Isn’t this the coolest Halloween card ever? The little skeleton guy dances.
Hope you guys have something scary planned for the month ahead. I’ve got a short list of movies I’d love to make time for: “Dracula” (1939), “House of the Devil” (2009), “Annabelle Creation” (2017) and “Mr. Mercedes” Season 3 (2019). Yeah, I know that last one isn’t a feature film, but it’s a program of truly cinematic quality. “Mr. Mercedes” has been the best kept secret in Stephen King fandom — no, its antagonist isn’t as flashy as Pennywise the Clown or The Gunslinger’s various nemeses. But it’s a gorgeous adaptation of a King novel that might even be better than its source material. Check it out, seriously — skip “American Horror Story” if you have to.
There are two movies I need to get to that have been recommended to me with a lot of enthusiasm. The first is “In the Mouth of Madness,” 1994’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring Sam Neill. (I actually started it a few years ago after a friend in New York urged me to, but it just didn’t hold my interest.) The second is 2001’s “Shadow of the Vampire,” which features Willem Dafoe doing Nosferatu. (I only discovered just now writing this that John Malkovich portrays F.W. Murnau.)
I’ll tell you something else, too — I’ve checked out one or two short films on the free ALTER channel and they’ve been terrific. Maybe I’m due for another visit there.
True to its manga origins, Netflix’ “Death Note” (2017) seems cartoonish and sometimes intentionally silly. That doesn’t stop it from being a lot of fun, though — this is the most original, offbeat horror tale I’ve seen in a while, and I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.
It’s definitely a genre-buster — it’s one part comic book, one part horror tale, one part eastern theological fantasy and one part dark teen romance. It succeeds in part because it has an interesting supernatural story setup that seems reminiscent an episode of “The X-Files.” (A magical notebook allows it owner to sentence anyone to death, simply by writing the victim’s name down, and describing how they die.)
It also succeeds because it has a great bogeyman — a seemingly omnipotent demon named Ryuk. His visual design is creative and wickedly creepy, and his character is menacingly voiced by none other than Willem Dafoe.
Finally, Shea Whigham is very good as the teen protagonist’s tough but likable dad. I thought I remembered him only from his relatively minor role in this year’s “Kong Skull Island.” But, as it turns out, he was actually the sympathetic escaped convict from 2008’s criminally underrated monster movie, “Splinter.” He’s a great actor.
I really liked this. I’d recommend it.
I can’t say I fully understand the zeal of “The Boondock Saints'” (1999) cult following, but I had fun with it — I’d give it an 8 out of 10 for being unusual and unexpectedly diverting.
I don’t really see it as a crime thriller — it’s more like an absurdly violent situation-comedy. It borrows its tone and style from 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” not to mention its own shock-comedy throwaway scene involving an accidentally discharged sidearm.
Like its superior inspiration, its formula is creating quirky, likable characters with some funny dialogue, and then raising the tension by placing them in the midst of graphic violence. It mostly succeeds — Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus’ characters are endearing, cool and easy to root for. I laughed out loud a few times, and I can see how their telegenic antiheroes would attract a devoted fandom.
The directing seemed choppy and even amateurish. I noticed this right from the opening credits, which are awkwardly spliced with the onscreen introduction of the main characters.
The screenwriting is a little spotty, too — we’re never told, for example, how its two protagonists come to be such proficient assassins. (Are they former military? Is there a joke here I’m missing about them being “blessed,” consistent with the “saints” motif and all the references to Catholicism?) Nor do we get much meaningful information about their motivations. (Their bloody crusade begins only when they kill several gangsters in self-defense, then they seem to pursue a life of vigilantism as an afterthought.) Finally, our antiheroes seem refreshingly real and identifiable, while other characters (Willem Dafoe’s detective and Billy Connolly’s mafia hitman) seem cartoonish enough to populate a farce like “The Naked Gun” series).
Again, though — this was fun. I’d recommend it.