Triple Spooky Scoop Review: #Alive, Freddy vs. Jason, and Train to Busan

Well. 2020 has been . . . a lot, and will surely keep on being a lot right till the bitter end. No doubt at least one bit of catastrophic or otherwise world-shaking news will break between my posting this review and you reading it. And yet . . . it’s Halloween season. And I love Halloween season, and am determined to enjoy as much of it as I can.

Thus we begin our second annual HORROR BINGO.

#Alive

Year: 2020
Director: Jo Il-Hyeong
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: Not really, no
Grade: Vanilla

Okay, so, technically, this movie doesn’t count for Horror Bingo; I actually watched it a few weeks ago and just haven’t had the opportunity to write it up yet. But I’m throwing it in here anyway because I really enjoyed #Alive a whole lot. It’s definitely a film that embodies 2020, Our Year of Quarantine, Misery, and Despair–except that it’s actually much more optimistic than that, and I’ve long been excited by horror that is optimistic, uplifting, or otherwise hopeful. One cool thing about this type of horror is that it can lead to interesting trope or genre subversions; after all, a thing going right is sometimes more shocking than a thing going horribly wrong.

I will admit to being a bit tired of protagonists who are, like, IDK, gamer loser boys? But I genuinely enjoyed Yoo Ah-In in the role; he’s pretty fantastic, which is great because we spend quite a bit of time with him alone in his apartment, trying to survive. The film takes its time here, really delving into Oh Joon-Woo’s emotional journey, and I absolutely love that. I also adore Park Shin-Hye as Kim Yoo-Bin, Joon-Woo’s badass neighbor. I became very invested in their survivor bond and enjoyed watching all the moments where they risked themselves to share food or otherwise help each other. In fact, I think my only real complaint about the film might be in the last act when a new character is introduced; I feel like the pacing is a bit off here, though I might feel differently with repeat viewings. I sometimes do.

Otherwise, yeah, this is a pretty fun Korean zombie film. Bonus points for some great music, fantastic booby traps, and also for being the rare film where social media is actually depicted in a positive light. This particular millennial appreciated that.

Freddy vs. Jason

Year: 2003
Director: Ronny Yu
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Absolutely
Grade: Strawberry

NGL: This GIF is 116% better than this movie.

Last year, we rewatched Jason X, which is legit one of my favorites in the Friday the 13th franchise. This year, it was Freddy vs Jason’s turn, so we decided to make it our Free Space in Horror Bingo. Alas, Freddy vs Jason is actually even worse than I remembered, and I wasn’t exactly fond of it the first time around. The acting, the editing, the writing, Jesus, the writing. Of course, there are multiple cringeworthy lines, but the one that sticks out most is when our heroine decides– completely out of nowhere–to provide the worst exposition of all time with, “Freddy died by fire, Jason by water. How do we use that?” Oh God. I was dying. I was in serious fucking distress.

Also, let’s be clear here: Freddy Krueger is useless in this movie. Jason Voorhees kills, like, 22 of 23 people. Freddy gets one dude, one. When Freddy somehow holds his own against Jason after Lori drags his ass to the waking world? Nope, not buying it. Jason would obliterate this dude. And while I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the difficulties in coming up with a coherent storyline for this kind of crossover, like, come on. If your movie is titled Freddy vs. Jason, then either I wanna see a much better murder competition between these two, or way more battles between our titular villains, like, give me some Mortal Kombat shit, I am begging you.

Honestly, I have a lot to say about this movie, and very little of it is positive. Things I do genuinely like: A) Trey’s death scene (I cheered), B) Charlie’s death scene (surprisingly sad), C) the part where Charlie insists he can’t give Jason Voorhees mouth-to-mouth because he has asthma (“Kia, he has asthma!” LOL LOL LOL), and D) Katharine Isabelle, who is easily the MVP of the cast. (So it’s a bummer her part is so small–and that the director tried to go back on her contract and make her do nude scenes, ugh.) I honestly forgot just how many people were in this movie: Monica Keena, Kelly Rowland, Jason Ritter, Chris Marquette, Lochlyn Munro, a Zach Ward cameo, etc. This is delightful.

Then again: A) not to harp on this shit script, but aspiring writers, please don’t give your heroine two different back-to-back origin stories on why she doesn’t date (“my cherished boyfriend mysteriously ghosted me” and “my tragic dead mom”), B) also feel free to leave out any homophobic jokes (allegedly an improv, still total bullshit), C) also leave out any dumb possession scenes (Freeburg), D) or shitty death scenes (Kia), E) or bullshit resurrections (Freddy waking up Jason, somehow–although to be fair, Jason’s resurrections have never really made any sense). Finally, less laughable gratuitous nudity, if you please. Cause come on. Who buttons up their shirt just enough that one boob is sticking out all the time? Honestly.

Train to Busan

Year: 2016
Director: Yeon Sang-Ho
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Viki
Spoilers: Yep, all of them
Grade: Chocolate

I enjoyed Train to Busan the first time I watched it; I liked it even more on the second go. I wonder how the translation differs between Viki and Netflix. I’m afraid it’s been far too long for me to compare.

My thoughts are largely the same here: while lousy redemptive fathers are even worse than loser gamer boys, Gong Yoo makes this shit work, like, this is the gold standard of daddy redemption arcs. The Feels in this movie are incredible. Obviously, Ma Dong-Seok is the best and thus his death hits very hard, but I feel invested in almost all the characters: the sisters, the baseball player, the pregnant wife, the train conductor, the small child who gives her father Judgment Eyes for two hours straight, etc. It remains impressive that I even feel a bit sorry for Selfish Asshole, especially since he’s directly responsible for so many deaths. This is an emotional movie; I definitely cried more than once and felt pretty wrung out after watching it. (Though, to be fair, I also found out that Trump was COVID+ at the same time, which, like, I have zero sympathy for that man. Still, I remain anxious for how this will impact the election; besides, the news in general is just overwhelming lately. My reaction was basically “. . .” because I’m lacking even the emotional bandwidth for proper schadenfreude these days.)

I do still wish at least one of the women in this movie had an action scene where they, you know, did something. It bothers me less this go around, but it’s still likely my biggest disappointment with the film. OTOH, Jong-Gil’s decision to open the door played much better for me on a second viewing. And I still love so much else about this film: the pacing, the action scenes, the clever use of tunnels, etc. Also, on a positive note: Train to Busan was the first thing I saw Choi Woo-Shik in, who I rather adore. (He’s such a puppy in this movie. The expression on his face when he enters the train car full of Zombified Teammates, oof. Poor puppy.)

I maintain that Small Child’s singing at the end of the film is a terrible idea and should have gotten our two survivors dead (rather than be the instrument of their salvation), and damn the themes and symbolism. Still, it’s not a serious complaint. It doesn’t look like either character is in the sequel, either, which I’m actually grateful for, and not just because Peninsula is, by all accounts, nowhere near as good as its predecessor. It’s just if a character makes it through a zombie apocalypse, I have zero interest in watching a sequel where they inevitable die. LONG LIVE SUNG-GYEONG AND SOO-AN, SURVIVORS OF THE ZOMBIE HELL TRAIN.

Triple Spooky Scoop Reviews: Suspiria, Us, and Jason X

It’s the end of an era, folks! Okay, fine, it’s just the end of our first annual Horror Bingo–which, yes, should have been finished well over a month ago, but life! Holidays! Disney Plus! The point is, I got it done by Christmas, and that’s just gonna have to be good enough.

More importantly . . .

That’s right, I WON! Honestly, this was a lot of fun, and I’m already looking forward to Round 2 next year. Before I get into conclusions, though, we have three more movies to discuss: our final two Horror Bingo films and, of course, our reward movie: Jason X.

Suspiria (2018)

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Absolutely
Grade: Strawberry

Well. That was a movie.

I was hopeful for this one. I do really enjoy the original film. (Gore! Maggots! Technicolor!) But also, I was kinda excited to see a different take on Ballet Witch Academy cause there are a lot of ways to go with that concept. (Not gonna lie, folks: if Ballet Witch Academy was a show on CW, I’d watch the hell out of it.) Add in Tilda Swinton and a score by Thom Yorke, and I was fucking sold. And credit where credit’s due: I do really enjoy that score. Listening to it now, as a matter of fact, and let me tell you: “The Hooks” is a particularly disturbing song when you’re listening to it by yourself at midnight. Also, the Susie/Olga dance scene is nothing short of horrific: grotesque, intense, and masterfully shot. There are certain plot developments I like, too, at least conceptually: the reveal that Susie is Mother Suspiriorum, for instance, is certainly intriguing. And that whole line about how the witches won’t suffer any retaliation for their votes? HA! I didn’t buy that bit of bullshit for one second, so the violent payoff at the end works well for me.

Overall, though, I just really didn’t enjoy this movie. I didn’t like the opening scene at all, like, Chloe Grace Moretz seems to be going for Crazy, Oh So Crazy, and it feels both atonal AF and, yeah, just kinda ick. At 2 1/2 hours, I think the film is far too long. I’m not saying you can’t have long horror films, but I am saying they’re hard to do well. (It: Chapter Two also failed at this.) We spend way more time on the psychiatrist than I think is warranted, and I don’t love that he’s played by Tilda Swinton; the performance is fine (I mean, it’s Tilda Swinton), but I find the choice itself unnecessarily distracting. I like the idea of Susie’s twist, but not the build or execution of it, and I don’t think the film does a very good job developing her and Madam Blanc’s relationship, either. Sure, they stare at each other a lot, and I suspect I’m supposed to get mad lesbian chemistry or maybe, IDK, incestuous mother/daughter vibes? Mostly, though, I feel like Suspiria relies way too heavily on its artsy mood and funky editing in an attempt to overcompensate for a lackluster script. I’m not particularly convinced the political backstory is working in the film’s favor, either. There were a few moments of interesting horror here, but primarily, I found myself bored, frustrated, or both.

Us

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: All of them. Watch the film first, please.
Grade: Chocolate

Oh, this is difficult. There’s an awful lot I do like about this movie. The acting is great. Lupita Nyong’o is fantastic, Winston Duke is hilarious (he plays Such A Dad), and I really enjoyed Shahadi Wright Joseph quite a bit, too. I’d forgotten Elisabeth Moss was in this movie, and though it’s a small role, my God, if she doesn’t make the most out of it. There are so many wonderful scenes and moments here: the death of Pluto, basically everything that happens at the Tyler’s house, Adelaide and Red’s final fight/dance, etc. The soundtrack is phenomenal (I’ve now switched over to “Anthem,” naturally), and I liked a lot of the humor. I’m a huge sucker for family dynamics in horror, and I was definitely invested in these characters as we watched the film.

But I have criticisms, too, and unfortunately, they’re not minor ones. Like, when Red gives her monologue near the end of the movie about how the Tethered were kept underground as part of a government experiment and how she banded them together and such, it felt . . . messy. Interesting, certainly, but messy, like there’s enough story and metaphor in these five minutes alone to make a whole other movie, but instead of really doing something with it, it’s just sorta . . . thrown out there, slapdash as hell. I can’t quite decide if we’re given too much information here or not nearly enough, but either way, I think the writing is a bit weak in the third act. Still, I was willing to forgive it because, messy or not, Us is weird and fascinating, and I was having a pretty fun time watching it. And then we get Adelaide’s Big Reveal, and I just . . .

Look. We were roughly five minutes into this movie before I thought, “Oh, shit, maybe this is an evil changeling story! Maybe Adelaide isn’t traumatized; she’s just not Adelaide.” And you know, there is evidence to support that, particularly whenever Adelaide kills one of the Tethered. But the more Red talked, the more I realized I wouldn’t buy that twist anymore. Part of that’s dialogue: would she really have a whole speech about the humans Above, specifically calling them “your people,” without ever mentioning they were once her people, that the sky was once her sky? Would she say “we’re humans too, you know” to someone who, of course, does know? Would she use intentionally ambiguous (and slightly more awkward) phrasing like “how you could’ve taken me with you” instead of “you could’ve come with me” or “we could’ve both lived Above?”

But it’s not just dialogue. It’s also that the logic and mechanics of this place feel murky as hell: Little Adelaide starts behaving like a shadow while trapped Below, but . . . I don’t really know how or why: she isn’t mindless like the others, after all. So much here feels vague and inconsistent, and while horror doesn’t always have to be logical or explained in full to be successful, that doesn’t fly so well when you need to support a Big Twist. And it doesn’t help that I just don’t think this particular Big Twist adds much to the story, emotionally or thematically; mostly, it just strikes me as an unnecessary cheat, and considering Cheat Unreliable Narrators are one of my biggest storytelling pet peeves? It’s a really unfortunate note to end this otherwise very enjoyable film on.

Jason X

First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other: Personal Collection DVD
Spoilers: Very much so
Grade: Vanilla

Oh, Jason X. This gloriously silly movie. This loving parody of its own franchise. You can come at me with your “Michael Myers is the best masked killer” until you’re blue in the face, but has Michael Myers ever been cryogenically frozen for 400 years? Has he ever cut off a dude’s arm purely by falling over? Was he resurrected and reconstructed into Uber Michael by futuristic nano ants? Yeah, I rest my case.

Jason X knows exactly what kind of movie it is. The puns are over the top, the kills are as violent as they are ridiculous, the fashion is hilarious (sometimes even intentionally!), and and everyone just seems like they’re having a really good time. The whole movie is a string of meta in-jokes punctuated by absurd violence. (See: the gratuitous nudity holograms and the nod to everyone’s favorite sleeping bag death from Friday the 13th, Part VII: The New Blood.) Hell, the whole plot structure is basically one giant homage to Aliens. Also, holy shit, David Cronenberg has a cameo in this! I don’t think I even realized that the first time I watched this movie.

I will say it’s a little disappointing that a) both black characters on the ship die, and b) they die sacrificing themselves for white people, which is certainly a shitty trope prevalent in horror. That being said, if you’re gonna go out in a heroic blaze of glory, you’ve gotta do it like Peter Mensah, whose character impossibly zooms in from out of nowhere, tackles Jason in space, and steers their bodies towards Earth 2, where they continue to fight even as they burn up in the atmosphere. It is exceptional. It is a thing of beauty.

THE GREAT HORROR BINGO WRAP-UP:

Of the horror films I’d never seen before, my favorites were probably Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Babadook, It Follows, and The Wailing. Meanwhile, my least favorites were Suspiria (2018), Ghost Story, Insidious, and The Witch.

Of the horror films I have seen before, I think The Legend of Hell House remains my favorite, whereas my appreciation for Hostel has considerably dipped.

Movies I’m most disappointed we didn’t get to on this go-around: Deep Red, Overlord, and Phantasm.

Movies I’ll probably add to next year’s Horror Bingo, if I don’t watch them before then: Tigers Are Not Afraid, Happy Death Day, and Hausu.

Lil Spooky Reviews: The Body, 13 Ghosts, Jason Goes To Hell, and The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

I’ll admit this: not everything I’ve been watching and reading this month has been properly Halloween-y. (TOS, for instance.) However, I have made time for at least a few spooky things.

The Body (Into the Dark)

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Hulu
Spoilers: Sorry, YES

Entertaining enough, but I ended up being disappointed by the end, mostly because I really enjoyed Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau), who–much to my surprise–was set up to be a really interesting final girl (instead of, say, the black friend who dies halfway through), only for her to die a sudden, ludicrous death via ricocheting bullet. Like, if you’re gonna kill her, kill her, but come on, she deserved better than that. I found her way more than interesting than Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse), who–to be fair–totally surprised me once I realized she wasn’t the typical innocent FG but instead a little budding serial killer in the making. I mean, that was fun, and I had a good time watching her and our hitman, Wilkes (Tom Bateman), exchanging nihilistic philosophies, tracking down our heroes, and maybe-falling-in-psychopathic-love. Nevertheless, I found the last-minute twist that Maggie was still alive boring, and while I love that Wilkes ended up becoming “the body,” I still wish Dorothy had been the one dragging it around the city.

Doubt I’d rewatch this particular installment, but I am interested in seeing the next movie in this holiday-horror anthology. Hm, Thanksgiving-related horror. That probably means grisly revenge on white people, or someone’s getting stuffed like a turkey. Possibly both.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch, mostly (I’d previously watched a few scenes)
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Hell yes. I mean, shit, the title is technically a spoiler.

This is actually better than I expected. Which isn’t to say it’s good; sweet Christ, no. This movie might be better titled Jason Jumps the Shark, assuming you didn’t think he’d already jumped the shark when he battled a telekinetic teenager, got resurrected by lightning, or just appeared as a fully grown adult man despite dying as a child. (Actually, the movie’s original title was apparently The Dark Heart of Jason Vorhees, which, honestly, is a much more apt name.) Still, it’s relatively fast-paced and entertaining enough, which makes it better than other films in the franchise: Friday the 13th Part III, for instance. In fact, the first ten minutes are pretty amazing, like, I am HERE for the FBI sting operation against Jason Vorhees. That’s some amazingly hilarious shit. You have no idea how badly I want to take that opener and remake it into a whole movie.

However, that’s not this film. This film is about Jason’s spirit (which is also apparently a demonic parasitic creature) temporarily possessing various people in an effort to be reborn in a new body. It’s the sequel that boldly includes Jason’s sister and niece, despite the minor fact that they’ve never been mentioned in any of the eight movies previous. It also introduces a never-before-heard prophecy (as delivered by a cowboy bounty hunter who knows it because Reasons) AND ends with Freddy Krueger’s gloved hand bursting out from the ground and pulling Jason’s mask back beneath the dirt. Obviously, I wouldn’t change any of that. (Especially because Krueger clearly signifies that this film is an Elseworlds tale, which means that I can completely ignore it in my ongoing argument that Jason is secretly a Warrior of God.)

What I would deeply like to change, though: a) cut the scene where Jason-Parasite infiltrates his dead sister’s body through her lady parts because GAH, NOT NECESSARY, b) let Jason possess at least one non-Vorhees female character so we’d get to see Lady Jason cause goddamn, that would’ve been cool, c) cut Steven’s whole character because he’s wildly unnecessary to the plot and could easily have been replaced with Creighton Duke (the cowboy bounty hunter, notably played by Steven Williams), not to mention has the absolute dumbest fight scene with Jason, where he’s repeatedly allowed to live despite putting up basically no defense of any kind, not to mention takes away a lot of time from Final Girl Jessica, who alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness Jason Vorhees, and finally d) make waitress Vicki (Allison Smith, or Mallory from The West Wing) the Final Girl instead–or at least let her live–because she’s unexpectedly a total badass and deserves so much better than she gets in this movie.

13 Ghosts (1960)

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Some, yes

This was fun. The tone bounces back-and-forth a bit too much for me: it’ll be suspenseful and foreboding one minute, and then all cheer and hijinks and irrepressible, unsupervised children running around the house that everyone already knows is haunted the next. Still, I had a good time. For one thing, I’m apparently a sucker for these super silly, super campy, William Castle-style introductions. (Shocking, I’m sure. Also, in case you’re familiar with the movie’s original gimmick–no, I didn’t have any ghost viewer glasses. More’s the pity.) I genuinely enjoyed a lot of the humor. The special effects are obviously, you know, from 1960, but I liked many of the ideas: the seance was neat, for instance, with the dead uncle’s ghost coming out of the portrait and briefly possessing Cyrus. Shit, they even had a lion ghost! (As well as the headless ghost of the lion tamer.) Also, I was delighted to see Margaret Hamilton playing the housekeeper/medium. That little fourth wall break she does at the end of the movie? Superb. I laughed so hard.

I’d love to see a proper remake of this–not the 90’s shlock fest with Monk, Stu, and Miss Honey that you know I’m gonna be rewatching at some point, but something much creepier, more atmospheric, maybe a TV show that could take its time and really introduce each of the ghosts. Maybe Hulu could pick it up to compete with Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House. (Don’t spoil me, people! I’ve only seen the first episode so far.)

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

First Watch or Re-Watch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix
Spoilers: No

I hadn’t planned to include any TV shows in these tiny little reviews, but Mek and I just finished watching The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell, and it’s a lot of silly fun, as if The Addams Family met, I don’t know, Ace of Cakes (dated reference FTW), with some undead puppets thrown in for good measure. It is occasionally a bit on the corny side, but I enjoyed it; it makes for a good comfort watch, something you can throw on in the background and say, “Ooh, look at all the cute, creepy pretties.” Admittedly, I’ll never be able to make any of the cute, creepy pretties–seriously, they are elaborate AF–but all the same, it’s a good show for anybody who likes a little sweetness with their spooky or a little spookiness with their sweets.

“Better Swim, Rennie, Before Jason Pulls You Down.”

Hello again! Apologies for my long absence–it’s been pretty chaotic here. Part of that, certainly, is because of the Northern California fires that hit my community pretty hard. But it’s also because I’ve been working on a novel all year, and I’ve spent the past month editing it into something that I can show people and not instantly die of shame. The novel is currently with awesome people, so in between anxiously awaiting feedback and eating leftover Halloween candy, I finally have some time to devote to the blog!

And you know what that means: more Jason Vorhees! When we last left off, Jason was battling a telekinetic and thoroughly annoying teenager. Now that’s he been resurrected (again), he’s going to Manhattan to kill other equally annoying and less telekinetic teenagers!

Well, eventually. He’ll get to Manhattan eventually.

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The 2016 Movie Superlatives (Only Two Weeks Late!)

Let me be honest with you guys: 2016 was not my best year for movies.

On the upside, I finished my Disney Princess Movie Challenge! On the downside, well . . . 2016 was probably a record low for how many movies I watched and reviewed, and unfortunately, I didn’t exactly love a lot of the movies I did watch. I’ve also decided not to do a film challenge this year because I need a little more stress-free time dedicated to non-blog writing. (Although there were still be reviews, promise! In fact, I have two to work on after I finish this epically long bastard. I may try to make some of them a little shorter, though. It would save me some much needed time–although, clearly, brevity isn’t my strong suit.)

With all that being said, let’s get right to it, shall we? It is time for THE 2016 MOVIE SUPERLATIVES.

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“So, What WERE You Gonna Be When You Grew Up?”

Being October and all, I figured it was time to go back to the Friday the 13th series. When we last left off in A New Beginning, Tommy Jarvis had picked up Jason’s mask and looked about ready to stab the hell out of his final girl. Now?

maggot eye

Well, now we’re ignoring all that so Tommy Jarvis can accidentally resurrect Jason’s long-dead corpse with lightning.

Welcome to Jason Lives, everybody.

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