Triple Spooky Scoop Review: A Quiet Place Part II, The People Under the Stairs, and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

Horror Bingo continues, but first! An important change to our Very Serious Ice Cream Rating System:

The Old System: I review three films and award them Chocolate (first place), Vanilla (second place), and Strawberry (third place), regardless of how silly it is to compare wildly different movies like this. Every Triple Scoop Review has one of each flavor.

The New System: I review three films and grade them individually with this totally objective and highly scientific ice cream rating system:

God-Tier – Chocolate Salted Caramel
Really Enjoyed This – Chocolate
Enjoyed This Okay – Vanilla
Technically Proficient, But Not My Thing – Strawberry
Well, I Liked SOME of It – Rocky Road
I Actively Disliked This Movie – Pistachio
I Could Not Finish This Movie – Mint Chocolate Chip

Each Triple Scoop Review will be any combo of these flavors. Chocolate Salted Caramel probably won’t get used very often (I suspect it will primarily be awarded to old sentimental favorites), and I honestly kinda doubt I’ll use Mint Chocolate Chip at all because I can’t even remember the last time I started a movie and didn’t finish it. Feel free to argue about how I’ve unfairly maligned mint chocolate chip (or any of the other ice cream flavors) in the comments below, of course, but just know that your opinions are wrong and wrong forever.

With that, let’s get back to our movies!

A Quiet Place Part II

Emily Blunt Aquietplace GIF by A Quiet Place Part II - Find & Share on GIPHY

Year: 2020
Director: John Krasinski
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Paramount Plus
Spoilers: Yes, in paragraphs 3 and 4
Grade: Chocolate

A Quiet Place Part II is a very competently made sequel, and for the most part, I had a pretty great time watching it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first one, but I have the general sense that AQPP II got the Aliens treatment, you know, a little louder than its predecessor, more action all around, a bit less claustrophobic in terms of both setting and scope. But like Aliens, that totally works here, and most of what  I really enjoyed about the first film (an active Deaf protagonist, creepy Demogorgon monsters, the close focus on the Abbott family) is still present in the sequel.

Many of the scenes in AQP II have serious video game energy: the opener (which would also make for one hell of a Disneyland ride), the destroyed train scene, any of the moments when someone has to stay perfectly silent and still. (It’d be like in Until Dawn, where periodically you can’t shake the controller or INSTANT DEATH FOR YOU.) It’s all very fun, tense and entertaining. I also enjoyed Cillian Murphy in this, less because Emmett is a particularly groundbreaking character and more because Murphy is just a fantastic actor who elevates the material. All the acting is really solid, actually, and I hope to see Millicent Simmonds in more stuff because once again she’s excellent.

My primary quibbles are these: A) JFC, stop casting Djimon Hounsou just to waste him like this, and B) the feral people don’t totally work for me, mostly cause they seem, like, weird fucked up instead of normal “we kill people for food and joy” fucked up? Like, their eyes are all weird and shit, I don’t know. Maybe they’re sick with some kind of radiation? Vague Zombie Disease? It’s not that I particularly wanted a detailed backstory for these ten-minute antagonists, but they also feel slightly out of place to me like this: a bit forced and unnecessarily distracting

That being said, I did enjoy how “dive” came back around. I also like that the island community isn’t some devious trap and how nobody in the family dies; even Cillian Murphy doesn’t get the obvious redemption death I’d initially predicted. Sometimes, going optimistic works in your favor because, in horror, optimism is often the more surprising and exciting choice. (Which is another reason Djimon Hounsou’s death here annoys me so much; it’s such a predictable, throwaway moment. If his character has to die, fine, but why like this?) I like the triumph in this ending, too, as the kids each literally step up to kill the monster and protect their respective adults. It feels a touch abrupt, since we don’t actually see our heroes meet up again, but I also kinda enjoy it.

The People Under the Stairs

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Year: 1991
Director: Wes Craven
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Peacock
Spoilers: Surprisingly, no, not really
Grade: Chocolate

You know, I really enjoyed this movie. I’d never gotten around to seeing it before and the very little I knew–basically, there are weird people, and they live under the stairs–had me expecting something a bit more Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes. I wasn’t at all prepared for a satirical gothic horror criticizing conservatives, landlords, and gentrification, certainly not one with dark fairy tale sensibilities, deliciously over-the-top villains, cannibalism, bondage suits, and jokes, just like, all the jokes. This movie is a weird mishmash of a story that’s rocking at least four different tones, and I don’t exactly know why it works so well for me, but it really does.

I enjoy all of the acting, especially Wendy Robie as Mommy (or the Woman, as she’s credited). Her performance is so energetic and creepy and hilarious, and she makes for a delightful villain. This Lack of Impressed face right here, as she looks at Daddy?

Home Alone Film GIF by Arrow Video - Find & Share on GIPHY

Oh, man. I felt that in my bones.

But the whole cast is pretty great. Fool is a funny, resourceful MC, and I think Brandon Quintin Adams does a great job with him, especially considering he’s all of, what? 10 or 11 here? I enjoyed A.J. Longer as Alice, too. Ving Rhames and Bill Cobbs were both a delightful surprise, and of course, this Twin Peaks fan was deeply amused to see Everett McGill here alongside Wendy Robie. I also really liked Sean Whalen, who I will always remember from Michael Bay’s “Got Milk” commercial. (Heh. I love that isn’t a joke.)

This is a story about a Black child living in a Black neighborhood trying to save his family from eviction, but it’s written and directed by a white man; as such, there are probably improvements that could be made here. If TPUtS ever does get a remake (and I know there’s been some talk), I’d really hope to see it in the hands of a Black filmmaker. But I don’t have a lot else that I wanna criticize. I thought the pacing was a bit off, maybe? But I also watched it with a couple of commercials (sacrilege, I know) and I had to take a couple additional pause breaks for my cat, so that easily could’ve been the problem. And yeah, there were a couple gags that were bit corny for my personal preference; mostly, though, I just laughed a lot. I adore pretty much the whole aesthetic: the costumes (particularly Mommy’s and Alice’s) and also the design of the house, with its multiple hidden passages and secret doors. I quite like the ending, too.

I kinda wish I’d seen this as a kid. I didn’t really get into horror until I was in junior high, but I wonder if this might’ve been the rare exception because in some ways, it kind of plays like a children’s movie–albeit a very, very dark, very, very weird children’s movie. I could absolutely marathon this with Return to Oz and The Witches.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

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Year: 2021
Director: Adam Robitel
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Only in the 4th paragraph (but spoilers throughout for the first film)
Grade: Vanilla

We watched the theatrical cut of this movie, and that’s important because the theatrical cut and the extended cut are apparently wildly different films, with completely different beginnings and endings and even different people pulling the Escape Room strings. That’s . . . weird, right? I feel like that’s weird.

Tournament of Champions is a decent sequel, though I did enjoy its predecessor more. (To be fair, my expectations for the first film were . . . not high.) I did have a good time watching this: I like death games and ridiculous horror, and obviously, yours truly was happy to see Holland Roden as one of the new players. Indya Moore was also a fun addition to the cast. I wish I found Zoey a more compelling protagonist, but I still don’t buy many of Taylor Russell’s line deliveries. I do enjoy Zoey and Ben together, though. Logan Miller is fun, and there’s something potentially interesting about a team who survived the first game entering a whole new one with a bunch of soul survivors.

The rooms and death traps are silly and enjoyable, but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that Tournament of Champions was trying a little too hard to top the previous film. I did have fun (I definitely laughed when one one of the characters clowned on a dude for trying to be the Chosen One), but the sequel has basically the exact same formula as the first movie, only slightly more . . . rushed? Ludicrous? I just feel like something’s missing, and I’m not quite sure what. Maybe I just wish the puzzles themselves had been more interesting. There aren’t many surprising or exciting plot developments here except for a twist that’s telegraphed a bit too hard.

Regarding that twist, well. In the first movie, Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), who was kinda awesome, fell to her death, only it turns out that she survived, and was forced to design this Escape Room, otherwise Evil Minos would kill her daughter. I was bummed when Amanda died, so I kinda like this, except . . . IDK, it almost feels weirdly more depressing, like Amanda was pretty badass in the first film, but now she’s just broken, and never really gets an arc or a standout moment or even much screen time; in fact, she’s basically dropped once they all “escape.” Mostly, it feels like she’s around to show that unlike Amanda, Zoey would never break. Which, meh. Frankly, I’d probably have traded Rachel and Brianna for Zoey in a heartbeat. Partially because I just like them more, but also because their deaths specifically feel predetermined by the game, like they never really had a shot at winning, and that’s kind of a bummer, too.

Coming Soonish: Monsters, Legends, Huntsmen, and CIVIL WAR!!!!

Captain America: Civil War

Ah, fandom. Half of it’s like “STEVE AND BUCKY 4EVER!” and half of it’s like “ZOMG, did you SEE Black Panther?” But I’m just sitting here, alone and weeping, like, “But . . . but . . . so was I?” Actually, there are billions of Tony/Steve shippers out there, so I assume they’re crying with me, but for some reason I haven’t seen much from them so far. I guess I have more Stucky shippers on Twitter. (Also, I don’t really ship Tony and Steve, but I have such a huge thing for them being antagonistic friends who totally need each other, and this trailer is breaking my heart, damn it.)

All in all, Civil War looks pretty awesome. Of course, so did Age of Ultron, which isn’t even fair because that was pretty awesome; it just could’ve been better, and I still find that I’m disappointed in it. But I’m into this movie, despite myself. I think my main concerns remain the same:

a) I really need them to sell me on Tony being all pro-registration, because even with his presumed Ultron guilt, that’s a hard sell.

b) I need to really feel like both sides have a point because if half our heroes turn into assholes for no reason at all, I’m gonna be pissed.

c) I want Bruce Banner, goddamn it. (This is less of a serious concern and more of a personal woe because I’m a Banner fangirl, but also because not having him in a story where General Thunderbolt Ross is a major player kind of bugs me. Besides, can you imagine the Stark Spangled Banner angst? It would be INCREDIBLE.)

Obviously, I’m going to watch the hell out of Civil War. But it’s always hard, managing fangirl squee and realistic expectations. (I know, I know. First world nerd problems.)

DC Legends of Tomorrow

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Marvel/DC Movie/TV divide . . .

I’m not quite as psyched about this as other people, but I’m definitely going to give it a shot, especially considering I watch Arrow and Flash even when they continuously annoy me. (In Arrow’s defense, it’s been annoying me a lot less this season. Although it’s still only November. It has time.)

My thoughts on this particular trailer are as follows:

A. Vandal Savage kind of reminds me of Evil Jesus.

B. Heat Wave doesn’t appear to be toning it down even a little, and this concerns me. I’m not sure I can deal with Dominic Purcell at a 1000% intensity every single episode. I have a hard enough time dealing with him when he guest stars on The Flash as it is. Maybe he’ll be a big surprise death early on? (Also, Atom has an excellent point about trusting these dudes with a time machine.)

C. Boo, Hawkman. Although that’s not really fair. I just hated him on JLU, and presumably he’s not even the same Hawkman, considering Hawkgirl isn’t the same Hawkgirl. (I’m still deeply disappointed by this, but hopefully I’ll like Kendra, or at least become less resentful of her. It’s just, I loved Shayera, damn it. She was my very favorite on that show, second only to Batman, and Kevin Conroy’s Batman, even, who is obviously the best of all Batmans.)

D. I’m interested to see how/if this show will ever fuck with the other shows’ timelines, considering they’re apparently going to mess up shit in the past, and Arrow and Flash are both in the same universe. (And especially because Cisco’s whole deal has to do with parallel timelines/worlds and whatnot.) I might be over thinking it, though, because it’s not like Arrow and Flash can reboot their whole series every time someone on Legends screws up and saves someone who’s supposed to die or whatever. Still. I’m curious.

E. RORY!!!!!!!!!

The Forest

Like any sane person, I love Natalie Dormer and want to see more of her, but I can’t help but find this trailer pretty underwhelming. Maybe it’s because I just read a book set in Aokigahara that was chockfull of great, creepy-as-fuck imagery, but this looks incredibly generic to me. Nothing about it seems interesting: not the story, not the cinematography, certainly not the white (and almost certain) love interest. I mean, it’s not Gods of Egypt bad or anything–if you look at the cast on IMDB, you will actually see Asian people in it–but I can’t help but feel like it might not have been a terrible idea, having at least one of your leads be Japanese in a horror movie set in Japan.

Maybe this one’s better than it looks, but right now, my interest level is at zero, even with Natalie Dormer and Aokigahara involved.

A Monster Calls

Man, this looks gorgeous. Which is not at all surprising, considering J.A. Bayona (El Orfanato) directed it. The trailer above is only a teaser (not shocking, as the movie doesn’t come out for another year), but I’m already pretty excited about it, especially because of Bayona, and also because it’s based on a Patrick Ness book. (I haven’t read any of his work yet, but it’s on my to-do list. I’m especially interested in The Rest of Us Just Live Here.)

I’ve got to say, though: I’ve already seen a handful of these dark and beautiful fantasies where the main kid (or one of the main kids, anyway) tragically dies, and while I like those particular stories . . . I’m really hoping this one goes a different way.

Moonwalkers

And then there’s this. (NSFW, people.)

Moonwalkers looks very weird. Potentially funny, but possibly not my kind of humor, which is unfortunate since a movie about Ron Perlman and Rupert Grint very badly trying to fake the moon landing sounds kind of awesome. I’m all for the gory violence, but it’s clearly a WTF movie, and those come in so many shades.  I’m worried this one might end up being too surreal acid trip for my tastes. I got kind of a weird Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas vibe from it, and that was one of the very rare movies I actually didn’t finish. (Admittedly, it’s been roughly twelve years since I last tried it.)

Still, this is potentially interesting. I’ll be curious to see reviews and go from there.

And finally . . . The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Oh, seriously, what the hell.

Guys. GUYS. Snow White and The Huntsman? Not a good movie. It’s a pretty terrible movie, actually, so the fact that it’s getting a sequel at all is a little weird to me, but the people who are starring in it, like, WHY? I’ll give Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth the benefit of the doubt and assume they were contractually obligated to return, but Emily Blunt? Jessica Chastain? You are better than this. How much are they paying you compared to the millions of dollars you could be making working on anything else?

And man, do I need people to stop pretending that Kristen Stewart’s absence will make this movie so much better, like she was the only reason the first movie failed, cause seriously. What total horseshit. I’m not a huge Stewart fan myself, but she is far from the worst thing about that movie. Pretty much everything was a fail. Thin plot. Logic holes the size of Venus. Chris Hemsworth’s supposedly Scottish accent. The poor casting choice of the dwarves. The complete plot irrelevance of the dwarves. Snow’s supposedly inspirational speech and, oh yes, Charlize Theron herself. I’m sorry, guys. I ADORE Theron after Fury Road, just like the rest of the internet, but her performance in Snow White is TERRIBLE. And not only is she back, but it appears that evil baby sister Emily Blunt is going to mimic Theron’s performance by taaaaaalking liiiiiike THISSSSSS the whole time. (On a semi-related note, I wonder if they’ll remember to mention the Wicked Queen’s dead brother from the first movie. I say they forget.)

I feel like I should talk some about the apparent plot of this movie, but . . . it just looks so silly and contrived. It’s apparently not a prequel, though, like I originally thought–which is just as well, since Jessica Chastain’s character is the only one I’m even remotely interested in, and that would mean she’s the Huntsman’s tragically dead wife. On the other hand, Wikipedia tells me that Snow White chose Will after all, and while the ending technically does leave the love triangle open . . . come on, guys, everyone knows that Will was no serious threat to Magic Lips Hemsworth. (Amusingly, Will is going to be in this movie too, even though Snow White isn’t. Like, what?)

If I actually end up watching this, it’s definitely going to be another drinking game night.