Saturday, May 18, 2019


Hereditary (2018)

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A woman (Toni Collette) seems to be haunted by the ghost of her mother following her death. Or is she just succumbing to the mental illness that apparently runs in her family? Either way, things are strained with her husband (Gabriel Byrne) and two children (Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro). This is basically the prototype example of "grieving mom horror", which should be a recognized sub-genre if it isn't already.


  • The dialogue is really good - from a scene of students clumsily answering questions about the themes of (I think) Women of Trachis, to the multiple passive aggressive every day interactions between Toni Collette and everybody else in the movie, the writing is incredibly realistic while also conveying a lot of information about the characters (+2)
  • Toni Collette is absolutely fucking great in this movie. Her grief and her anger are palpable. I sometimes like to complain about "slow burn" horror because a lot of the time it sacrifices character for mood. I don't like spending a lot of time with a poorly developed or uninteresting character on top of nothing really happening. This movie doesn't do that - Toni Collette's performance is so engrossing that the drama of the movie is fascinating even when there isn't much horror stuff happening (+2)
  • The other lead actors in the movie are also great - their fear, anxiety, frustration, is really well evoked (+1)
  • Not only is Toni Collette's acting mind-blowing, her character is also really interesting. Information is revealed slowly but it's like her backstory keeps getting more and more fucked up throughout the movie but it never seems like overkill (+1)
  • The dysfunction of the family is uncomfortably realistic, from the ineffective father, to the kind of dingus son, to the slightly scary daughter. (+2)
  • The movie goes in some... surprising directions. I won't say any more about it except that I was shook on no less than two occasions (+1)
  • So many decapitations. Even a pigeon gets decapitated. (+1)
  • The house they live in is really pretty. One of my favourite things about ghost/haunted house movies is the houses, man, they sure are great (+1)
  • Ants (+1)
  • Seances in movies really freak me out, probably because there are ghosts involved and I'm irrationally afraid of ghosts. It's weird because I would be totally okay with doing a seance in real life - in my rational daytime brain I understand that ghosts won't actually get me if I do a seance, but in my nighttime movie-watching brain, I am filled with fear (+1)
  • Overall, the movie is effectively creepy - it has approximately zero jumpscares and it's still scary as shit (+2)
  • And there's sort of a happy ending so that's cool (+1)
Total: +16

  • One of my personal pet peeves is the use of mental illness to explain scary shit in horror movies, especially dissociative identity disorder, a disorder that's very often grossly misrepresented in media leading to fear and apprehension towards people who actually have it. On the other hand the movie implies pretty heavily that the central family is not, in fact, suffering from mental illness at all, and maybe they were just diagnosed with certain disorders because nobody knew what to do with them. I'm going to split the difference with a half point. (-0.5)
  • How come people in these movies never seem to have regular jobs? Toni Collette's character is an artist who makes really fancy dollhouses or dioramas or something. Gabriel Byrne does fuck knows what. Just once I want to see a sublime horror film where the main character is like "can't deal with demons today, I'm late for my shift at Burger King" (-1)
  • Nearly every single shot in the movie is perfectly symmetrical. Like, there's a doorway or a person or a telephone pole or whatever right dead centre of the shot. I'm sure given the tone of the movie that that has some symbolic relevance but it was visually monotonous. (-1)
  • Similarly, approximately half of the scene transitions are crossfades which is wholly unnecessary (-1)
  • There's a dog in the movie that shows up in like two scenes and then disappears for the rest of the time. Where is the dog? What happened to the dog? Why isn't the dog there? Also I think the dog died because there's what looks like a dead dog in one shot but it's sort of hard to see but I'm deducting partial points for possible dogslaughter (-1.5)
  • I don't understand how people in horror movies can just walk around their houses with all the lights off. There's one part where some weird shit has gone down and the son wakes up all alone, and he's scared, so he starts walking around the house in the dark. Man, I turned every light in my house on as soon as this movie finished and I have the awareness that this was just a movie (-1) 
  • Honestly, I wanted to nitpick this movie more but all of the shitty loose threads I had jotted down got resolved in the end, everything that seemed out of place was there for a reason, and what seemed to come out of left field was very cleverly foreshadowed early on. (+1)
Total: -5

Final Score: 11 thumbs up


This was all around a really good movie. It might not be for everyone - those who prefer movies where stuff happens at a fairly constant rate throughout probably won't be very entertained by this. But if you're into moody, atmospheric horror, or really engaging family dramas, this is worth watching.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


Life (2017)

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 A single celled organism is found in soil samples recovered from Mars. Aboard the ISS, the cell is incubated and rapidly grows into ravenous tentacle monster which rips its way through most of the station's crew. A battle of wits between scientists and a floppy alien ensues.


  • The movie is actually well made from a technical standpoint. I was expecting it to be kind of tacky based on the trailer (discussed at length below), but it opens with this rad eight minute long tracking shot which immediately impressed the shit out of me. The rest of the movie doesn't totally live up to how cool that shot was, but it was a good opener. This immediately led me to wonder how they simulated zero gravity in the movie - apparently, they did it with wires in a discreet but nonetheless impressive use of special effects. The filmmakers utilized the absence of gravity effectively by having people upside down, off to the side, wherever in the shot, which looked cool and was way more realism than I was expecting for a sci-fi horror movie. (+2)
  • The monster starts out as a single celled protozoan, basically a ciliate, and I think that's neat. (+1)
  • I can't really complain about the ship's biologist (Ariyon Bakare) deciding to revive the organism because I can strongly relate to becoming personally attached to funky microbes so I'm awarding a point for that I guess. (+1)
  • I have what I'm going to call a fixation with astronauts. It's not an obsession. I just think they're cool. So disciplined. Anyway, I'm giving the outer space movie a point for having astronauts in it. (+1)
  • The movie is genuinely suspenseful in places, and well paced. I didn't get bored at any point (which is saying something because I have the attention span of an easily distracted goldfish), but it never felt overwhelming or frenetic. It was also very responsible with jump scares (there might be, like, one? Maybe?), instead relying on building tension and dread to make me uncomfortable, which is basically the bare minimum I ask for in a horror movie (+2)
  • There are some grizzly-ass deaths in the movie jesus christ. The first two in particular are quite disturbing, so props there. I don't know why but in addition to being fixated with astronauts, I also think that dying in space is the absolute most terrifying way one could possibly die. Like, it consolidates my fears of drowning, suffocating, being trapped, and dying in a vehicle into one manageable super-fear. So that freaked the shit out of me, well done, movie (+2)

Total: (+9)


  • In the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie there are no less than two callbacks to other sci fi movies - one of the characters, I think it was the biologist guy, says "I've got a good feeling about this" that sounds a little too much like a Star Wars reference, which is totally out of place in this movie. Ryan Reynolds also makes some Ryan Reynoldsian quip about Reanimator which was a little more appropriate for the tone, but felt out of character for an astronaut, or anybody, to say in that particular situation. This prompts one of the female characters to tell him something like "that was an obscure reference" as though the writers of the movie were patting themselves on the back for knowing what Reanimator is. Fuck off with that. I can't find the trailer I remember for the movie but I swear to god it had the tagline "Life will find a way" which is a paraphrase of a line from an obscure movie you might have heard of called Jurassic Park and also is totally the wrong tone for here. Alien quotes would be really appropriate in this movie because that's the movie this movie is trying really hard to movie (-2)
  • Speaking of the trailer, I had totally forgotten about the one that had a really somber reading of Goodnight Moon in it (here's a version where somebody dubbed in Christopher Walken's reading from The Simpsons). That trailer made me assume that this movie was going to be an absolute piece of shit (which, granted, turned out not to be so, so I guess I learned something today). The dramatic reading of Goodnight Moon is in the movie also and is as ridiculous as you would expect. (-2)
  • Ryan Reynolds is brilliant in Deadpool and he's funny on Twitter or whatever, but every movie I've seen him in he's always playing Funny Guy Ryan Reynolds and this is no exception (-1)
  • Similarly, Jake Gyllenhaal is a good actor but every movie I've seen him in he's playing Broody Sad Lad Jake Gyllenhaal. This time he's just Dr. Broody Sad Lad Jake Gyllenhaal, an Astronaut. (-1)
  • There's a scene where one of the astronauts is eating peas and I was of the understanding that you couldn't eat food made out of smaller food on a space station because the peas might go and gunk up the space equipment. (-1)
  • There were absolutely not enough safety precautions taken in the lab in this movie. Like, they made it pretty clear that they were expecting to find a living organism in the Mars dirt, and the security person (Rebecca Ferguson) at one point makes a comment about how they don't know what they're dealing with, it could be anthrax. So why didn't they have hazmat suits, or a decontamination chamber with some powerful UV shit? Why was the air circulation system in the lab connected to the rest of the station? It's like the people who make these movies have never even taken a lab safety course. (-1)
  • There's a single lab rat in the lab, strapped down, and they show it like fifteen fucking times, strapped down in the same position, over the course of many days, no food, no water, nothing. Its only purpose it seems is to eventually get eaten by the monster (-1)
  • Early on, the monster looks like an evil banana peel (-1)
  • More about the monster, actually, the rest of what I have to say is about the monster:
    • This organism starts out as a single cell. It then grows into a multicellular organism in which each cell is acting as a combination muscle, nerve, and photoreceptor. It eats as often as it can throughout the movie and nobody ever considers at any point that it might be reproducing. A SINGLE CELL can grow into this creature so the whole station could be completely infested with them and no one would be the wiser. (-1)
    • A followup point, the organism actually becomes less dangerous as it grows. Okay, so it's super strong and I guess impervious to fire (seriously they blast it point blank with a flamethrower and it just scuttles away, it's like the Night King) so yes, it is still very dangerous, but at least when it's big you can see it, and there are fewer spaces it can fit through. I'm not considering that a detriment of the movie, it's just an observation.
    • They don't try to bait it until way late in the game. They know pretty much off the hop that it eats glucose and coolant, why not try luring it somewhere with a large amount of delicious glucose? Just a thought. (-1)
    • Also, how much does it actually need to eat anyway? It kills people pretty much constantly throughout the movie. There's one part where the biologist says it's just trying to survive, but there's also another part where it kills the shit out of a bunch of people, then immediately goes after more people. It did not have time to eat all those people and the only conclusion I can draw is that it was mangling folks for what the hells. (-1)
    • The monster's name is goddamn Calvin. I know, they have a scene where they explain why it's named that, but the characters in the movie go around calling it that for the rest of the movie. There's a simple elegance to films like The Thing, The Blob, The Green Slime, and It! The Terror From Beyond Space. You don't have to name It! - you can just say "It!" and everyone knows what It! is. (-1)
  • Okay, I have one more thing, and this is less about this movie specifically and more about the trope but why, when a character proposes a plan that will ultimately lead to their death but the destruction of the bad monster, do other characters argue with them? Example, Person A: "I will pilot this boat into the sun to kill the vampires"; Person B: "No, let me do it". Like I guess they're trying to convey that Person B is a good person, but this exchange always comes pretty close to the end of the movie so that should be established at that point. Honestly, if I were in that situation I'd happily send Person A to their death so that I might live, I don't give a shit, I don't want to die. (-1)
Total: (-14)

Final Score: -5 thumbs up


Generally, I enjoyed Life. Most of the problems I had with it stem from me being a biologist rather than inherent flaws with the movie. It's a reasonably well done sci fi horror flick. I would strongly recommend it if you want to watch Alien but you somehow don't have access to a copy of Alien, because this is on Netflix.