have a few things going for it.  The tone is right — it’s a definitely a serious horror anthology for adults, with no camp and no gratuitous gags.

This movie was largely saved for me by the flying baddies to which we are introduced in the first entry.  (I don’t think that’s much of a spoiler, since we see them assailing us in the film’s trailer.)  They’re entirely originally, artfully grotesque, and possibly nightmare inducing.  You know what would have been an amazing movie?  A well-scripted horror-mystery in the same vein as “The Ring” (2002) or “The Grudge” (2004), focusing entirely on these antagonists.   Or maybe a supernatural desert-chase survival-horror movie.  I’d watch that.

 

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A review of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013)

I felt the same way about “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (2013) as I did about its predecessor — it’s a beautifully rendered, immersive fantasy that still falls short of being a truly great movie.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

The special effects are downright beautiful.  We’ve got a fantastic dragon to behold.  The acting is roundly terrific too.  I can only imagine it must be harder for a professional actor to portray a hobbit, dwarf, elf, or wizard, with their stylized language and fantastical quirks.  Yet every member of the cast was either good or great.  The obvious standouts are Sir Ian McKlellan as Gandalf and Martin Freeman as Bilbo.  Ken Stott as Balin was also quite good.

Yet the monsters and action were sometimes so cartoonish that they really challenged an adult viewer’s willing suspension of disbelief.  The battle sequence involving the barrels, for example, seemed like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon.

I also noticed a couple of other things.  This is my fifth of Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” movies that I’ve watched, and I am beginning to understand the viewer contention that these film’s story structures consist of a lot of “walking and fighting.”

The most interesting story element, for me, was Bilbo’s use of The Ring as his secret weapon — all the while concealing its magic from his comrades and first gaining the psychic attention of Sauron.  We also see hints that he may develop his own slavish devotion to The Ring, spookily suggested when he brutally attacks the giant spider assailants who might jeopardize his possession of it.  The Ring’s subplot (and the way it sets up “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) engaged me more than anything else.  Throughout all the films, it’s a fantastic story device, and well suited for a fantasy context.  The Ring could be a metaphor for greed, love of power, possessive love, or even drug addiction.  It adds so much depth to the Lord of the Rings universe, and goes far beyond a story of little good guys fighting big bad guys.  To me, The Ring and Bilbo were far more entertaining than traveling dwarves greeting or fighting characters throughout Middle Earth.

There may have been pacing problems; this felt slow.  I got the sense that too much time was spent establishing Lake-town and its (fairly boring) residents, although it was great seeing the immeasurably talented Stephen Fry’s surprise turn as its “Master.”  Too much dialogue is devoted to things like arguing with elves, negotiating boat rides, and penetrating a magic door.  (And I’m still not sure how the “last light of … day” translates into an Autumn moon.)

This was a good movie, even for someone who isn’t a fan of the source material.  Given its length and its slower pacing, however, I may not feel the need to see the third film right away.

[Edit: I’m not sure why the poster below appears to cite 2014 as its release date.  Was it re-released in theaters?]

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“It Follows.” (It’s great!!)

[WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS FOR “IT FOLLOWS” (2014).]

A smaller budget doesn’t hurt this great indie horror film; I’d give “It Follows” a 9 out of 10.

It’s smart, surreal, creepy and atmospheric, and it’s beautifully shot.  Maybe it has some similarities with “The Ring” series, and also the little known excellent horror film, “From Within” (2008), but it’s still darkly creative and original.

It’s damn scary too — it’s terrific what this film accomplished with what looks like minimal CGI.  For some reason, a certain shot of a rooftop really got under my skin.  So, too, did a sequence depicting friends unable to warn a major character, because they’re unable to see “It” approach.

I have always had a weird thing about dopplegangers.  Other people hate clowns; I get creeped out by shapeshifters.  I’m frightened by any monster that can masquerade as allies or loved ones.  It’s part of the reason that the Alien Bounty Hunter worked so well for me as an antagonist on “The X Files” (1993), and why the T-1000 scared me in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991).  Even Mystique, “The X-Men” franchise’s anti-hero, could be a little unsettling every once in a while.  (An attack on Wolverine BY Wolverine?  Leaving his confused teammates unable to help?  That’s a little creepy.)

There are a bunch of themes served up by “It Follows” that you could walk away discussing with your friends; online critics are quick to point out sexually transmitted disease.  (A little on the nose, don’t you think?)  They also pointed out mortality — this was something that I actually missed, despite the fact that it was helpfully hinted at by one character who periodically reads Dostoyevsky aloud.

I personally thought the film tapped into a bunch of sexual taboos and anxieties — especially incest.  Consider the conversation about one character kissing a sibling, a face we see in a framed photograph toward the end, and the way “It” attacks another major character.  I also saw victimization — as with “The Ring,” the victims of the monster here are presented  with a tremendous moral quandary about how they might save themselves or at least forestall an attack.

Is water a motif?  Much screen time is devoted to characters entering pools or the ocean; one person also begs for water during an attack.

And what about wealth?  Much seems to be suggested by characters traveling from an affluent neighborhood to a poor one.  And all those sweeping shots (and excellent long tracking shots) of the protagonists’ beautiful neighborhood really stayed with me.  I kept thinking about how much I’d like to live there.

I’d love to know more about the origin and modus operandi of “It.”  There is a sequel planned, according to Wikipedia; that’s one of its possible plots.

This is a terrific scary movie!  Watch it tonight!

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