2019 In Film Day 1 (The Bad)

This year was a bad year for film. I’m not sure if it was that there were more bad films, or more of the films I saw were bad, or even whether its just the ones that were bad were REALLY bad. I’d say there are at least three films here which are contenders for the worst I’ve ever seen. Normally for these, there are a few controversial choices. For this I’m confident there are none. There are zero which I feel bad about, zero that I feel hesitant about saying.

Black Christmas

I have not seen the original, or the first remake. As such I have no idea whether it’s a good remake or not. I do know it’s a bad film. The story is realistic for the first half and then goes supernatural in the final section. The universe within the film hasn’t set this up as being possible so it’s a bit out of left field (whilst also surprisingly being really predictable, I guessed it in the opening title card).

Original review here

+It made me think of this song

-It’s really white. We need a feminist horror movie and this isn’t it.

Bright Burn

Okay, maybe this one. The worse thing about this was the expectation. I wanted this to be really good, and this is just awful. It spends so much time in the shadow of Superman, that it never really stands out on its own merits. This is a big issue as anybody familiar with the superman mythos knows exactly what is going to happen, and it all unfolds exactly as expected, and that’s it. The entire film is just building up to a moment everybody already knows is going to happen. Because of this you’re never really lost in the film.

Original review here

+The performances are fine, and the ending teaser is brilliant.

-Doesn’t do anything fun with the unique idea it has. It’s essentially a student film idea on a large budget.

Crawl

I’ve actually seen some positive reviews of this, one of which called it one of the hidden gems of 2019. Weirdly, one of the positives they outlined, is a negative for me. They said they loved how the characters did stupid things as it made it fun, I hated it for the exact same reason. It felt like character stupidity was only there to artificially increase the run-time. It didn’t work as it’s still a short film, although I did feel every single one of the 90 minutes. I didn’t think a 90-minute action film could be so god damn tedious.

Original review here

+It all FEELS real. There are no CGI issues.

-Stupid character decisions.

Escape Room

This was deeply flawed, deeply. It’s a fine concept, but the film doesn’t suit the concept. Often with franchised horror movies, the sequels weren’t written as sequels, they were stand-alone scripts that a studio exec saw and just rewrote to fit into an existing franchise. That’s how this one feels, like a hastily written sequel made to fit into a franchise it doesn’t belong. For a stand-alone film that’s an indication of a terrible script. It’s worse than that, it’s a terrible script which wastes a great concept. A horror movie set in an escape room is a genius idea (but yeah you would struggle to differentiate it from the Saw franchise), and it’s worthy of a, at the very least, mediocre film. At this point it’s not so much even about the quality, I just wanted it to be interesting, and it didn’t manage that.

Original review here

+Good performances, especially from Nik Dodani.

-The film starts with a character trying to escape a certain room. That room doesn’t appear until near the end, so the whole time you’re watching it you know that character is safe. Plus, some of the “riddles” take WAY too long for the character to get there.

Hellboy

The creative arts has a problem with maturity. Often something is described as “mature” when really it just has tits, violence, and swearing (but never penis, never penis). Ironically this means it then comes off as immature. This film is the best example of it. It’s like a 14 year old drinking his first beer, talking about all the vegines he’s fingered until they’ve cum down their arm.

Original review here

+if you’re 13 you’ll love it

-if not it’s a piece of shit.

I Love My Mum

I can’t really say I was disappointed by this as I had low expectations. It’s a fun concept but the characters are just too annoying to carry the film. One of the main characters is incredibly easy to dislike, and it makes it hard to enjoy the film.

Original review here

+Some good lines

-Badly written characters

Killer Kate

I expected this to be fun shlock. Instead, it’s just bad. The writing is bad, the pacing is terrible, and the less said about the acting the better. It just feels low-budget. There’s not really a sense of drama or suspense to the whole thing. It’s not scary enough to be a horror, and it’s not funny enough to be a comedy. I’d barely qualify it as a film.

Original review here

+There’s a really smart piece of writing involving a pizza guy (yes, I know how porny that sounds)

-The lead performance is incredibly wooden

Red Joan

I assumed this would be interesting. I was incorrect. It wasn’t helped by the fact that Judi Dench is barely in it. Plus the characters’ motivations are muddled. She says she spied for noble motivations, but thats not what we see. From what the film shows us her motivation was lust. Not quite as noble

Original review here

+The modern day parts are great.

-But not long enough.

Songbird

This is way too improv-based. As such it doesn’t really have a structure. A lot of the scenes are just unfocused and don’t seem to have a point to them. It’s a shame as I like both people in it, but the film really needs a purpose.

Original review here

+It’s always nice to see Jessica Hynes in things

-Purposeless

The Curse Of La Llorona

I didn’t catch this at the cinema, instead watching it on a laptop at home. I’m glad I didn’t see it at the cinema as I would have been so annoyed had I taken time out of my day to walk down the cinema for this. This is a very Latin film made through a very white lens. It feels very American, like they didn’t fully understand the legend they were adapting. They’ve reduced it to a generic “thing goes woo” tale.

Original review here

+It is an interesting tale, albeit one that’s not in this film

-Incredibly generic

The Kitchen

Nowhere near as interesting as it should be. I think part of it is due to how badly written any characters except the main ones are. Characters appear only to be killed. There were times when people died and I didn’t even realise who they were until about 5 scenes later. Original review here

+Domhnall Gleeson is brilliant in it.

-The entire plot of the film, all the plotting and twists, is undone in 5 seconds.

Wolf

I’m going to get personal here. As some may know, I have a history of depression and anxiety. It’s always been there but sometimes it’s worse than others, it hit really bad in September. I was left in a state where I couldn’t really motivate myself to do anything, and it made writing really hard. I couldn’t even muster enough energy to go down cinema, and as such I missed out on a few films I wanted to see (Ready Or Not chief among them). Now I’m not saying this film is ENTIRELY to blame.

Original review here

+Great concept, and there’s one section where the make-up is amazing.

-Everything else.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Definitely the worst X-men movie (yes, even worse than Origins). The worst possible way to end the franchise. Made all the more disappointing by how good Logan was. There’s nothing specifically bad about it, all of it is. It doesn’t work in any way. Apparently the story it’s based on is quite a big deal, but it’s now had two really bad films based on it. Has it ruined it?

Original review here

+Everyone involved in it will someday cease to exist.

-The villains motivations are undeveloped.

IT: Chapter 2 (2019)

Is this the best horror movie of the year? Well it’s definitely better than Ma and Escape Room, and scarier than Happy Death Day 2 U and Child’s Play. The only one that can really match it is Us, which I loved. I think this Us is better, but only marginally. It’s not so much what this film is lacking which brings it down, it’s what it contains; far too much. This film is far, far too long. It’s almost 3 hours long and doesn’t need to be. There’s a lot of padding, a lot of repeating what we already know, and a lot of things that don’t go anywhere. Not just scenes, there are entire sub-plots which aren’t really necessary. Yes, it was good to see Henry Bowers as a psychopathic adult, but it barely adds anything to the plot and if you cut it out it wouldn’t really affect the plot. He may have been important in the book, but they’ve changed over things, and he was so ineffectual that I don’t think anybody would have really missed him. The opening is also a waste of time, if I’m being honest. It’s about two gay characters being attacked by a homophobic gang, ending in one of the two being thrown off a bridge where his partner witnessed him being attacked by Pennywise. It looks like the gang of homophobic assholes are going to be a big fixture in this film, like Bowers was in the first film, but they never appear again. Also not appearing again; the surviving character. He witnesses his partner being eaten by Pennywise, and is never seen again in the film. He could have been an important part, an outsider in the Losers club.

Despite the excessive runtime, there are a lot of things that are underutilised, one of which is Pennywise himself. There is also a problem with consistency, you’re not quite sure whether things are real or illusions, so you don’t know whether things have consequences, and it’s arguable about whether the film itself even knows. It also features possibly one of the most embarassing scenes in 2019 horror when a really tense moment suddenly has a really out-of-place use of the song “Angel Of The Morning” in a way that I think was supposed to be comedic, but it didn’t really work at all as it was the coda of a really intense section.

Arguably, I think this film would have been better as a trilogy. The first one as the younger characters, the second one as the older, and the third switching between the two (or switch the third and second one). There’s too much story to tell so you can’t do it all in this period of time. For this to have worked they would have needed to make all 3 at the same time, which would be fine. It also would have cut down on the flashbacks in this movie, which threaten to overrule the story. It’s hard for a lot of the flashback scenes to work that effectively because they lack tension. The reason for this is because we know the characters survive as we’ve seen the older versions of them, so we know that no matter what, nothing too bad will happen.

Despite that, despite ALL that, I did really enjoy this film. When it was creepy it was incredibly unsettling, and when it was funny it was very funny (with two notable exceptions). The performances are also great, McAvoy continues to be one of the best performers in every movie he’s in, all the cast from the first movie continue to be great too. The real MVP though; Bill Hader. I didn’t know he had this performance in him, he nails every aspect of the character. His jokes, his guilt, and his insecurity are played perfectly by him.

It does also feature a semi-distracting Stephen King cameo though. Although that cameo does consist of him telling a character who is clearly based on him “I like your books but your endings suck”, which made me laugh. So yeah, definitely go see this, preferably at the cinema for the best experience.

Escape Room (2019)

I love the premise of this. The idea that an escape room actually being a torture device that tests people’s wits and logical thinking? I love that! I did not love this film, mainly because they don’t seem to make to the most of the actual premise. It reminded me of Saw, and not in a good way. I insulted that series a lot, but when it was good, the storytelling was superb; when it was bad, it was just a mess. This is closer to the bad. It never gets quite as messy as the Saw movies, by which I mean in terms of how bad the storytelling of those films got, not by the gore. Although more mess in this film would improve it. It is lacking in gore. I’m not a fan of needless gore, but in a horror film, it’s kind of needed. You need some form of brutality to the physical pain to make the audience feel it. I don’t just mean “you need to see lots of blood,” but if you don’t see blood, you need to make up for it through either the performances or the sound design. Sound is an element which often goes underlooked in horror films. A lot of them know you have to use music but don’t really know how to use it effectively. Most of the time when they use music and sound it’s like this:

quiet

quiet

quiet

LOUD NOISES.

Seriously, that is at least 80% of horror films approach to sound, and it sucks. But yeah, back to the point I was making. This film could have maybe worked if it had excellent sound design, excellent performances, excellent ANYTHING really. But it’s all just so plain. Some of the rooms are pretty unique (there’s one in a bar which is a particular highlight), but that just brings me to another issue I had with it. There are multiple rooms. The point of an escape room (not the singular room, not rooms) is you’re locked into one room and there are things which don’t make sense until you see them in a new context later on. It’s about making the most of limited and confined spaces to create terror. Now THAT’S a horror movie. What this one does is constantly move from one room to another. The rooms don’t really seem to link together well in terms of spatial geography. (Seriously, I’d like to see the architectural blueprints of the building this film takes place in.) So, not only does it not really work, but it also wastes a potentially great idea. Seriously. Think about it: a horror film with multiple deaths in a closed room would be incredible because you’d have a constant reminder of the deaths. As it is, because of this, the way it changes from one room to the next, as soon as somebody dies their body disappears and is never seen again, effectively making it like a video game. If it was a singular room, then all the deaths would have a constant presence in the film, which would give you a lot more interesting shots to work with. It could be used to justify almost any stupid decision the characters make. All it would take is someone looking sadly at one of the bodies and it would justify anything as you know they’re full of fear and panic.

So, the actual rooms/puzzles themselves? They’re okay, and some are better than others. I feel this would have been better if it wasn’t done by one director. If each room had a different director, then everything would have felt truly unique. Honestly, I would have LOVED a different writer for every room, too- have them written sort of like a series, then one person comes in and makes the characters consistent between each room. Then they could have had different kinds of scares in every room. They could have one that seemed very supernatural, one that was essentially a slasher, etc. It would have made this stand out in a crowded genre. Some of the rooms are okay. As I’ve already mentioned, the bar scene stands out as a true highlight for the film in terms of aesthetic, set design (similar to aesthetic, but more how everything WORKS together, not so much how it looks), the tense nature, and the absolute GENIUS use of music. It also seemed to be the best use of lateral thinking and intelligence, much more so than in the rest of the film. (There’s a moment where a key is trapped in ice and they use their body heat to melt the ice. It’s a group which contains 4 guys, and none of them suggests pissing on the ice to melt it.) The puzzles themselves are okay, I guess. But it commits a cardinal sin for a movie dependent on people doing puzzles like this: a lot of the time the audience arrives at the conclusion WAY before the characters do. The best example of this is the second room where they have to guess a certain word. The clue is “You’ll go down in history” and there are reindeer heads mounted everywhere. It takes longer than you think it would for them to figure this out. There’s no sense of “oh! so THAT’S the answer! I never would have guessed that! That’s so smart! Colour me impressed!” It’s just “well, obviously that’s the answer.” The disappointment continues to the ending, where we find out that the reason they’re all here is that *surprise* rich people are betting on them. Sigh. I know, rich sociopaths are awful, but you know what else is awful? Formulaic endings which would have been considered bland in the ’90s. It’s a secretive group which builds a high-tech building and kills people whilst watching them from a set of cameras at all times. OF COURSE it’s rich people, and of course they’re doing it to gamble, and of course, the audience realises this about 20 minutes in.

I do feel the performances need to be pointed out though, they’re pretty good. Taylor Russell could lead a Netflix drama series easily, Logan Miller would be a great “main characters best friend” in a sitcom (or just take the roles which TJ Miller won’t get any more due to him being TJ Miller), and I want to see more of Nik Dodani. It’s also great to see Tyler Labine in more stuff, although it does make me want to watch Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil. In fact, I think I will do that, I loved that film.

So in summary, I wanted this film to be smarter and it kind of frustrates me that it’s not. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed.