Home Video Round-Up 10/11/2022 (Halloween Edition)

Hatching (10/2/2022)

I was certainly intrigued by the trailers for the film Hatching, a Finnish import being distributed by IFC Midnight, but never made my way to the theaters during its rather brief release window.  The film is set in the suburbs and follows a preteen girl who’s training to be a gymnast while being raised by a rather forceful mother who runs a mommy blog and is basically doing everything in her power to foster the image of having the perfect family.  One night the kid finds a mysterious egg and brings it home only to see it grow in size and hatch out a very gross looking bird monster that oddly seems to be taking on features of the child.  It’s not too hard to glean what the film’s message is: it’s a metaphor for the pressure this kid is under and the way her mother is trying to turn her into something she isn’t and it also invokes eating disorders in various ways.  On paper that’s all an interesting premise, and the film also sports some very cool looking practical and makeup effects, but I’m not entirely sure that director Hanna Bergholm quite displays a mastery of the language of horror.  She shoots the whole film under very soft light, almost like that of a sitcom, which I think is meant to play into the fact that the mother is trying to make her family seem picture perfect but it’s kind of a choice that sacrifices atmosphere in favor of theme and it may have been to the movie’s detriment.  I also feel like this could have benefited from slow-playing some of its ideas a bit more.  I certainly expected it to marinate this idea of a mysterious egg growing larger for longer than it did but the thing went and hatched in the film’s first third, which maybe didn’t allow things to build as much as they could have.  An interesting genre exercise to be sure, but definitely not one for the ages.
*** out of Five

Mad God (10/4/2022)

If you watched the Disney+ documentary “Light and Magic” that came out earlier this year you likely learned about a guy named Phil Tippett, an OG practical effects guy who’s done the VFX on the original Star Wars trilogy, Robocop, and Jurassic Park for which he had the hilarious credited role of “Dinosaur supervisor.”  He still does effects work today but I get the impression from the documentary that technology kind of passed him by when CGI became the main medium for visual effects and while he’s still respected as an elder statesman in effects he’s not at the forefront of the craft anymore.  He has apparently been keeping himself busy though as he’s just made his feature length theatrical directorial debut with the gory, largely dialogue free, and aggressively surreal stop motion animated film Mad God, which he’s apparently been working on for decades.  The film is set in some sort of fantasy hellscape populated by fantastical monsters and general nightmarishness and follows an unnamed protagonist into this hell with an not entirely clear mission.  Really talking about this in terms of “story” misses the point as it plays out less like a character driven story than like “Dante’s Inferno” meets Eraserhead and some of the trippier Tool music videos.  It’s not exactly a horror movie because it isn’t really going for “scares” at all, but it’s certainly set in this dark and hellish world that will appeal to genre fans and the imagery can certainly be called “horrific.”  I don’t know that there’s really much of a meaning to be found at the heart of all this, it’s really more just a bunch dark imagery for the sake of dark imagery, but it’s a ride worth taking if you’re into that sort of thing.
***1/2 out of Five

Studio 666 (10/6/2022)

When I first heard about Studio 666, a horror movie starring the rock band The Foo Fighters, I was confused.  A movie starring any rock band in this day in age is an oddity in and of itself, but I guess it’s trying to harken back to movies like A Hard Days Night, Rock n’ Roll High School, or (perhaps most pertinently) Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park.  I suppose there’s some fun to be had with a horror movie starring a band if handled just right but, why the Foo Fighters?  Dave Grohl has dabbled with the devil music in the occasional side project but for the most part I think of Foo Fighters as a pretty down to earth alt rock band who write traditional rock songs about monkey wrenches and learning to fly, they’ve never really struck me as been horror movie fans.  But here they are starring in this at times very gory horror movie in which the band, playing versions of themselves, find themselves trying to cut an album at a haunted recording studio where murderous things start happening.  Again, why The Foo Fighters?  My initial thesis was that this was written for some sort of actual metal band to star in but they either said no or were determined not to have enough marquee value to sell a movie and were replaced.  But Grohl has a “story by” credit so that theory doesn’t really pan out.  Another problem that arises when casting the Foo Fighters in a horror movie is that no one gives the slightest fuck about any members of the Foo Fighters who aren’t named Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, or maybe Pat Smear if they know their punk rock history.  I question if even the head of their fanclub knows their keyboard player by name and frankly their performances here do not really make much of an argument that they should be better known.  Having said all that this thing does kind of come close to working.  It certainly has at least a slightly comedic tone, which is good because any attempts to make this movie legitimately scary would not have worked, but in a lot of ways I feel like this should have gone for an even campier tone than it does and while I’m certainly no prude about violence in horror movies I think some of the bloodshed here (even if it kind of comical) still feels out of place.  I don’t know, it’s a movie that feels like it could have been something pretty fun if just a couple better decisions were made but as it stands it feels like a tonal mismatch with a rock band at the center which doesn’t fit.
**1/2 out of Five

Watcher (10/9/2022)

Watcher is a movie that’s quietly gotten decent marks among 2022 horror movies, though seeing it I think it’s really more of a thriller than a horror movie and as thrillers go it’s not even really all that thrilling.  The film is set in Romania and concerns an American woman who has moved there along with her boyfriend, who’s gotten a job there and speaks the language, but is also an expat.  Alone in her apartment for much of the days this woman starts to notice a man in the apartment complex across the street who seems to be staring down at her a lot and she begins to worry he may be a dangerous stalker.  So, we’ve got a film about voyeurism, which isn’t exactly a new or unique theme.  Looked at charitably these could be viewed as something of a subversion of Rear Window in which it’s the dangerous one who’s doing the peeping tom routine, but that would require this movie to be a lot more interesting than it is.  For the most part the first 80 minutes or so is just warmed over Rosemary’s Baby justified paranoia followed by about fifteen minutes of things actually happening, and the things actually happening aren’t really interesting enough to justify the whole endeavor.  Add to that the film’s rather drab cinematography and bland characters and you’re left with a not very impressive movie.
** out of Five

Day Shift(10/11/2022)

This week in “expensive looking movies that Netflix didn’t bother to promote” we look at Day Shift, a vampire hunting themed action comedy starring Hollywood A-lister Jamie Foxx.  In the film Foxx plays a working class vampire hunter living in a world where the public seemingly doesn’t know that vampires walk among them but there’s a pretty widespread underground career in hunting the bloodsuckers, but the “industry” is dominated by a Vampire Hunter’s Union and the Foxx character has been kicked out of that union because of reckless behavior and he’s now down on his luck because they pay the highest price for bounties.  His ex-wife is on the verge of moving away with his daughter if he can’t scrounge up enough money for her next year of tuition, so he needs to make a big score, but little does he know he’s invoked the wrath of a very powerful vampire who will shortly be seeking him out for revenge.  This movie is set in Los Angeles, a fact it will remind you of numerous times over the course of its runtime.  It opens to 2pac’s “California Love,” dozens of L.A. neighborhoods are namechecked, and Snoop Dogg has a part in it and in one scene looks at the camera and says “I love L.A.”  Did I mention that this takes place in L.A.?  I also suspect that this business with Foxx having to deal with the bureaucrats at the Vampire Hunter’s Union is some sort of elaborate metaphor for dealing with some of the Hollywood unions like the WGA, DGA, or SAG because it seems to be geared towards freelancers and just doesn’t function the way unions in normal industries do.  So, the film seems to be a touch self-indulgent on the parts of its makers and isn’t losing sleep over being able to “play in Peoria” in terms of references, but that certainly isn’t to say it’s a particularly sophisticated piece of work.

The film does a pretty good job of inventing a world of vampires and vampire exterminators, but it’s also kind of inconsistent about its own rules and doesn’t really fully explore several rules it sets and is never quite sure exactly how silly it wants to be.  It’s biggest problem is probably that the Jamie Foxx character is fairly bland and the film does not make him as sympathetic as it thinks it is.  Way too many movies these days think they can make their protagonists instantly likeable just by giving them kids who they ostensibly love regardless of how much they seem to be putting said kids in danger.  I also did not leave the film thinking the Vampire Hunter’s Union was incorrect for kicking him out as he does indeed seem like a pretty reckless dick during his hunts even after being given “one last chance” which he mostly seems to squander exhibiting all the same frowned upon behaviors.  The film also introduces a union representative played by Dave Franco, who’s a pretty over the top wimp in the film, and there’s supposed to be a bit of a buddy cop dynamic there but I’m not sure the movie ever quite dedicates itself to making that work.  On the bright side, some of the action scenes here are impressive.  They certainly aren’t the best of the best, but they do some clever stuff with the concept and are pretty solid for the budget level.  That obviously goes a long way in an action comedy and between them and some of the more clever aspects of the concept this was enough fun to be worth my time, especially as a Netflix movie.
*** out of Five

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