Triple Spooky Scoop Review: Leprechaun, The Witch, and The Cell

Leprechaun

First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Personal Collection DVD
Spoilers: Yeah, but come on
Grade: Strawberry

Horror Bingo was briefly put on hold last week during the great Sonoma County Evacuation, but that doesn’t mean horror wasn’t achieved! Mekaela, Lindsey, and I ended up nostalgia-watching Leprechaun, and boy, is it just as bad as I remember.

I mean, okay, some of the comedy is obviously intentional. Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the intentional comedy is actually funny. Honestly, it’s hard to know where to begin with this one. The terrible prologue. The ridiculous storyline. The overall poor acting. The “slow friend” as comedic device. The Leprechaun’s makeup. The fact that our painting crew is apparently painting the house fire engine red and bright blue, like, what the fuck even is that? Tori’s weird shorts, which even in the 90’s were a choice. Also: the truly tragic fact that Warwick Davis does not succeed in murdering our heroes because they’re all pretty awful; the only one I even halfway like is Alex, the precocious child, and honestly, that might just be because I remember the actor from Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead. I would happily have pushed Jennifer Aniston’s character down a well, and her love interest, too. Oh, that whole “feminism” exchange is so, so painful.

Although credit where credit’s due: death by pogo stick is always genuinely hilarious. More pogo stick deaths, please!

The Witch

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Definitely
Grade: Vanilla

Well, My Geek Blasphemy is about to earn its name today: The Witch is one of the biggest horror movies of the decade, and unfortunately, I didn’t much like it.

I do like parts of it. It’s very well-shot, of course. The scene with the ravens is, ah, effectively memorable. (Poor Kate Dickie. Between this and Game of Thrones, I can’t imagine how many breastfeeding jokes she must get every day.) The performances by Anna Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Harvey Scrimshaw, and Kate Dickie are all very strong, and I kind of enjoy this movie’s whole “if Shakespeare wrote Puritan-horror” vibe–although I did have to concede defeat about twenty minutes in and put on subtitles because between the accents and the colonial American vernacular, I realized I was only catching maybe one word out of ten. I also genuinely enjoy this story’s pace. There aren’t a lot of negative reviews for The Witch, but the few complaints I did find were mostly about the film being slow and dull. Those were definitely not problems I had with the movie.

So, what didn’t I like? Honestly, I’m having trouble articulating that. Certain scenes are easy enough to point to: Caleb’s whole religious ecstasy–heavy emphasis on the ecstasy–sorta icks me out, and, like, not the good kind of ick? You know, maybe, let’s not with kids? But I have larger thematic problems, too. Like, I have never said this before, ever, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve enjoyed The Witch more if it was just a psychological horror film. If, say, Caleb came back from the woods all weird and dying, and we never knew exactly what happened to him out there, only that it sent the family into paranoid self-destruction . . . those were the moments I genuinely liked. That’s where I think the horror is most successful. And to be fair, I don’t hate all of the supernatural elements: Black Phillip was cool, also those ravens, and I did like the shot of the levitating witches–although they’re naked because of course they are. (See also: the witch who seduces Caleb with her extremely prominent and wicked breasts.) Which, I get it: the witches here are presented like they would’ve been in the 1600’s. Research, historical accuracy, blah blah, woof woof.

The problem is you’re telling this historical New England folktale in 2019, when I’m well-aware of what happened to the actual women accused of witchcraft in this era, and while I think you can tell a story about evil Satanic witches from the 1600’s, I’m not totally convinced you should. (I didn’t love how The Conjuring handled this, either, BTW.) At the very least, I don’t think this is the way to do it: surely, there must be a way to discuss/delve into/update these Puritanical fears without also embracing such awful misogynistic stereotypes. And I do think this movie embraces those stereotypes; since watching this film, I’ve come across at least three different articles praising the subversive feminism of The Witch, and if that was your takeaway, okay, I’m not trying to rip that from you. But personally, I came away with the exact opposite reaction, and ultimately, I think that’s because this is a “driven to evil” story that I just don’t buy.

There are ways Thomasin’s turn to Satan could’ve worked for me. For instance, I might’ve bought it if her motivation had been wholly pragmatic, the desperation to survive in this awful, barren landscape on her own. I might’ve bought it if she’d gone mad with vengeance and grief, if she’d needed the Devil to find and punish the twins who she’d come to blame for all of this. And sure, you can argue those are subtextual motivating factors, but they’re also pointedly not what Satan actually offers; instead, he pitches pretty dresses and the chance to live deliciously. (To be fair, wouldst thou like to live deliciously is a damn good line.) Because, you know. Thomasin mentioned missing stained glass windows that one time, and that’s how you get women: through materialism.

Likewise, I’ve seen it argued that Thomasin is making a baller power move here, that she and all those other floating, orgiastic witches in the woods are finally embracing their sexuality. But to me, all they’re really doing is validating the belief that without God, without men, women are both easily manipulated and spiritually vulnerable. They can be won over by shiny things, and they will grind up babies for beauty and power, and if they’re not vigorously protected from their baser instincts, they will lose themselves to their instinctual sexual mania, becoming wanton creatures capable of luring innocent boys to their deaths. Seriously. There are lots of ways to symbolically depict “embracing your sexuality,” but I can’t help but feel that a girl stripping down for a goat and joining a bunch of other writhing naked women ritualistically chanting their devotion to some eternal dude is, well, a very dude fantasy to have.

Ultimately, The Witch condemns religious paranoia while also making the argument for its justification, and that just doesn’t really sit right with me, thematically or morally.

The Cell

First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: Personal Collection DVD
Spoilers: Yup
Grade: Chocolate

The Cell has a lot of problems; I know this. Some actors were spectacularly miscast, like, Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a great scene stealer and Vincent D’Onofrio with his proto-Anton Chigurh haircut is dead-on, but Vince Vaughn as our FBI profiler dude? Honey, no. Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t have been my top choice for our psychologist heroine, either, but honestly, she’s not bad in the role; it’s how they use her that’s ridiculous, like, that scene where she’s in a shirt and panties and so ludicrously, so obviously posed next to the refrigerator? Ugh. Come on, dudes. Also, I can’t imagine this film’s depiction of schizophrenia is any more accurate or less offensive than most horror movies. And I just can’t get over this ending where Jennifer Lopez locks everyone out of the system, brings permanently comatose serial killer D’Onofrio into her mind, ends up mercy killing him–and then? Not only doesn’t she get arrested, not only does she keep her job, she somehow gets permission to bring the comatose child into her brain after she just murdered someone during that procedure!

Regardless, I have a lot of nostalgia for this movie; it kind of blew my mind when I was 15, and while the special effects have aged predictably poorly after 20 years, I still love a lot of the cinematography, fashion, and design. This shot for instance–maybe begin at the 2.17 mark–is still absolutely gorgeous. (Watch this whole clip if you’d like a lesson/reminder on the aesthetics of early 2000’s horror because this NSFW scene is strongly reminiscent of 2002’s Thir13en Ghosts.) All the art history inspiration is really cool, too: the creepy women in the sand, the fucked up horse, all the H.R. Giger shit. I like that Anne Marie, our current victim, figures out how to survive long enough to be saved by the FBI. And I’m just a sucker for this basic premise, like, it’s basically Inception meets Silence of the Lambs, and I am all about that. I’d have watched more standalone sequels in a heartbeat. Shit, I’d probably still watch those sequels, or maybe an updated remake, or, ooh, what about a whole TV show? (Okay, I think that’s basically what Reverie was, but despite the awesome presence of Sarah Shahi, that show didn’t even make it a full season. We can do better.) So, yeah, this one has serious flaws, but I still kinda treasure its surreal what-the-fuckery.

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9 Responses to Triple Spooky Scoop Review: Leprechaun, The Witch, and The Cell

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always meant to watch The Cell after seeing a scene on telly and then enjoying Tarsem Singh’s later movie The Fall. It looks memorable and pretty as hell, if nothing else.

    I liked The Witch when I saw it, but yeah, I can’t really disagree with your criticisms, especially of the ending. I think Thomasin joining the coven explicitly ’cause it was the only way to survive would’ve been a better ending, although admittedly Satan being like “Well, you can starve to death, or you can sign my book and I’ll help you out,” would’ve felt a bit less traditional of a witchy pact-with-the-devil?

    On that note, do you watch Broad City? They have an episode partially dealing with witches that you might find refreshing after The Witch. It’s in the fourth season and it’s called “Witches.” (Er, fair warning, there are also a loooot of masturbation jokes in that episode.)

    • You know, I’ve never seen The Fall. It got recommended to me a while ago, and I meant to watch it, but never did. If you end up watching The Cell, do let me know what you think.

      No, I’m afraid I’ve never seen Broad City. It’s one of the many, many shows I’ve heard great things about, and I’ve been like, “Oh, cool, maybe in a bit, but right now I’m too busy watching cartoons, kdramas, and Shadowhunters.” (Currently, my obsession is Nancy Drew. I genuinely enjoy it, like, not just to mock, but we’ll see how long that lasts. I’m fickle.)

      • Teacups says:

        Cool, will do. Lemme know what you think of The Fall and/or Broad City if you get around to them.

        Yeah, I want to watch Nancy Drew – or as I’ve been thinking of it, Betty Cooper Gets A Spin Off – but had trouble finding it in Australia. Buuut this reminded me to check again, and this time I found it. Huzzah!

        My current obsession is Doom Patrol. You were right, it’s pretty great. Mr Nobody is particularly enjoyable. I wish he provided insulting narration for every episode.

        • Heh, I actually really like Nancy herself so far. We’ll see if she grabs a wig and transforms into Dark Nancy at some point, though I do feel like most of the characters in Nancy Drew seem to be a great deal more stable than everyone in Riverdale. But I’m only like six episodes in or something. That could all obviously change.

          Mr. Nobody is the BEST.

          • Teacups says:

            Well, Riverdale and everyone in it seemed way more sane and normal in Season 1. Oh, on a side note, I think they miiiiight currently be doing a storyline ripping off that movie The Boy, with Cheryl’s triplet brother that she supposedly ate in the womb. His spirit is supposedly now living in a haunted doll at Cheryl’s house, but unless the show finally goes full supernatural someone has to be staging the haunting. And they’ve been foreshadowing that someone else might be secretly living in the house, so my money is either on the somehow-alive triplet or Cheryl’s mother, who last we heard was a fugitive.

            I’m caught up on Nancy Drew now, it’s fun. I’m glad they didn’t keep up Nancy/George/Nick’s skepticism; a few episodes of it was fine, but I was worried they were going to drag it out all season, and that sounded tiresome. Having the supernatural shit become undeniable and the characters go full steam ahead with seances and exorcisms is way more fun.

            I’m kind of surprised to find that I like not just Nancy, but the entire Clue Crew. I wasn’t sure about Ace at first, as I was worried there was going to be a season-long runner of him hitting on an extremely uninterested Bess. I was so pleased when he decided to become the ultimate BFF and Bess/Lisbeth wingman instead. Though maybe he should ship Bess with someone who doesn’t appear to be an *enforcer for the Hudsons*. Like geez, guys, what happens when she finds out you and your buddies are trying to air all her bosses’ dirty laundry?

            I do kind of like what they’re doing with Ryan, where he’s a selfish asshole and a creep but also doesn’t appear to have the stomach or the intelligence for the kind of dispassionate, calcuated evil that his family’s involved in. He’s the Draco Malfoy to his family’s Voldemort.

            I think Lucy is Nancy’s biological mother. I checked her scenes, and that pink fluffy dress she wore when she died would kind of hide a pregnancy or recent pregnancy – enough to cover the writers’ asses, anyway. They have the same hair, Lucy’s grave said she died in 2000 which should’ve been around the time Nancy was born, and if Ryan was the one who got her pregnant, it would explain why the Hudson family are even connected to this random local and her mysterious death in the first place. That could be why they made Ryan stop seeing her, and after Lucy’s death they could’ve bribed Scott Wolf and his wife to secretly adopt Nancy and pass her off as their biological daughter. Still not sure how Lucy ended up dead, though. Childbirth gone wrong? She said she was going to tell everyone whose kid this was, so the Hudsons hired a hitman? IDK.

            • Anonymous says:

              Oh, when I said that this would explain why the Hudson family are involved – the obvious connection would be that she caught Mama Hudson having an affair while she was briefly dating Ryan. But that can’t be the reason she was murdered, it’s too obvious too early in the game.

            • I’m one episode behind on Nancy Drew right now, so it’s possible that your theory about Nancy’s parentage has already been confirmed or denied. It’s a solid theory, though. I hadn’t thought of it, though I definitely think Lucy was actually murdered, not, like, died in childbirth. (Actually, I think that’s just fact now. But it wasn’t when you originally commented. I have got to get better at time management.) The main thing I think is super strange is that they have different actresses playing Teenage Lucy and Dead Lucy, like, within the same episode. I guess that could be some artistic choice, not, like, a clue, but also . . . WHY? It’s really bothering me, so I keep trying to come up with theories about mistaken identity, Lucy not actually being Lucy, etc. But I think I’m doing that thing again where I’m probably making it more complicated than it needs to be. I have missed very obvious twists that way.

              I am 1,000% with you on Ace: I actively didn’t like him in the first episode because of the possible icky Ace/Bess stuff. I was SO RELIEVED in the next episode when he became the enthusiastic BFF instead. He probably shouldn’t ship Bess/Lisbeth for the practical reasons you’ve mentioned, but I can’t blame him too much for that, cause I’m very interested in Lisbeth so far. Also, I do like everyone on the team. Nick and Ace are probably still my least favorites, but they each have their moments. I am all about George, Bess, and Nancy, though. I find the dad interesting, too. And you’re right, they’re not taking the easy way with Ryan, which is neat. It makes me wonder if the Sheriff is going to get any much needed depth too, b/c I’m definitely rooting for him to get killed off if he doesn’t get a personality for Christmas.

  2. Teacups says:

    That anonymous comment was me, BTW – and the one on the last Triple Spooky Scoop Review, too. I keep forgetting to fill in my details lately.

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