Halloween Reviews, The Sampling.

With Halloween upon us, it seems only natural to turn to our beloved films, Horror or otherwise, to get into the spirit of things. For this Halloween I decided to focus on some more obscure (or less remembered present day) films from the past (both feature length and shorts) in a series of shorter reviews to celebrate this scare day.

The Other.

Directed by: Robert Mulligan.
Released: 1972.
Running Time: 95 min.

This is a little known psychological thriller film from the early seventies that was based on the book of the same name by Tom Tryon about a boy named Niles (Chris Udvarnoky) who played “games” along with his twin Holland (Martin Udvarnoky). As the story progresses on the family farm in a quaint agricultural community of 1935, we find that people begin to die, stemming from a mystery surrounding Niles.

Director Mulligan’s purpose in making the film was to provide a subjective experience for the spectators from the point of view of a child, in this case Niles. In the case of this film, after watching it, he does indeed seem to have done a good job of it. It is done primarily in Nile’s point of view, and there is this sort of stubborn innocence about him that refuses to move out of his imagination and into the reality around him, even when he is harshly confronted with it by his Grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen). The movie does a brilliant job expressing the more dangerous qualities inherent in imagination.

There is of course a bit of choppiness here and there between scenes. Other than Ada, Niles, and Holland, the other characters didn’t bring anything much to the film. This could be in part because there were scenes cut out of the film post-production.

Despite that, the beautiful summer atmosphere reflected Nile’s perspective of the golden moments while people dropped like flies all around him, and the Udvarnoky brothers and Hagen did a good job with their characterizations within this environment.

In the end, it’s mostly a film that uses the environment to reflect the theme of dangerous imagination combined with the folly of the matriarchal desire to preserve the child from grief. It certainly does a decent job of that, though the film can be a bit plodding her and there for those who are looking for a more brisk paced plot and visuals.

Trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMmMqWkudgA

Trick or Treat.

Directed by: Jack Hannah.
Released: 1952.
Running Time: 8 min.

This is an animated Walt Disney Short from the fifties featuring Witch Hazel who takes exception to Donald Duck playing mean tricks on his nephews, Hewey, Dewey, and Lewey who are out trick or treating, and then further humiliates Hazel by pulling on her nose and dousing her in water. Thus the rest is revenge of the witch through a spell on Donald Duck.

This was a fun bouncy animation in all its Halloween shlock that can only come from Disney during that period and in any other context outside of a Disney Cartoon, would be utterly horrifying. It’s a great little story that progresses smoothly with some enjoyable Halloween imagery.

The delightful voice talent of June Foray (the original Granny from Loony Tunes, Cindy Loo Who from The Grinch, Lucifer from Cinderella, and Rocky the Flying Squirrel, just to name a few) who owned the part of Hazel and made this fun character delightfully colorful, was the heart of this little number.

Over all a non-serious goofy little number with some standard fare music, great voice talent, and fun Halloween visuals.

View at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYpadw9O1ZM

The Brood.

Directed by: David Cronenberg .
Released: 1979.
Running Time: 92 min.

This very odd little number is a Canadian Science Fiction Horror about a single father raising his daughter while his wife is kept in a special house for the mentally disturbed run by a doctor who uses radical physiological techniques. In the process, all those whom his ex-wife has had some sort of negative history or ill fillings towards have suddenly been murdered by mysterious child-like creatures in colorful snow suits.

All around, this isn’t a movie of multiple twist endings or anything more complicated than a retribution style story from the outside, until you watch it again and realize that there are several couched themes that can be gleaned from the narrative, though from the first onset as a regular viewer, its mainly how they go about the story that is unique and very strange, thanks to its imaginative construction and great cinematography particularly in the last scene making monstrous the very act of birth itself, disturbingly so.

Despite the fact that murders are not overly creative in their deaths, this isn’t a slasher flick or a blood and guts horror, it’s the horror of creation and utilization towards murder that makes this a riveting experience. The strange discombobulating atmosphere keeps you attached to seeing where this is all going, and you can’t help but be impressed by the end, not surprising considering it’s a Cronenberg film.

In the end I could go on and on about this film and its many layers, but this is a short review section and I can’t do it justice here. I highly recommend giving it a watch more than once.

Trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI32rz-Xh7U

Vincent.

Directed by: Tim Burton.
Released: 1982.
Running Time: 6.24 min.

This animated short is another of those narrative examples that show the destructive nature of imagination, particularly in children. In this case, a boy obsessed with Vincent price with aspirations to be said man.

This is Tim Burton’s first animated stop motion short with that fun unique macabre style that made him famous. Much like his later film The Nightmare Before Christmas, he utilizes the story through a poetic verse, though this short has the poem narrated by none other than Vincent Price himself during the progress of the short instead of merely basing it on it.

The short has this amazingly engaging flow, and the fact that Vincent Price did the narration, in fact he is the only vocal center of the entire piece gives it this multilevel engagement and a certain charming appeal.

For any Tim Burton fans out there, this is a fascinating artifact from the early days of his career.

View at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxQcBKUPm8o

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Textual Analysis: The Batttle of Algiers- Opening Sequence.

This is a textual analysis that relates to the opening of the film The Battle of Algiers directed by Pontecorvo in 1966, or the first 6-7 minutes of the film.

To summarize the film briefly, it is a Italo-Algerian production war film centered around events happening during the Algerian War of 1954-62 of rebellion against the French government in North Africa and has often been considered by many to be an important commentary on urban guerrilla warfare. It’s had a fair amount of sociopolitical controversy, particularly in France where it wasn’t screened for five years until it was later released in 1971.

In the opening of The Battle of Algiers, much like later imagery in the film, inverts the imagery of encirclement by first placing the spectators within the point of view of the French soldiers with their Algerian prisoner, whom they appear to be treating somewhat decently until it is implied that they had been torturing him into revealing the whereabouts of his compatriots, politically positioning the audience on behalf of the colonialists perspective (the French soldiers) leaving the spectators largely indifferent to the fate of the “othered” (the Algerian prisoner) on the opposite end.

The inversion of the political positioning happens when the point of view shot is shifted from the point of view of the soldiers, whom are storming the streets and buildings soon after, to that of the Algerians, particularly poignant when the spectator’s point of view is suddenly squashed, like an invisible participant, among all the gathered Algerians that have been pulled out of their homes and made to stand huddled in the center of the apartment building. Then the point of view shifts back to that of the soldier point of view as the leader of the raid is talking through a wall to some hidden rebels, though before the flashback happens, there is a close up of the rebel’s faces and the sound of the commander talking through the wall at them, putting the spectator back into sympathizing with the Algerians again.

There is a sense of constructed identification in the tail end of the opening before the flashback with particular focus on the fact that the ones hidden in the wall are a family. From an audience that has a cultural stress on the importance and/or sanctity of family, the sympathies of the spectators will lie in that of the Algerians hidden in the wall going into the flashback, though an aberrant reading could be taken from this opening, in that the soldiers have not killed the Algiers, despite the aggressive nature in taking the building. They were seen cleaning a prisoner up and offering him a uniform to protect him from retaliation despite his earlier treatment, and the leader of the unit trying to reason with the rebel in the wall, giving him a chance to surrender and save his family, though perhaps that is a bit of a stretch in interpretation. Still, someone who comes from a culture that might look more favorably on duty above comfort of others might look at this sequence and see it as the French soldiers trying to do their jobs reasonably, though from a Westerner perspective in particular it would not likely be read as such. The fact that the soldiers didn’t kill anyone, just getting the Algiers out of their way while doing their duty, could work against the anti-colonialist agenda somewhat, though the oppressive logic of colonialism (absorb those who are willing to cooperate) is still displayed regardless with the scene in which the prisoner is forced to wear his oppressor’s military uniform.

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Modernity with “Modern Times” and “Playtime.”

The pressure of modernity within society, particularly within the urban environment, and it’s encroachment upon the traditional notions of the workplace and leisure time is contemplated in films like Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936) and Playtime (Tati, 1967), particularly as a critique of the impact or possible impact of technological innovation and echoing anxieties of the mechanic vision at the expense of the person.

Modern Times reacts in its critique as a more contentious relationship. The “Man versus the Machine,” in which technological progress is viewed at an antagonist level, and usually at the expense of the person, or in the case of this film, the worker sacrificing the dignity of the person in favor of making him just another function of the great machine of industry.

The film describes the “othering” of the worker from his own humanity, such as in the scene in which Chaplin’s character, The Tramp, is hooked up to a machine that feeds him a meal without sacrificing “valuable man-hours.”

Another example, when The Tramp, repetitively uses his wrenches to turn the nut on an ambiguous something, repeating the same motions over and over again, performing a function of the whole. He is so subsumed by this act that he continues to try to tighten things with his wrench even when he is no longer working, seemingly blinded to anything other than his mechanized small corner.

With Playtime, and the character Hulot, he is swept up in a world and society that has fully embraced technological innovation and gadgetry. Unlike Modern Times more antagonistic relationship between person and machine, Playtime utilizes a more resigned air. Hulot becomes the definitive bumbling leaf caught up in the remorseless wind of “progress.” There is no outright battle, merely Hulot being cluelessly overwhelmed, shunted and shuffled without any clear idea how to get along, “othering” those through him, that can’ keep up with progress and at some point becoming lost to the system.

In both films in settings like the workplace, both show a sense of being subsumed by the machine of industry. In in a scene in Playtime Hulot becomes lost in the cubical/box area of the average paper pusher, everyone so closed off (literally) in performing their assigned tasks that no one even realizes there is someone lost among them because everyone has a set purpose (at the risk of sounding cliché) like cogs in a machine. In Modern Times Tramp is literally lost in the internals, the cogs, of a giant machine when he is sucked into one at work.

There is a further sense of the invasion of modernity, how a society becoming ever more interconnected, fascinated, and mechanical to the point of wearing away of the public and private sectors to the point of reducing society to a frame work of recurring voyeuristic invasion of both the workplace and the home.

For example, when Hulot wanders into a place of business, he is made to wait in a clear walled waiting room open to the gaze of whoever happens by. Further sense of being judged or reminded that one is constantly under the scrutiny of others lie in the pictures of important individuals placed on each wall. Reminding anyone who sits there that they are under the constant regard of those around you and above you. This sense of constant observation is also echoed in Modern Times, though perhaps in a more abrupt “Big Brother is watching you” sense when the boss of the factory constantly watches his employee’s through a screen, ordering them to do this and that, separating the need for personal contact between authority and worker, furthering the sense of class division in the workplace.

Unlike Modern Times however, Playtime presents a more all-inclusive mechanized society. In a scene, Hulot is made welcome in the home of another and his family, we see that it satirizes the rupturing of the “private home” by reducing it to a voyeuristic show that anyone in a passing car can observe, satirizing the preoccupation with television replacing the fireplace in the home by framing various homes in a manner similar to one watching a television as they watch the latest programs.

In conclusion, both Modern Times and Playtime through comparing and contrasting, show a certain critique for the evolving technological urban environment, even if their approaches are somewhat different.

 

South Park Season 19 “Tweek x Craig”: A Review.

"Tweak x Craig" made by craigxtweekalicous at craigxtweekalicous.tumblr.com
“Tweak x Craig” made by craigxtweekalicous at craigxtweekalicous.tumblr.com

Show:South Park.
Season: 19.
Episode: 6, “Tweek x Craig.”
Written by: Trey Parker.
Released: 2015.
Running Time 22 min.

Well, this week’s episode was certainly interesting.

Being a member of a fair few fandoms and holding an account on deviantart.com, it didn’t take me long to see and hear about this interesting proclivity among some South Park fan artists to pair the background/side characters, Craig and Tweak. Then again, I have come across a fair amount of yaoi variations of various fandoms, and done in the popular anime/manga style dejour, so I wasn’t overly surprised to hear that there was yaoi art based from South Park.

The only surprise for me was that it took South Park itself this long to react through one of their episodes, a not uncommon thing in various franchises, for example Supernatural was fairly quick to respond to their fandom pairings in an episode, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic even quicker in at least two of their own.

How shows respond in these episodes is usually tricky on part of the makers, as they need a balance of settling what their image is about, acknowledge their fanbase, but at the same time not collectively tick them off. Supernatural did it by using the basis of a fan convention for one plot line and poked fun in a carefully humorous way to the more incestuous popular pairing of Sam/Dean that was out there, while MLP used their episodes to tackle their issue with shipping, one as a poke at shipping in and of itself as a sort of moral lesson, and another as a not quite smart wink, wink.

South Park’s method was to absorb it into their latest plot device of the PC frame work they have been working with as an overarching narrative this current season. In retrospect, considering the PC -ist commentary that’s been going on, it was likely only a matter of time before sexual normativity popped up. In this case, they used a sort of reverse-repression when dealing with the issues of a community and family’s idea of the dominant ideal of sexual orientation over the wishes of those who wish to be another way is purposefully overlooked. In this case, the community itself is so preoccupied with being seen as open and accepting that Craig and Tweak are gay, that they seem to choose to ignore the fact that Craig and Tweak insist they are straight.

The show seems to be more using episode structure on a more personal scale, and less about the perception of sexual normative in general. This personal commentary can be read as a show maker’s relationship with the fanbase known as shippers, particularly yaoi shippers, with the South Park Community representing them, and how they seem to be, from the content maker’s point of view, forcing their ideals onto the show’s ideal of cannon, manifested in the shipping of the characters of Craig and Tweek through Greg and Tweek, and the two’s later capitulation as being seen as the show flinging its hands up and saying that there is no point in fighting it.

While there is a sort of poking fun element, this is South Park after all, unlike Supernatural’s outright poking fun, they are not upfront mocking the shippers themselves nor are they trying to steer the shippers away from shipping like MLP, they are more along the lines of having this sort of resigned air to the whole thing, but at the same time that it’s okay to resign to it, tolerance for this type of shipping seems to make a lot of people happy, so why not let them have their illusion?

The only nitpick for this episode would have to be Cartmen’s thing with Cupid Self. I don’t exactly know what was going on there, was Cartmen supposed to be a shipper or something? The purpose of his little arc was a little confusing, though it could be read as him coming to terms with the reality of Craig and Tweak being gay in a PC world outside his bigotry for once.

Overall, a decent response episode on behalf of South Park, taking it in a surprisingly tolerant turn (for a mainstream show anyway, they still didn’t exactly show the real reason why the slash happens) considering the show’s reputation, and the storyline itself had a good pace, Randy and the rest of his friends generational confusion was a nice touch, and despite Cartmen’s confusing little arc, it was a strong episode.

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American Horror Story Hotel, Episode 4 “Devil’s Night.”: A Review.

Show: American Horror Story.
Season: 5/Hotel.
Episode: “Devil’s Night.”
Written by: Jennifer Salt.
Released: 2015.
Running time: 47 min.

This splendid episode is one of the best yet, the Halloween turned into Devil’s Night as our main cop lead is drawn into a rather sinister dinner party, his soon to be ex will be separated from more than her husband, and one of the help gets a bit of a spotlight on her background.

Where to begin with this episode?

So much was good! The surreal feel of being drunk well utilized in the cinematography and transitions of warm to cool tones in the colour palate, the macabre setting combined with a vaguely inebriated sense of tension that wove lazily throughout the dinner party scene, as Johnny boy is furthered in his eyes being opened to the sinister supernatural shenanigans that manifest in the Hotel Cortez.

The actors, both the regulars and the guests, did a superb job, each adding a unique flare to the ensemble of the evening, drawing the viewer in with their great characterizations but all with this mutual sense of creepy factor that added in the narrative flow.

Meanwhile, the side story surrounding Alex after she finds her son and realizes that something is up right of with not only him, but with the hotel as the source was refreshing in that she didn’t dither over it all, and despite her initial bulking, her embracing of the unbelievable as opposed to John’s continued refusal to except what’s in front of him, was actually poignant of the difference between the couple and in part why they can’t work together. Alex’s choice in the end of the episode also reminded me of the end of the film Rosemary’s Baby in her choice to sacrifice herself to what she knows is wrong to be with her child. It will be interesting to see where they take Alex’s arc, which is now, thanks to this episode one of the top interesting ones.

Overall a great episode for Halloween, the show in top notch form as per usual for the holiday, Jennifer Salt wrote a tightly woven blend of freaky and titillating; the best episode so far and a good sign of the continued transition of the overall story of the season.

The Leftovers Season 2, Episode 3 “Off Ramp”: A Review.

Show: The Leftovers.
Season: 2.
Episode: 3,”Off Ramp.”
Written by:Damon Lindelof & Patrick Somerville.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 51-58 min.

This was interesting and much needed episode, the third that exists in relative same time as the events that have happened in the previous two episodes, though this time from the point of view of Laurie and Tom. As viewers had been wondering what had happened to those two characters since the end of the last season. This season, it looks like Laurie is out of the cult fully now and is not only talking, but also counseling others in some sort of deprogramming group therapy program and writing a book about her experiences with the Guilty Remnant, while her son infiltrates various cells of the cult and brings one or two of the more dissatisfied members to his mother to help.

One of this episode’s strong points has to be the use of music. There is this sense of frenetic relationship between Laurie and sound in and of self as well as music. Now that she is no longer in a world of relative silence and seclusion from speech, there is this manic embracing on the part of her character both within the digenesis of the episode and the musical score without that reflects her desperate attempts to realign herself back with the world and reject the thoughts and emotional state that made her attracted to the Guilty Remnant, a denial against the end of the world which has already ended according to the cult. This is particularly highlighted in the scenes between Laurie and the Guilty Remnant, such as the transitions between her scenes and the cult where there is less, if any, sound, making during their moments and this sort of loud fast paced drums during hers, making the relationship more poignant through the jarring auditory juxtaposition.

On the narrative end meanwhile, there was perhaps a fair more bit of exposition then I thought should have been used, but they at least relatively explain the exposition as part of the group sessions so that wasn’t too bad. I thought that the flashback moment narrated by the assholish publisher was actually not bad and a good example of how an exposition moment itself can be used as a tool to incite a dramatic emotional moment in the focal character, as well as provide a bit of background, which it does very well here .

The progression of events in the plot was well done, if a little predictable here and there, and there was good climax moments for both mother and son, though the son’s was perhaps not handled quite as well aftermath-wise, as his emotional reaction didn’t seem to quite jive with what the Guilty Remnant did to him (though I suppose they could be waiting for later episodes to flesh that out) he was upset, yes, but didn’t have that quite right level of realistic trauma for being kidnapped, raped, then threatened with being burned to death. The Guilty Remnant however, was rather poignantly highlighted in their contradictory existence as aggressive pacifists during that scene.

Overall, a decent episode with a few weak points but a good use of relationships, both character to character, and character to circumstance/events utilized both inter-personally and through sound, some satisfying drama and action mix, and a titillating ending that leaves you wondering where the story line of these two characters is going to go.

The Leftovers Season 2, Episode 3 “Off Ramp.”

Show: The Leftovers.
Season: 2.
Episode: 3,”Off Ramp.”
Written by:Damon Lindelof & Patrick Somerville.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 51-58 min.

This was interesting and much needed episode, the third that exists in relative same time as the events that have happened in the previous two episodes, though this time from the point of view of Laurie and Tom. As viewers had been wondering what had happened to those two characters since the end of the last season. This season, it looks like Laurie is out of the cult fully now and is not only talking, but also counseling others in some sort of deprogramming group therapy program and writing a book about her experiences with the Guilty Remnant, while her son infiltrates various cells of the cult and brings one or two of the more dissatisfied members to his mother to help.

One of this episode’s strong points has to be the use of music. There is this sense of frenetic relationship between Laurie and sound in and of self as well as music. Now that she is no longer in a world of relative silence and seclusion from speech, there is this manic embracing on the part of her character both within the digenesis of the episode and the musical score without that reflects her desperate attempts to realign herself back with the world and reject the thoughts and emotional state that made her attracted to the Guilty Remnant, a denial against the end of the world which has already ended according to the cult. This is particularly highlighted in the scenes between Laurie and the Guilty Remnant, such as the transitions between her scenes and the cult where there is less, if any, sound, making during their moments and this sort of loud fast paced drums during hers, making the relationship more poignant through the jarring auditory juxtaposition.

On the narrative end meanwhile, there was perhaps a fair more bit of exposition then I thought should have been used, but they at least relatively explain the exposition as part of the group sessions so that wasn’t too bad. I thought that the flashback moment narrated by the assholish publisher was actually not bad and a good example of how an exposition moment itself can be used as a tool to incite a dramatic emotional moment in the focal character, as well as provide a bit of background, which it does very well here .

The progression of events in the plot was well done, if a little predictable here and there, and there was good climax moments for both mother and son, though the son’s was perhaps not handled quite as well aftermath-wise, as his emotional reaction didn’t seem to quite jive with what the Guilty Remnant did to him (though I suppose they could be waiting for later episodes to flesh that out) he was upset, yes, but didn’t have that quite right level of realistic trauma for being kidnapped, raped, then threatened with being burned to death. The Guilty Remnant however, was rather poignantly highlighted in their contradictory existence as aggressive pacifists during that scene.

Overall, a decent episode with a few weak points but a good use of relationships, both character to character, and character to circumstance/events utilized both inter-personally and through sound, some satisfying drama and action mix, and a titillating ending that leaves you wondering where the story line of these two characters is going to go.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: A Review.

Film: Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.
Directed by: Jim Stenstrum.
Released: 1998.
Running Time: 73 min.

This is a direct to video Scooby feature that was done in honor of the original Scooby-Doo voice actor Don Messick, and one of the first of the revamped series of animated Scooby-Doo animations. It has been well received by fans and critics alike with a decent promotional gimmick of “this time the monsters are real” and smartly premiered it on Cartoon Network on Halloween.

Scooby’s mysteries have long been an iconic part of many childhoods for many of the adults out there, and seeing it made into a contemporary feature that showed a great deal of obvious effort and attention on part of the filmmakers, especially for a direct to video at the time, made this film a particularly fond 90’s recall.

So does it still hold up today?

There is just something about animation before Flash came along, a sort of fluid liveliness and detail that was its own work of art. This was a movie that had some of that great animation style that came out of the 90’s. It blended the iconic features and look of the traditional 1970’s Scooby-Doo cast with a more contemporary liveliness, with particularly good attention to the use of light and shadow and fluidity that gave it a slightly darker, more atmospheric tone.

The music utilized was a mixed bag in terms of good and bad though. With the use of an instrumental musical score closer to what you would find on a decently made horror feature, it added a nice enhancement to that darker theme. Unfortunately the pop songs in contrast took you out of the moments of the action.

From the characterization end of things, they were all somewhat decent, and their matured age was somewhat interesting to see when you were a kid having only been exposed to the mystery solving teenager versions from the original material. There is more adult concerns on part of Daphne, who seems to be the most matured of the lot, though the rest of the cast weren’t all that different in personalities from their original source materials.

From the story end of things, this was a decently paced plot, a good use of exposition without being annoying, with a few twists for the kiddies and adults both to enjoy, a surprisingly mature moment of empathy with the antagonists near the end, and some decent humour that despite being somewhat of a zany source material with some zany characters, was able to retain that excellent balance of mystery and humour thats made it so popular as a franchise.

The only drawback story-wise was that Velma’s obvious suspicious looks gave away some of the mystery before its time, and the utilization of an extra supernatural creature seemed a bit out of nowhere.

All in all, while it did have some weak moments here and there, those moments don’t overwhelm the good parts with its solid atmosphere, tension, plot progression, and excellent animation. This was arguably one of the best Scooby-doo features that came out after the original show, still holding up even to today’s standards, and well worth a watch for the family for Halloween.

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Goosebumps: A Review.

Film: Goosebumps.
Directed by: Rob Letterman.
Released: 2015.
Running Time: 103 min.

This is a cinematic rendition of the premise that R.L.Stine (self plugging), the author of the popular “Goosebumps” series from the 90’s played by Jack Black, actually created real monsters that he kept locked up in original manuscripts. The main character, Zach (Dylan Minnette), breaks into Stine’s house to help his daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush), when he and Champ the sidekick (Ryan Lee), open a book and start a chain of events that releases the goosebumps monsters into the real world.

As a fan of the book series and the television show as a kid, I had been looking forward to a little nostalgia plug combined with a great story, visuals and action.

Well, to my disappointment, I only got a portion of my expectations.

So what’s the good about this movie?

The technical end of things was its strong points, a good faithful adaption to the visual styles of the creatures from the book covers, with particular kudos in design to Slappy (Jack Black), The Abominable Snowman, and the Werewolf of Fever Swamp. The action utilized its environment decently enough, and the cinematography was not extraneous, with a score that stayed neatly in the background without any distressing unneeded pop music outside of the high school dance.

Now, for the bad parts, and unfortunately, this movie has a fair share.

The opening 15 minutes was sort of meh. Some of the humour was rather cliché, tired, and somewhat detrimental for the younger generation (something like some of the 90’s humour actually) though the humour improved a little in the last hour or so, but not by much.

The beginning plot was somewhat unoriginal, but Hannah and Zach did have a decent set-up, even if both of the characters weren’t…well, they weren’t a step out of the mold let’s just say. Hanna in particular was somewhat useless (which actually works somewhat against how R.L Stine portrayed some of his female characters in his book series, particularly the leads) though I will give props to the actress who at least tried her all to work with what she was given, and there was some decent action scenes in the last hour.

The adults, with the exception of Stine and, interestingly enough, the Aunt (Jillian Bell), were useless throughout this film, seemingly there only because the movie’s relationship to reality requires adult bodies to exist. The incompetent police cliché was even stupider here and the mother, a vice principal mind you, is even more useless (another 90’s trope from many children’s programs). The necessary parental character might have actually worked better here if they had Zach move in with his aunt, say after both parents were killed off. She had a bit more of a character about her at least, even if it was a ditzy one, she actually did things and didn’t question her nephew’s credibility as opposed to his own mother, and would make Zack a more sympathetic character as well.

The pacing in the first half hour or so was also really slow, and somewhat boring. I understand the need for establishment, which is all well and fine, but by the time they got to the action; they had only an hour to work this amazing roster of monsters, which could have been further utilized in more creative ways about the town.

While there was a decent use of tension in the last hour, there was no chance for proper utilization of the monster characters with the exception of the werewolf and the abominable snowman. Even Slappy, who felt particularly rushed, being the main antagonist, never fully embraced the briefly mentioned relationship between the dummy and Stine, which was actually rather interesting for the brief moment it lasted. Some scenes with just Slappy and Stine would have benefited, perhaps looking back on his relationship with Stine,maybe even a flashback, would have really fleshed him out even more, taking him from a good antagonist into a great antagonist. Even the potential that Slappy himself might have been the original creator and Stine one of his creations was just a throw away joke, and would have been a better twist then what was offered and seen from a mile away.

In the end, everything did have an appeal to nostalgia, but that faithfulness of the material should not have extended to the faults of the 90’s clichés, tired and offensive humour, and 1 dimensional tropes, and some of these characters which got whacked with the convenient moron stick. The design of the monsters was faithful to the classic cover art, the Goosebumps standard 3 tier act (while predictable) was faithful (beginning, middle, twist), but the weaknesses common of the 90’s could have been left out of the final print, particularly if you’re trying to appeal to a new generation of watchers. Basically treat this new demographic with some modicum of intelligence and respect.

As for the adult fans such as myself who were around during the “Goosebump” heyday, watch it pretty much for the visuals, some of the action, the monster guessing game, and nod to R.L Stine’s writing style (for the most part); really nothing else here for you, I recommend sticking to the television show and books.

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The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXVI: A Review.

Show: The Simpsons.
Season: 27.
Episode: 5, “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXVI.”
Directed by: Steven Dean Moore and John Kricfalusi (Couch Gag).
Released: 2015.
Running time: 22 min.

This is Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXVI written by Joel. H. Cohen, featuring a special Couch Gag and 3 segments: “Wanted Dead: The Alive”, “Homerzilla,” and “Telepaths of Glory.”

After last year’s interesting Treehouse of Horror, I had been expecting something along similar lines, but it seems that…well, the best I can say about this episode was ‘Meh.’

To explain what I mean, lets break it down segment by segment.

Couch Gag:

The opening was perhaps the better part of the episode, a nice little homage to The Ren and Stimpy Show style of animation which was fittingly enough directed by Michael John Kricfalusi, creator of The Ren and Stimpy Show. It utilizes a bit of the gross-out humour without going overboard, and the poke at Matt Groaning was entertaining with a fun colour pallet and great character designs.

Segment 1: Wanted Dead: Then Alive:

This one had the most coherent plot out of the three, and it was interesting to see the various ways that Bob utilized his murderous creativity. Kelsey Grammer did an excellent job as usual in his voice work of Bob.

The hang up with this segment was that the death was somewhat expected, both as a Halloween episode, and through the promotions. It was hard to get invested with the gag when you know the punch line, and said punch line was hammered out throughout the entire time allotment. I would have liked to see a segment surrounding sideshow bob in a Halloween episode that didn’t use the tired out him trying to kill Bart, like a “Sideshow Bob vrs. The Evilish Dead” or something, it would have functioned as a segment so much better, and have been much more creative because Bob is an excellent character that shouldn’t be wasted in recycling.

Segment 2: Homerzilla:

The visuals were well utilized, I liked the return to spoofing an old Black and white classic, but then it quickly degenerated into spoofing the franchise also as a remake though Homer as Godzilla was an obvious, though good choice, and his design and depiction was at least interesting.

It would have benefited it if had chosen one of them, say the original material to spoof and stuck with that. It would have been a nice nod to some classic Godzilla and an earlier Treehouse of Horror episode.

This segment suffered, ironically enough, the same amount of disappointment felt on viewing the 1998 Godzilla.

Segment 3: Telepaths of Glory:

Milhouse going mad with power in a Chronicles spoof was vaguely interesting. I liked the poke at the cinematic style and story line from the film, and some of the creative visuals were interesting from the times when Milhouse abused his power. But they didn’t really do much else with it.

Milhouse on a power high could have been taken a lot further, such as going on a creative power pumped rampage through out Springfield or even the world. They didn’t do much with the prime opportunity to actually have everything coming up Milhouse.

Over all the episode had some strong points in some of the visuals, characterizations, the opening and a coherent plot moment here and there, but in the end they didn’t punch the potential that they gave themselves in the premise of the segments, leaving one somewhat dissatisfied with the end results.

The Couch Gag: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB03kM8kbHs