29 September 2017

Top Ten: Old School Vampire Movies!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews.

This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in reverse chronological order...

Our Top Ten Old School Vampire Movies!

Please see our Foreign Horror tag for even more vamps or our Hammer lists and Women in Horror labels for yet more frightful analysis!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review

24 September 2017

Retro Wives and Witches!

Retro Wives and Witches, Oh My!
By Kristin Battestella

These eighties wedded dames and old school widows face ghosts and cult forces when not dabbling in a little something something black magic on the side themselves.

Beyond Evil – A one hundred year old ghostly possession interferes with John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and Lynda Day George's (Mission: Impossible) tropical marital bliss in this 1980 tale complete with fine villa interiors, spiral staircases, and that seventies Spanish Gothic mood. The non-English prologue is a little hokey thanks to the cheap production values – the sound is poor and the picture often too dark – and though intense, the fire ceremonies and native rituals end up mostly irrelevant before the jet setting rich white people restart provides the phantom winds, killer accidents, and help too afraid to stay in this surprisingly affordable jungle castle. The shady BFF with suspicious loans, backdoor construction, and intrusive voiceovers also undercuts the Portuguese flashback detailing the past arraigned marriage, black magic, and pacts with the devil. Let the murdered mistresses, poisons, chanting, and creaking doors speak for themselves alongside the blue haze, green smoke, sinister music, nighttime whispers, and zooms in the bedroom. The pace falters when away from the scary, and the tense is better when the no electric, falls, and dangerous pointy statues are allowed to blossom with apparitions at the dinner table, sharp knives, household accidents, and candles that light by themselves. Our husband is not a disbelieving asshole as so often seen in horror – he knows there is something wrong with his sleepless wife and suspects a shady doctor with missing medical files calling the haunting merely mental or womanly over-emotional. However, he doubts the local healer and his hocus pocus as well, and the past horrors merge with the present strain as The Mrs. is violated by the demonic spirit and used to cause fiery vehicle crashes or building accidents. Despite neon eye laser beams and sound effects that stray into a more science fiction look rather than a haunting and crypt explorations that only somewhat explain the killer powers; the fatal kisses, premonitions, bruises, and blackouts create a foreign giallo horror eerie culminating in a fun spectacle and fittingly ghoulish finale.

Macabre – It's murder and passion via New Orleans in this atmospheric 1980 Italian swanky from director Lamberto Bava. The colorful locale is part of the plot with river boats, historic architecture, street corner jazz, and romantic melodies. The lush d├ęcor is both tacky seventies with velvet curtains and tawny patinas as well as of old thanks to gilded wallpaper, candelabras, and cluttered antiques. Cigarettes, cocktails, and pearls set off the easy to slip out of satin as illicit phone calls make mom leave the kids to babysit themselves during her dalliance. Moaning and heavy panting overheard by the white knuckled blind neighbor are intercut with child terrors, bathtub horrors, shattered glass, bloody beams, and vehicular shocks before an institution stay and return to the love nest becomes suspicious self love with altars to the deceased, ghostly footsteps, and unseen phantom encounters. Through the banister filming, windows, mirrors, and similar posturing add to the naughty mother and creepy daughter duplicity while our blind virginal musical instrument repair man must listen to the saucy and toot his own horn, so to speak, as the silent awkwardness and martini music provide emotion with little dialogue. The narrative may over-rely on the score, meandering on the pathetic situation too much, but there's enough weirdness balancing the mellow thanks to the cruel temptations and nasty bedroom suggestions as white negligees become black sheers and candlelit interiors darken. The effortless jazz switches to pulsing, scary beats as some serious unexplained ghost sex, undead voodoo, or other unknown witchcraft escalates the decapitation innuendo and like mother, like daughter warped. Our blind audience avatar hides to not be seen, others unseen can sneak passed him, and we're all unable to see behind closed doors – layering the suspense, voyeurism, and two fold bizarre amid bedroom shockers, ominous tokens, overcast cemeteries, and one locked refrigerator. The saucy, nudity, and gore are adult sophisticated without being vulgar in your face tits and splatter a minute like today, and tense toppers don't have to rely on fake out scares. Granted, there are timeline fudges, some confusion, and laughable parts. It's probably obvious what's happening to most viewers, yet we're glued to the screen nonetheless with ironic puns, turnabouts, kitchen frights, and titular twists. I guess edible and sexual horrors don't mix!

Play Dead – Furs and black veils help Lily Munster herself Yvonne De Carlo raise these dated television movie designs along with organ music, classic autos, antiques, and talismans in the casket. Our Aunt Hester stirs up the funeral before sipping her cordial by the fireplace with her rottweiler Greta – who is said to be a rare breed brought special from Europe to match the lanterns, candles, potions, Latin rituals, and animal sacrifices. Kind and never said to harm anybody Greta is sent to dog obedience school before being giving as a gift to Hester's grieving niece and nephew, but their father was Hester's lover before marrying her sister and Greta is really her Murders in the Rue Morgue revenge. However, the slow motion maulings, solo dancing, and shattered mirrors are unnecessary – mere filler slowing the picture down rather than helping create atmosphere. The supposedly tender sex scene is also ridiculously slow, and poor Greta's stuck watching amid the boobs, belt buckles, steamy shower, and ritzy elevator music meets porno melody. Understandably, there's a lot of talking to the dog or oneself, but the dialogue never explains the mystical connections as Greta hitches a ride in the back seat to cause hit and runs or opens bathroom doors to drop the hot curling iron into the tub. The strobe dog scenes are perhaps by animal filming necessity, but the intercut crimes, remote spells, pulsing heartbeats, and pentagram dog tags aren't used to full sinister advantage despite unique strangulations, poisons, and kills that don't immediately incriminate the canine. It's odd then that the crusty cops do suspect the dog because the plot says so – when our no alibi, stands to inherit everything niece has count 'em six people die in her vicinity. Some of the frazzled witness questioning also drags, detracting from De Carlo with some amateur over the top and poor procedurals. Viewers can see why this 1981 release was delayed and this giving the rottweiler a bad name is not for dog lovers, yet this can be laughably bemusing if you accept it for what it is.

Witchcraft – Period torches, hoods, cackling crones, and burning at the stake mobs open this 1988 eerie before a modern birth, a stay with the mother-in-law at her 300 year old Massachusetts mansion, and a woman sitting in the front seat of the station wagon holding the baby in her arms for the trip. That was how we rolled! Indeed, the bad music, shoulder pads, and hectic visuals are Made for TV dated, but the fiery effects are well done amid lightning, windswept nightgowns, rituals in the backyard, animal sacrifices, and suspicious tea. Grandma's taking over the nursery alongside red candles, blood, dark clothing, and old phones contrasting the yuppie fashions and big hair. Cobwebs, dust, covered furniture, and a mute butler add to the foreboding while blurry, distorted camera angles reflect the hazy dreams and drugged stupor. Our husband is giving the cold shoulder and mom's off exploring, but I'd never let that kid out of sight with these mysterious house fires, bloody bandages, and good old fashioned gaslighting about what's happening. The omnipresent movie music springs up just in time for the evil visions, because of course, but the ominous mirrors, boils, and fatal retributions set off the up close cutlery and meaty chewing in one eerie dinner table scene. The bloody flashbacks, dream cop outs, and shock vignettes, however, are disjointed – there are pieces of suspicion and frights, but the plot isn't anything new in the cult wants my baby sub-genre. Despite a lot of quality individual spooky scenes, not a lot actually happens and the audience knows what's going on even if the plot is somewhat eponymous lite before rushing into a heady finale. This is fun for the cheesy midnight movie that it is, but I can't image how there are sixteen of these movies, my word!

22 September 2017

Top Ten: Modern Vampire Movies!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews. 


This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in reverse chronological order...

Our Top Ten Modern Vampire Movies!

Please see our Vampire tag for much, much more or browse our Horror page and Viewing Lists for yet more scary analysis!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review.

17 September 2017

Recent Iffy Lady Thrillers

Recent but Iffy Lady Thrillers
by Kristin Battestella

I'm not seeking bad horror and suspense. I don't really like the so bad it's good perspective either. However, it just seems like recently this genre, be it foreign or domestic, has more than its fair share of big name ladies in peril trapped inside some unimpressive thrillers.

Two Emily Blunt Questionables

The Girl on the Train – Emily Blunt stars in this 2016 adaptation opening with a specific narration on particular addresses, passenger observations, and former neighbors. Our titular lost, lonely drunk has built up a fictitious biography, living vicariously through these strangers, and the voiceover lays the idealized history on thick before changing viewpoints to the objectified fitness guru getting on her naughty and her blonde boss – who also has ties to our original voyeur. These detailed character vignettes and grass is greener parallels make it tough to tell who is the main character while the unnecessary narrations and herky jerky inebriated flashes detract from the hurt reactions, spastic mirrors, and heartbreaking therapy sessions. Testy conversations between ex-husbands or new wives show the intertwined histories and on edge fantasies better, and bitter ladies do some good old fashion social media stalking when not blacking out and waking up with mysterious injuries. Interrogations reveal the commutes to nowhere, but the too brief female detective rightfully calling out the neighborly lookalike coincidences is made a nonentity. Uneven pacing and time jumps going from six months, two years, last week, and more back and forths reset the emotional abuse and spousal possession, deflating the intersecting stories with decoy characters, red herrings, and self inserting Mary Sue meddling. The aimless, drunken film frame disservices the terse conversations and straightforward mystery, leaving hollow affairs and creepy therapist temptations falling back on how you got him is how you lose him trite that's ridiculously easy to solve. The tacked on gaslighting comes with omnipresent evidence breaking the movie's previous viewpoints while our eponymous lady has several opportunities to get herself together but instead intrudes further into the sloppy out of order revelations and disjointed plot holes. Why not go to the scene of the crime to recover your memory sooner or call the police as you race to aide another woman? Why don't the police check on the male boss of a woman after clearing her husband and lover? There are five women in this cast, yet they are all still talking about men, babies, and sex. A potentially interesting discussion on the three stages of women as the has been, the happy wife, and the unhappy lover becomes unfortunately typical in defining a woman by marriage or motherhood: the has been because she can't have kids, the happy wife who has a kid, and the unhappy lover that doesn't want any. One can tell this was written by women but directed by a man, for there should be more to the mother or whore complex – a gal must be a lover in order to be a mother after all, and it shouldn't take being a victim to bring a woman to empowerment. The irony that Blunt was pregnant while playing a barren drinker adds more dimension, for this piece forgets its own clues and under utilizes its potential as a character study on how we think we know the stranger we see every day and how we may actually know the people closest to us the least. This is a very fine ensemble and fans of the cast may enjoy the puzzle, but the taut unravels too much and Mortal Thoughts did it better.

Wind Chill – Before she really came on in the last few years, Blunt did this prerequisite 2007 coeds going home for Christmas horror movie complete with little outerwear despite the frosty Vancouver locales standing in for rural PA and a too cool for school attitude via her super old cell phone and primitive texting. There are actual bulletin boards, nerdy classmates, and a crappy old front wheel drive sedan amid the bad accents, conceited philosophies, painted toe nails, and complaints about wearing glasses. Retro holiday tunes and clock countdowns create better highway monotony as idle chit chat reveals personal information and skeptical directions. The older protagonists do have some realistic conversations, arguments, and accusations – there's no need for time wasting music montages thanks to scenic detours, spin outs, snowy roads, and luring suspicions. What's romantic surprise to one is stalkerish orchestration to another, but a nor'easter's bringing thirty degrees below numbers and our hungry pair is trapped in their shoddy car overnight with nearby cemeteries and apparitions in the storm. Bodies in the snowdrift, abandoned monasteries, and bizarre police twists have all kinds of ghostly victims stopping by this overpass! Unfortunately, the fake outs, flashbacks, need to pee, and conserving body heat winks get typical alongside “I'll be right back” resets and false rescue hopes. The don't know why this is Rated R gore is laughable rather than scary, and the melodramatic conversations over a conveniently found newspaper giving the fifties history take too many leaps for the suspension of disbelief. Not naming the characters likewise hampers personality and character development – its not could be anybody relatable disaster bonding when the generic horror players can't even call each other by name. The natural dilemma and individual suspicions are dropped long before they decide to use the telephone pole box, and this confusion over being supernatural horror or natural thriller lacks a much needed zing. Cliche what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger growth goes on too long, and it all ends up too convenient when nobody bothered to try getting the car out of the snowbank in the first place.

And Two Star Vehicles to Skip

Shut In – Widowed Maine psychologist Naomi Watts (The Ring) is trapped in a storm while being haunted by little Jacob Tremblay (Room) in this 2016 international but already problematic PG-13 paint-by-numbers crammed with the isolated blonde, ghosts, kids horrors, weather perils, and one spooky basement. Accidents and home movies on the cell phone also laden the start before the lakeside locales, snowy blankets, and paraplegic burdens. The grief and inability to care for an invalid teen is understandable, and our step-mom considers sending him to a facility. However, the frazzled woman increasingly replacing her sick son with a younger therapy patient and the creepy temptations on holding the invalid under the bath water become hollow thanks to the obligatory it was just a dream jump cuts. Unnecessary technology and time wasting glances at watches and clocks are also intrusive – the camera focuses on dialing 911 with the finger poised over the send button and intercutting person to person like a traditional phone call flows much better than up close Skype screens. Weatherman warnings and news reports as the research montage lead to flashlights outside, icy footprints, and car alarms, but again the tension falls back on textbook raccoon scares with round and round scenes outside in the snow or inside on the phone doing little. Maybe one doesn't think straight in the panic, but most of those frosty searches include shouting for a deaf mute boy who can't hear you nor answer back. The psychology is also common fluff, i.e. teens have difficulty with divorce, you don't say – Skyping Oliver Platt (Chicago Med) provides better therapy, so we know what's going to happen to his character! Besides, all the shadows in the hallway, hidden wall panels, unexplained scratches, locked doors opening by themselves, and ghostly little hands in the bedroom yet the women still end up talking about a man. Fading in and out transitions mirror the sleeping pills and drinking, but such shifts break the world immersion before the storm even hits. When the doctor says her bloodwork indicates she's being drugged, mom doesn't even care – because the twist is for the audience not the main character. Lanterns, black out attacks, and video evidence right before the power failure could be good, but random people arrive despite blocked roads and the oedipal sociopath jealously provides a dumb chase finale as the stalker conveniently sing songs “Hush Little Baby” so we know where he is when he's coming for you. Good thing that foreboding blizzard talked about the entire movie stops in time for the lakeside happy ending that apparently has no legal, medical, or parental consequences.

The Tall Man – The northwestern blue collar and downtrodden mining town rustic set the scene for disappearing children and eponymous tales in this 2012 international co-production. Cool looking credits and an obligatory driving montage interrupt the opening thirty-six hours before flashback, sputtering the story with no point of view anchoring the disjointedness. Are we following widowed nurse Jessica Biel (A Kind of Murder) or deflecting with the shady townsfolk and family secrets? Not to mention the unnecessary, cryptic voiceover waxing on some dangerous evil and terrifying legend tells rather than shows – and it's the inner monologue of a willfully mute emo teen writing down what she wants to say in a journal. Well filmed household attacks and road perils add scrapes and bruises thanks to shadowed abductors, rusty vans, and killer dogs while abandoned factory buildings, creepy infrastructure, and hidden tunnels add atmosphere. A cobwebbed chapel, fire and brimstone sermons on the radio, and spooky wooded altars seem to be going somewhere with cult or supernatural aspects, but unfortunately, they remain mere red herrings. The You Go Girl action is also convenient to free bonds, track footprints, knockout attackers, or accidentally find the bad guy's hideout. Spying on officials and town mobs lead to reverse pursuits, and the 180 degree plot twists change the movie into something entirely different to what it says on the tin. More flashbacks and narrations give explanations that don't make much sense, and the perspective should have been one side of the story or the other – not an attempting to be clever deception between the two. For that switcharoo, I'd rather follow crusty sheriff William B. Davis (The X-Files) and desperate FBI agent Stephen McHattie (Orphan Black) investigating this supposed serial killer instead of some warped elitist white woman turned self proclaimed savior giving barren ladies a bad name. Whatever message being sent here is unclear thanks to this “good” child trafficking organization spin, and the finale tacks on another voiceover questioning whether kidnapping poor children and covertly placing them in rich homes is good or bad. o_O

08 September 2017

Top Ten: Charlton Heston!

Welcome to our new Top Tens series in celebration of I Think, Therefore I Review's Tenth Anniversary! These monthly lists will highlight special themes and topics from our extensive archive of reviews.

This time I Think, Therefore I Review presents in chronological order...

Our Top Ten Charlton Heston!

Please see our Classics tag for more or our Charlton Heston label for yet more old school analysis!

I Think, Therefore I Review began as the blog home for previously published reviews and reprinted critiques by horror author Kristin Battestella. Naturally older articles linked here may be out of date and codes or formatting may be broken. Please excuse any errors and remember our Top Tens will generally only include films, shows, books, or music previously reviewed at I Think, Therefore I Review