Monday, August 19, 2019

White Chamber

White Chamber (2018)

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In the near future, the British government has gone tits up and martial law has been declared, with racism and xenophobia running rampant. The resistance, led by a charismatic and mysterious leader (Oded Fehr), is pushing back harder against the fascist government resulting in attempts to perfect experimental weaponry. Meanwhile, a woman (Shauna Macdonald) wakes up in a white room. She may or may not be tied to a government task force developing new extremes in chemical warfare. An unseen operator uses the room's controls to torture her for information. What she knows is then revealed in a prolonged flashback where an experimental drug is tested on the leader of the revolution.


  • White Chamber is, at its core, a sci-fi thriller about chemical engineering (+1)
  • Oded Fehr was a babe in The Mummy (1999), and he's still a babe now (+1)
  • The movie contains some genuinely surprising twists that I did not anticipate (+3)
  • White Chamber also contains some interesting ethical commentary, some of which is fairly standard issue - Milgram experiment type stuff, and questions about whether or not a war can be just - but also addresses how political apathy can lead to social breakdown, which is something that I haven't seen touched on a lot in science fiction (+3)
  • Movie contains face-eating action (+1)
Total: +9


  • The movie opens with some introductory narration explaining this world's political clusterfuck, and then jumps right ahead to a woman waking up in a strange room with no idea how she got there, which feels a lot like a video game intro. I'm not opposed to that in movies based on video games, but this is one of those "smart" movies (-1)
  • The plot gets the female lead into her underwear in a hurry (-1)
  • The number one biggest issue that I had with this movie is that Oded Fehr is contained in the white chamber for five days and, despite eating on average once per day, never shits or pisses on the floor. At one point he throws up on the floor, and I have to wonder what their plan for cleaning the room is (-2)
  • Actually, that's a lie, the number one biggest issue is that White Chamber very obviously wants to say something about the current political climate, but it's too clean to make that point effectively. The ending leaves the impression that "there are bad people on both sides" but overall the movie downplayed the effects of institutionalized racism and xenophobia by, well, not showing the effects of institutionalized racism and xenophobia. One of the characters (Amrita Acharia) even remarks that, even though she is the type of person (i.e., brown) that xenophobes are targeting, her family were privileged enough not to suffer the effects. It's interesting because people like that do exist, but it also squanders the opportunity to really address what happens to brown people under a white supremacist government. Oded Fehr's character touches on it briefly as well, before turning around and being an evil monster. (-2)
Total: -6

Final Score: 3 thumbs up

White Chamber gets so caught up in trying to be clever (to be fair, it is really clever), that it loses sight of what it's trying to say about the world. It's got some interesting points, but ultimately it's too sterile to elicit any real emotions or strong feelings from me

Monday, August 12, 2019

First Summoning

1st Summoning

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A group of filmmakers are making a documentary about a legendary Satanic ritual supposedly performed in an abandoned factory in rural America every year at midnight on October 6th. They begin by interviewing the townsfolk, who don't seem particularly aware of the ritual. They interview a very weird pastor (Jason MacDonald) and make a whole bunch of really terrible decisions that result in strange things happening. A love triangle between the woman on the crew (Hayley Lovett) and two of the guys (Teddy Cole, Brook Todd) becomes apparent causing a whole lot of drama. Everything comes to a head when they enter the factory and perform the ritual.


  • The sole highlight of this movie is the one character on the film crew who is not involved in the love triangle (Ace Harney). He is literally the only likable character in the movie, and responsible for the only funny moment in the movie: he finds a Satanic necklace on the floor of the bathroom, says "fuck that" and flushes it down the toilet. Brilliant. (+2)
  • There is one decent scare when a bunch of cultists appear out of nowhere, but they make that horror movie squealing noise for no reason which cheapens it (+0.5)
  • Jason MacDonald is pretty good as the creepy pastor, but his character goes way over the top cheesy-creepy in a short period of time (+0.5)
Total: +3

  • I generally don't like found footage horror movies for a lot of reasons, but mainly because they're very difficult to do well. This movie feels like a catalogue of how not to make a good found footage movie, for the following reasons (-1)
    • It includes a bunch of material that nobody in their right mind would a) record, or b) leave in a final edited piece (-1)
    • The audio is mixed so low at some points I had to just take the subtitles' word for it that there was audio. This issue isn't specifically tied to this being a found footage movie, rather it's because this movie is extremely cheap, but those two things go hand in hand anyway (-1)
    • Teddy Cole's character is supposedly an award winning documentary filmmaker but kept fucking around in all of the shots and never once instructed any of the crew to do anything useful (-1)
    • I don't understand why they needed four people on this film shoot. They had two people to film, one person to ask "are you getting this?" every fifteen minutes, and one entirely superfluous person (-1)
    • They weren't getting nearly enough material to make a documentary. For a found footage movie to work, the characters have to either be believable amateurs (in this movie they're not because it opens with some blah blah about the guy's last movie that won something), or it has to be convincing that the footage being captured is going to be used in a real documentary at some point. I can't even imagine what the documentary these people were filming would have even looked like. They have like three interviews, they dick around in the woods for a bit, and then they go to do the ritual. That's like ten minutes tops after editing. If they had been reporters doing a short piece for a slow news day or something, maybe that would have been believable, but I never got the impression that that's what they were doing (-1)
    • At one point, Hayley Lovett's character dons cultist attire in order to blend in and escape, but leaves the camera rolling under her robe. That would probably look super obvious, even if it's a small camera? At some point, you have to abandon the camera and just try to get away. (-1)
    • The glitchy camera effects don't make the movie scarier (-1)
    • Finally, how exactly was this footage found? The conceit is that this is a screener copy of the film, but who edited it? The main guy? Coz he's on camera brutally killing his friends, so I don't see why he would want to release it? (-1)
  • Horror movies don't work without their characters making bad decisions at some point, but the decisions made by the characters in 1st Summoning were overwhelmingly bad. Probably the worst offense was Ace Harney breaking into the pastor's house to get some information and filming the whole time? Like, okay, he brought the camera so he could record what they were looking for instead of outright stealing it, but recording yourself doing a B&E is beyond stupid and risky (-1)
    • In another shockingly bad example of rational thinking, buddy stops trying to escape from cultists to follow a naked dude around through the building. Why? (-1)
  • The whole love triangle thing injects a bunch of artificial drama and isn't even interesting. I don't care about any of the characters, I just wanna see some ritual cult murder (-2)
  • The "twist" is so predictable I had to put scare quotes around the word "twist" (-1)
  • The movie is just really boring (-1)
Total: -15

Final Score: -12 thumbs up

This movie is pretty bad, there aren't really any redeeming features