Day 17 & 18: Weekend Roundup

31 Days in October, 31 Horror Films – 2015

Day 17: The Visit, Tales of Halloween

The Visit (2015)

The Visit posterI can’t figure out why this movie didn’t work but I think it has something to do with the same problem Burnt Offerings had. If you rely on a trick ending you end up limiting the total narrative, regardless of how much texture the narrative has going for it. M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t gotten over his obsession with twist endings and it has condemned his growth as an artist. In the case of The Visit, the twist ending is laughably predicable and the least interesting aspect of the movie.

Shyamalan’s strongest theme is redemption. He fits it into every single one of his films whether it belongs there or not. In the case of The Visit it truly didn’t belong. It was an act of indulgence to try and combine a superficial horror film cliche with a story about sorting out forgiveness in the midst of an intergenerational grudge. I think the latter was the story he really wanted to tell.

What’s troubling about this film is how difficult it is to write off. There are some fantastic ideas here. I wish Shyamalan would just make a straight melodrama already and dispense with the tricky tricks. The three main characters in this film are fully fleshed out (the mother and the two siblings) and they each hit the main plot points of their narrative arcs dutifully (though some are a bit manhandled). The monologue spotlights each one of them has are poignant and well acted (I LOVE Kathryn Hahn) if totally misplaced. Finally, the tension which comes from youth’s experience with old bodies is fertile grounds for exploration, particularly in a horror film… we’ll have to wait for one.

It is such a shame. Shyamalan is terrific with actors (the sequence underneath the house shows his insight and sensitivity to the human body) and he really can write efficient narratives. The concept of this fairy tale horror film was truly inspired. I really hope it isn’t the case, but at this point we have to consider the possibility that he just has bad taste. I mean take the CRINGE inducing rap at the end of the film as evidence. Shudder.

 

Tales of Halloween (2015)

 “So a mediocre mind can never be in revolt; it can only move from one conditioned state to another…” – J. KrishnamurtiTales-of-Halloween-Poster

Sigh… and so it goes with this latest anthology of horror shorts. I love short film. The ABCs of Death and V/H/S franchises have given us a lot more diamonds than coal. Even Trick ‘r Treat had a few solid stories to offer despite its rough terrain. Sadly, “Grim Grinning Ghost” directed by Axelle Carolyn, the only entry of the 10 shorts offered in this collection worth any time, is cut short before it can find anything interesting to say. The rest is vapid, amateurish filmmaking about vapid, amateurish horrors. The tone in some of these shorts was so awful I felt embarrassed while watching (“The Night Billy Raised Hell” was particularly unsuccessful).

I’m not surprised the film was produced by a collective of LA filmmakers. It reeked of that superficial disconnect from authenticity so unique to Los Angeles culture.

 

Day 18: Hellraiser: Inferno

Hellraiser Inferno posterHellraiser: Inferno (2000)

Here’s a twist worthy of an M. Night Shyamalan film: the fifth installment to the Hellraiser franchise is pretty good! I guess after the last film there really was nowhere to go but up.

It was a first feature film effort by Scott Derrickson, who is now hella famous because of Sinister and the upcoming Dr. Strange film, and it went straight to video, but you can detect seeds of his future success scattered throughout this humble entry. The sound design is surprisingly skilled, the acting by TRAGICALLY UNDERRATED Craig Sheffer is concise, and the script is pleasantly engaging, though not really in tune with the franchise per say. I wouldn’t be surprised if the script was completely unrelated to the Hellraiser movies and repackaged during development.

I was expecting a slog so maybe my enthusiasm for this movie is tempered by my very low expectations. It is also possible I’m reading the film differently knowing the fate of its director. [SPOILER] Regardless, I enjoyed the film because it pulled off what so very few films can: a dark ending for a disreputable main character that feels both inevitable and satisfying without feeling dull. [ALL FINISHED WITH THE SPOILERS]

This entry was so encouraging that I have a renewed sense of optimism that I’ll be able to finish watching the rest of the movies. Four more remaining.

By the way, this trailer is so cheesy and I love it (that “nooooo!” at the end) but don’t equate any of its tone for the way the movie actually feels.

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