Film

Slender Man Movie Review: False Advertising & Wasted Potential

slender-man-main_81f1bbbcf8The newest “Slender Man” (2018) movie was released last night. I don’t normally write reviews unless I feel inspired to do so. Sometimes this is a good thing. In this case, it wasn’t. I have been fascinated by the Slenderman (Slender Man?) phenomenon for quite a while. I’m not even talking about the subsequent crimes that took place by mentally ill teenagers. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of how legends can be created so quickly and go viral thanks to the innovation of the internet.

One of my side jobs is being a writer for TheRichest. I had the awesome chance to write a script about Slenderman before the new movie came out. You can check it out here. I recommend watching this before or after you see the movie, because frankly, the real story is more interesting than what the movie portrayed:

Now that we’re on the same page, here are my thoughts on the new “Slender Man” movie.

It was a huge disappointment. It had amazing source material to draw from, and it failed on epic levels. If you don’t want spoilers, then I recommend you stop reading now.

My first major issue with it was the movie dragged. There wasn’t a lot of meat to this movie at all, and it seemed like the writers didn’t have a lot to work with. The result was every mediocre action was dragged out much longer than it should have. There were moments where the pace picked up, usually with when SM made an appearance or attacked, which didn’t happen often. The movie felt like 3 hours when it was about an hour and thirty minutes.

My second issue is how the world was built. It started okay, but then it went downhill from there. First off, you summon Slender Man by watching a video on the Internet. Once I saw this, I immediately thought of “The Ring”, but this concept wasn’t as well executed. But an online video? Sure. I suppose one could argue that since SM was born from the internet, then it would make sense. But, there is a plot hole that derails this theory later on in the movie. One of the characters, named Wren, goes to the library to do more research on SM and finds that his origins and child-stealing activities could even date back to him being the Pied Piper. If you can only summon SM from an online video, how does that explain his child-stealing activities before we had the internet?

After the first girl , Katie, disappeared, there was some scratching the surface on potentially having the father involved, or at least aware of some occult activities. But that is never revisited again.

The mystery girl who the characters chatted with online was never fully explored besides a follow-up news article that she went nuts. How did she know so much about SM? Was her mind being controlled by SM? Why didn’t the character speak to her more since she was so knowledgeable? Another plot hole that wasn’t further explored.

The biggest thing that bothered me was that the main character were incredibly whiny and weak. When Katie first disappears, all they can question is whether it was SM. At first, they are proactive in trying to find their friend as they deal with their own nightmares and hallucinations. Then, that drive wanes off for two of the characters. When Wren tries to do more research, she comes across a theory that SM is bioelectric, and he is using that bioelectric energy to break down the minds of his victim. Again, this was interesting, but once again, unexplored. There was no attempt to really try to STOP Slenderman from his ghastly agenda. Hallie (with the last name Knudsen in honor of the creator of SM, Eric Knudsen/Victor Surge), doesn’t seemed to be bothered trying to figure out what’s going on despite having her own SM sightings. All the while denying things were going on and trying to explain everything. If her sightings were trivial and debunkable in the movie, that would be one thing, but she was having full-out sightings and intense nightmares. And yet, that didn’t drive her to do more? Her love interest, Tom, also ends up watching the video. All we see is that he’s shaken up coming into class sometime after with bruises on his arm. Again, this plot point is not revisited.

Given that Slenderman has no real canon besides what people on the internet have conjured up, this movie had the potential to bring something new and fresh to the legend. Unfortunately, this fell incredibly short. As mentioned in my video, it would have been cool to explore the idea that is was US who created Slenderman through collective thought. Then, the girls go into this whole thing of trying to get people to STOP thinking about Slenderman, which of course, would never happen. It seemed that the girls were doomed from the beginning because they didn’t do anything to try to stop him. The movie dragged on and on with questions on what SM was, their boring nightmares, and trying to brush it off as if it were nothing.

There was also no violent crimes mentioned or even performed in this movie. I assume it was for the respect and sensitivity to the crimes that Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser committed in 2014. There were a few other SM crimes that year as well. However, the movie could have done something…like a desperate attempt by one of the girls to try to save herself?

Why do I have “false advertising” in the title of the review? Let’s get into that.

Also, if we look at the original trailer, there were plot points brought up in the trailer that didn’t make the cut in the movie:

The part where Chloe stabs herself in the eye doesn’t make the cut. Instead, she gets visited and choked by Slender Man and becomes catatonic. The girl writing, “Can you see him?” seems to be the mystery chatter from the beginning of the film. But this is a scene we never see. Also, we never see a girl walking out of the woods, to be greeted by police cars. It looks like the mystery chatter again. AGAIN. Why wasn’t this plot point explored? We also never see the guy taking his own life by jumping off the roof. It looks like they had planned for maybe a more violent movie and then postponed the release from May to August to completely change the movie? It would make sense as to why we got this final product. However, the movie that the official trailer sold to us was not the final product that we received in the theater.

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See this scene? You won’t see it in the movie.

At the end, SM is the winning champion of the movie, as the girls (predictably) falter and join him in the other world. The most interesting part of the movie is the last 10 minutes. But even the last shot of the movie was mediocre and boring as it showed a school hallway. It definitely left you feeling a void of wasting 90 minutes of your life on wasted potential.

“Lights Out” 2016 Review: Scares & Mental Illness

Tonight, I had the pleasure of seeing the movie, “Lights Out.” I’ve been a horror movie buff since I was a kid. I love scary movies, especially paranormal ones about ghosts, demons, and other creatures that go bump in the night. I do like the slasher movies as well, but paranormal suspense has a special place in my heart.

I became a HUGE fan of director David Sandberg back in 2013 when he released the short film, “Lights Out – Who’s There”, which starred his wife, Lotta Losten. While the film was only 3 minutes, it was enough to scare the bejesus out of me and dread touching the light switch. The short caught the attention of James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring 1 & 2, Insidious), who ended up producing the movie.

If you’re not familiar with the short film, take a (literal) few minutes and watch it here:

Lights Out – Who’s There Film Challenge (2013) from David F. Sandberg on Vimeo.

Now let’s talk about the movie. The premise of the movie is that adults can have imaginary friends too. I didn’t realize how much this added to the creep factor until seeing the movie. If anything, the movie shows that adults can be more destructive than children when it comes to those sinister friends that [we think] no else can see.

I don’t want to give away spoilers, but I also thought how the movie touched on mental illness was handled with care, and also presented a forewarning. That forewarning is that the more we dwell on our condition, stop taking medication, shut out those who love us, and ignore the fact that there’s a problem, will cause one to descend into a downward spiral of losing the battle to that illness. That hit me personally, as I struggle immensely with depression and anxiety, and will often stew in my own negativity regardless of whose around me. I haven’t reached the point where I was forcing those around me to accept this as is like Sophie (played by Maria Bello), but there is a hard lesson learned. I was impressed with Teresa Palmer’s performance, and Alexander DiPersia was not only pretty to look at but played the concerned and protective “boyfriend” very well. The standout for me was little Gabriel Bateman who played Martin, and pretty much would reflect my actions should I ever be in a similar situation. Flashlights and candles…and lots of them!

These lessons aside, the movie was great for scares. I jumped several times throughout the movie and found myself saying “Aw heck no” to myself during the even scarier parts. The script is simple, the movie is a little short, and the characters are few. But this makes for a fairly solid horror film as it cuts right to the chase and focuses on the meat of the story rather than embellish it with the bones. It was also cool to see Lotta Losten make her cameo at the beginning of the movie.

In closing, the movie is worth the price of the ticket, and a night or two of sleeping with the lights on.

Ghostbusters 2016: My Review

It seems that my thoughts on the latest “Ghostbusters” movie has been waited on with bated breath! I will also say that this is one of the rare times that I have made an effort to see a movie on opening weekend. I did this mainly for the fact that I didn’t want to wait to see the movie, and the two “Ghostbusters” movies are my absolute favorites. In other words, I’m a “Ghostbusters” fan girl. Yes, I’m a paranormal investigator and I love “Ghostbusters.”

First, are any of the “Ghostbusters” movies true to actual paranormal investigating? Of course not. There are a few nods to the actual practice of ghost hunting, but it’s an exaggerated portrayal to what we actually do. No, there are no proton packs. No, we can’t actually contain a real ghost. No, we don’t have the uniforms. We have t-shirts, but not the suits.

"Ghostbusters" 2016 - Columbia Pictures

“Ghostbusters” 2016 – Columbia Pictures

Okay, now that we have that out-of-the-way, I want to say this: THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME! When it was first announced that there would be a reboot of the classic movie with an all-female Ghostbusters team, there was massive skepticism. I will admit that I was uneasy about the idea. After I saw the trailer, which featured a lot of slapstick comedy, I became a little more excited, but I was still worried that the movie wouldn’t meet my expectations. Already, women in the paranormal field have a really hard time, and female-driven movies have a hard time in the entertainment industry as it is.

Let me tell you that this movie is fantastic. While it is a reboot, it is unique all on its own. There are cameos from the original “Ghostbusters” cast, and there are enough nods to the original that satisfied my inner fan girl. I got a little choked up seeing Egon’s cameo, but I won’t spoil it for anyone. It was refreshing to see Melissa McCarthy in this strong lead, as well as see Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones. But the standout star to me was Kate McKinnon, who was the perfect blend of Egon and Venkman. I can’t forget Chris Hemsworth as the HILARIOUS receptionist who isn’t the brightest crayon in the box, but he is so adorable and endearing that you can’t help but love him.

In other words, go see this movie! It is worth your ticket price and your time. Whether you like the paranormal or not, you will be entertained and talking about the movie long after you come home from the theater.

Also, make sure you stay through to the end of the credits. There is an end credits scene that will make any longtime Ghostbusters fan squeal with delight!

What did you think of the movie? Let me know in the comments and vote in the poll!

My Review of “Annabelle”

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On Wednesday night, I had the chance to see a special preview of Annabelle before it opened this weekend. I sat on the idea of whether to write a review of the movie or not, and while it’s Sunday, I decided to just do it. It’s going to be short, especially since there are numerous people out there who don’t like spoilers, so I’ll give my initial thoughts. Keep in mind that I’m not a film critic.

If you’re looking for accuracy in terms of the real story of Annabelle, you best look elsewhere. Before even walking into the movie, you have to accept that this is a “Hollywood” film, so there will be embellishments, overly dramatized actions, and more. If you approach this as a fiction film, then you’ll probably enjoy it more.

On that note, you can probably tell that I walked into the movie with really low expectations, which might be why I didn’t hate the movie. In fact, I actually liked it.

In the “prologue” of the film, we get a glimpse of two nurses and a man being interviewed by who we assume is Ed and Lorraine Warren about the doll. Then there’s a quick cutaway to “One year earlier…” (and the poor girl next to me read it as “One year later” and proceeded to be really confused the rest of the movie).

The real Annabelle doll at the Warrens' museum in Connecticut

The real Annabelle doll at the Warrens’ museum in Connecticut

In terms of plot, even though the movie’s start was a bit slow, it quickly accelerated as the premise of WHY the doll became possessed or haunted in the first place was established. The movie starred (ironically) Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton as a young couple expecting their first child, named Mia and John. Well, John (Horton) gifts the creepy doll to Mia. Even before the doll becomes possessed and evil, it is a creepy doll and makes you wonder why Mia wanted it in the first place, but it turns out the doll is a rare collector’s item that is part of a collection. While still a bit unbelievable when Mia called the doll “beautiful”, the sense of realism as to why the doll was there to begin with kind of makes sense.

Of course with any horror film, there are jump moments and plot twists just for the sake of shock value, along with moments where people were literally yelling at the screen to tell the characters to turn back or not go into the creepy basement. But as the film closed out, I was actually moved to near tears as one of the characters makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring peace to the young family and their baby. The movie also ends with a full circle with the interview in the very beginning with a blurb about the doll’s current whereabouts.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie and recommended my friends who are horror fans and/or into the paranormal to see it.

If you go in with the assumption that this sequel/prequel to “The Conjuring” is going to be an exaggeration of the real Annabelle story and understand that it’s just Hollywood, you might enjoy it. If you’re new to the whole thing and don’t know the story of Annabelle, you best check it out and learn where the story came from. I imagine that the movie will help drive interest in the Warrens and Annabelle, and more people than ever will want to see the doll.

Buffy Film vs. Buffy TV

After being an avid viewer of the television series in my high school days, I was excited to venture into this project of comparing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in it’s two very different elements of the television series and the film.  The show’s creator, Joss Whedon, wrote the film.  But Whedon was not pleased with television producers making changes to the movie.  Whedon originally wanted the film to have the darker and more dramatic element (that we see now in the series) and it was turned into a film with over the top acting and outrageous effects and comedy.  There are notable differences between the film and the series, such as costumes, the character of Buffy and overall theme and feel of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.

In the film, the vampires are pale, have pointy ears and have fangs.  They still look human, and they don’t have a reflection.  They fit more into the stereotypical look of a vampire from a cartoon.  In the series, the vampires change their faces when they get ready to fight and/or feed and look very demonic.  In the film, Merrick (the Watcher) is dressed in a trench coat and hat and would stand out in a crowd based on his outfit.  It’s very detective looking.  In the series, besides being British, Giles would blend into a crowd and doesn’t make much of a stir among other people and playing the role of a school librarian.

The character of Buffy differs as well.  Movie Buffy has skills in gymnastics and has really corny catch phrases that she says throughout the film.  TV Buffy is shown to have extraordinary strength.  Also, in the series, Buffy’s identity is known throughout the vampire community and she is trying to hide from being discovered.  It is already a known fact of who Buffy is and thus, they tend to avoid her.  But in the film, Merrick warns Buffy to keep her identity a secret in order to protect herself because the vampires will track her down.  In the film, there is also a note of the “mark of the slayer”, where it is not mentioned in the series.  Movie Buffy also experiences pain, or something similar to cramps when there is a vampire around her.  In the series, Buffy seems to have an intuition of who is undead and who isn’t.  In the film, Buffy is a senior in high school and in the series, Buffy is a freshman in high school.  The series mention the burning down of the gym at Hemery High School, but in the actual film, the gym is not seen being burnt down but instead filled with vampires.

Overall, besides having the same writer, the film and the television series are two completely different entities.  Joss Whedon was disappointed with the film and the way it turned out.  His vision for Buffy was better seen in his development of the television series, which took off five years later after the film came out.  Whedon was able to bring his true vision of Buffy to the public and it became a huge success, while the original film still collects dust in our movie shelves.

My Thoughts on Julie Taymor’s The Tempest

I got a late Christmas gift.  After missing out on seeing Julie Taymor’s The Tempest due to an extremely limited theatrical release, a dear friend of mine gifted the DVD for me for Christmas.  The anticipation of seeing this film has been building for well over a year now.  I enjoy film adaptations of Shakespeare because there are so many possibilities for the text to change and come alive on the screen.  And now with the latest technology breakthroughs of visual effects, the possibilities are endless.  When I first got wind of the Taymor’s film adaptation, I was excited.  When I found out that Prospero, typically a strong male role, would be changed to Proserpa, a female role, I was thrilled.  And then, when I got confirmation that Helen Mirren would be playing Prospera, I was ecstatic.  I had been in a performance of The Tempest where Prospero was played by a woman and therefore, always open to the idea.  I realize that there are many qualms regarding this, but what I advise is that one should remain open to the change.  Love it or hate it, but always give it a chance.  You may be surprised at what you may end up liking it and perhaps even fascinated at the newfound ideas and messages it may convey.

Shakespeare is a topic that I care about intensely.  I don’t watch adaptations just once.  My private process, as nerdy and presumptuous as it may come across, includes watching the film once with no play in hand and a very basic understanding of the idea and concept behind the film.  Then, I’ll take note of my initial reactions and questions, and with that in mind, I will look up any articles or documentaries discussing the process in further details (how, what, why, when).  Then, I will consult the original script if there’s any dramatic changes that stand out.  Then I will watch the film again with the play in hand, and making more detailed notes.  Hey, I figure if I ever do an adaptation of Shakespeare and I need to cut something, it’s not a bad idea to see what others have done.  Then I will watch the film with commentary, take notes again.  And finally, I will watch the film after all the extra little details and knowledge in hand and just enjoy the film and reap the benefits of all that extra research I’ve done.  I know.  I’m a nerd.  And believe it or not, what I do just skims the surface.  I could go into the background of certain acting styles and processes, design elements, etc.  By the way, this blog will be filled with many spoilers.  If you read something and I…spoiled…it for you, read at your own risk.

I completed my first viewing with mostly positive reactions.  The set of the film was a beautiful combination of nature and man-made imagery.  Miranda ran through about four different types of ground (rock, grass, sand, dirt).  It was stunning.  Now, the first thing that stood out to me was the editing of the text.  Of course, with Mirren playing Prospera, the changes are necessary, (ie. Lord to Mum, he to she).  But “Master” stays just that….Master.  Mistress wouldn’t be an appropriate change anyway, even though the syllable would keep the line consistent and the gender change would imply that the line has to change.  Taymor took an extra step and embellished the back story to be more appropriate and I applaud her for making the back story better fit the context of her adaptation.  Prospera was married to the Duke of Milan and she studied the sciences and the art of magic.  When her husband died, he left his dukedom to his wife, and Antonio accused her of witchcraft.  Hence to Prospera beign disposed of.  Gonzalo’s aide remains consistent.  This change to the back story adds another layer to The Tempest.  Not to mention that this presents a threat to her gender and not just her as a human being.  Throughout the film, Mirren is in pants, and it isn’t until she faces Antonio, Sebastian, Alonso, and Gonzalo, is she back in a dress and remains in that dress.  Also another notable change was the cut of Iris, Ceres and Juno.  That is alright though.  It was never one of my favorite scenes.  Not to mention the rearranging of dialogue had me raise an eyebrow a tad.  Finally, the cut of Prospera’s final speech almost had me in outrage and the feeling of being robbed.  However, I needed to calm down because in this film adaptation, I can understand why Taymor didn’t have Mirren deliver the speech.  It wouldn’t have fit, in my humble opinion.  As I watch the books float in the water during the final credits, I began to notice that the singer was singing the final speech.  Taymor found a way to sneak it in.  Interesting.  This is not the only time a speech was turned into a song.  Ferdinand’s speech was turned into a song, appropriately called, “O Mistress Mine”.

There were several actors who stood out to me.  Helen Mirren was fantastic as she always is.  I wish I could say more, but I enjoyed her Prospera and the underlying rage she kept inside and the softening of her character in the end.  It was brilliant.  The next actor that stood out to me was Ariel, played by Ben Wishaw.  It was a brand new and thoughtful perspective of Ariel that I had never seen before.  Ariel is often played playful with a side of anguish for his (or her) freedom.  Wishaw took on a tormented Ariel, with stunning visual effects.  Taymor was inspired by Brian Oglesbee, who is a photographer who worked on a water series and she brought him in to help with the film.  The dialogue between Ariel and Prospera through the water is visually fantastic.  There was a beautiful moment between Prospera and Ariel where Taymore let Ariel become physically manifested in act V, scene I.

And finally, Djimon Hounsou.  Where do I even begin?  His performance of Caliban moved me to tears.  I’ve never sympathized much for Caliban and I’ve never really enjoyed certain performances where Caliban’s humanity was taken away and replace by a stereotypical monster.  The Caliban in my mind was very much human, with human emotions.  Hounsou brought my dream Caliban to life.  If nothing else gets you to see this film, watch it for Hounsou.  I suppose I should address Russell Brand’s performance as Trinculo.  He was great, and the role suits him.  Alan Cumming was…well…Alan Cumming.  I admire Cumming’s work and I always enjoy him on screen.

Overall, I recommend this film to pretty much anyone.  The delivery of the dialogue is especially well done and easy to understand (in my opinion though).  I believe open-minded Shakespeare buffs will enjoy this film, while the purist Shakespeare buffs won’t enjoy it quite as much, I hope I’m wrong.  It’s an interesting adaption well-worth watching and enjoying.  The Tempest was Shakespeare’s final masterpiece and in a way, this play sums up all of his works and bids farewell to his audience with Prospero’s final speech.  Elements of Taymor’s previous 1986 stage production (which used some fantastic puppetry) lived on in this film and she has wonderful ideas.   I believe this film was not only well done, but it did this play justice.

Trailer: