The Wailing: Movie Review

I really had no idea what to expect going into this movie. Here is a full list of everything I knew about the movie:

  1. South Korean ghost movie
    2. Really scary
    3. Really good
    4. Two-and-a-half hours long

Point #4 kept me from watching it for a while. I’m all in favor of a good movie regardless of length, but it’s not always easy to carve out two-and-a-half hours to sit down and watch a movie. I wish I was one of those people who could break up a movie into several viewings, but that doesn’t really work for me.

I had a day a couple weeks ago where I stayed home from work to battle the flu. Having the house to myself and not wanting to leave the couch, I figured there would be no better time to watch this. Plus, I figured the creeping deliriousness of my brain would help to heighten the supernatural aspects of the movie.

And so, slightly sweating yet huddled under a heavy blanket, I hit play.

First things first: yes, technically this is a ghost movie, but it’s not a ghost movie in the way I normally think of them. In this movie, a ghost takes the form of an old Japanese man and he persuades the villagers to kill their family in horrible ways. In that way, it plays out as a possession movie, with a ghost/demon in the center of it all.

Of course, it’s not nearly that simple. Is the Japanese man really causing all of the murders, or does the mysterious woman in the white dress have something to do with it? And what of the suspiciously hip-looking shaman? To put it more succinctly, who is the angel and who is the demon?

We follow Jong-goo, a policeman in a tiny village in South Korea. Very early in the movie he is called to the scene of a grisly murder and notices that the murderer has an odd rash on his neck. He begins to notice this same thing at every murder scene. It’s when he sees the rash on his young daughter – Hoy-jin – that he really begins to worry.

And then there are the nightmares. Early in the movie, we hear the story of a hunter encountering a man in the woods with red eyes, hunched over a deer and devouring it raw. Jong-goo begins dreaming of the creature, even seeing him in a kind of waking nightmare at one point. As Hoy-jin’s behavior becomes more erratic, Jong-goo becomes more frantic in his search to destroy the evil that is infecting his daughter.

Let’s get this out of the way: Jong-goo is a terrible policeman. Just awful. Even before Hoy-jin starts showing evidence of the murder rash, he shows to be unreliable at best. He routinely shows up late. He is not aware of his surroundings. He believes every rumor presented to him and changes his mind at the drop of a hat, merely because he hears new information that may-or-may-not be credible. He seems incapable of processing information and making a decision based on everything he knows up until that point. He’s like a dog chasing a ball; he’ll just follow whatever the newest piece of information is and ignore everything else. Not exactly who you want to be investigating a series of ghost murders.

As a father myself, I understand that decision-making can become cloudy when it comes to your child being in danger, so perhaps his actions later in the movie can’t be judged as harshly. However, since we had already seen his extremely flawed thought process on full display before his daughter contracts the murder rash, I feel like his daughter being under duress didn’t make his decision-making any worse. He was terrible throughout the entire movie; his daughter contracting the rash only made him more violent.

I loved the setting of this movie. Some of the imagery was really impressive. However, it was extremely slow-paced and the actions of Jong-goo only served to frustrate me at every turn. Perhaps I could look past some of that in a shorter movie, but the long run time really killed this movie for me. I’m fine with a long movie if there is a point to it, but this movie had entirely too many moments that dragged, and I don’t feel that the payoff at the end was worth what it took to get there.

I also didn’t love everything about the ending. There were a few different things going on, and, while I liked how one of them wrapped up, the other involved Jong-goo and his notoriously terrible decision-making. I should have been invested in his story and really torn by the decision he was being forced to make. Instead, I had already lost all faith in him and was just frustrated by the entire situation.

There were creepy moments, but it wasn’t really scary. It wasn’t unnerving. It wasn’t much of anything but slow and marred by a protagonist incapable of ever making a correct decision.

I know a lot of people loved this, but it just wasn’t for me. Then again, “slow moving possession film,” isn’t exactly my subgenre of choice. If you like possession films, give it a go and tell me why I was wrong.

Rating: 1.5/5

Crimson Peak: Movie Review

crimson peak - poster

Ghosts!  Ghosts everywhere!
At the turn of the 20th century, Edith Cushing (CUSHING!) is wooed by an English baronet, gets married and moves to his not-at-all ominous mansion, nicknamed “Crimson Peak”.  There is a nefarious plot between the baronet and his insane sister in regards to Edith.  And then, of course, there are the aforementioned ghosts.

crimson peak - edith
My thoughts:
First things first: with this being a passion project of Guillermo Del Toro, you knew the set design was going to be top-notch.  Like, next-level, blow-your-mind stuff.  It did not disappoint.  With all the big names attached, somehow the house was the star of the show.  It was created as such a living being that it actually breathed.  The hole in the roof led to some great visuals of various leaves/precipitation floating through the massive house.  Footsteps in the snow outside looked like blood footsteps, as the red clay the land was situation on was brought to the surface with each footstep.  The walls of the house oozed with red clay.  I was in love with all of it.

crimson peak - house
If we’re listing things I loved about the movie in order (and we are, because it’s my review and I’m a grown up and I do what I want), the next in line was the performance of Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe, crazed sister of Tom Hiddleston’s Sir Thomas Sharpe.  She was a ball of barely contained crazy in the early going, then she really let loose as the movie progressed.  Her eyes were wild and her face was cold steel and she was amazing and I’m scared of her and I love her and I’m very confused.

crimson peak - lucille mirror 2
I could talk plot and the rest of the cast, but what’s the point?  Mia Wasikowska was fine.  Tom Hiddleston was fine.  Charlie Hunnam was fine.  Everyone was fine and performed their jobs admirably.  The plot was also fine.  Even if everything besides the set design and Jessica Chastain was terrible, it would still be worth watching for those two reasons.

My point is, if you haven’t seen this yet, please do so, if only for how amazing it all looks and for Jessica Chastain releasing her inner crazy.

crimson peak - lucille piano
Rating: 4.5/5

The Conjuring 2: Spoilery Thoughts

I already wrote a review of The Conjuring 2, but I have some questions that would spoil the movie, so I opted to put them in a different post.  Because I am a kind soul.

conjuring 2 - valak

1. Lorraine was able to defeat the demon – Valak – by saying his name, screaming other things and condemning him back to hell.  Or something.  She only knew his name because Valak told her his name in a vision.  “I know his name, I know his name, GIVE ME MY BIBLE WHERE I CARVED HIS NAME,” she screamed.
So…why did Valak tell her his name?  They had no leads on the demon.  The only way they could have defeated him was by knowing his name, and he told Lorraine his name.  This wasn’t a case of finding out the name then needing to travel to some distant location to find more information and using it against him.  This was none of that.  This was a case of, “I say his name and he disappears.”  Valak had one weakness: that someone – anyone – speak his name.  And he handed them that weapon for no reason whatsoever.
I don’t understand why and I need someone to explain it to me.

2. Why did Janet float like Jean Grey when she was possessed at the end?

3. Why does Ed Warren have such a lovely singing voice?

conjuring 2 - ed with guitar

4 .Why do the Warrens have a teenage daughter they leave at home when they go on their missions?  Doesn’t leaving a teenager alone in a house with haunted items in the basement for weeks at a time seem like a recipe for disaster?

"There are frozen dinners in the microwave & don't worry about the whispers in the basement."
“There are frozen dinners in the microwave & don’t worry about the whispers in the basement.”

5. The idea of Valak using other creepy things as a way to throw everyone off was pretty crafty.  Who cares about looking for Valak if everyone is concerned about Bill Wilkins and The Crooked Man?  That’s a nice bit of misdirection there, Valak.  Good for you.

conjuring 2 - crooked man

The Fog: Movie Review

fog - poster

On the eve of its centennial celebration, a fog bank appears off the coast of Antonio Bay in California.  People are murdered.  Windows are shattered.  Electricity flickers.  It vanishes at the stroke of 1am, but it returns that night.  The fog, you guys.  THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE FOG.

I have a terrible confession: I had never seen this movie before.  As I mentioned recently, I have seen the remake many times (fine, I’ll say it: I’ve seen it too many times), but I never saw this one.  It’s unacceptable and I apologize to you all.

fog - radio station

That being said…

This movie, man.  THIS MOVIE.  I loved it so much.  Sure, the CGI fog looked a little cheesy at times, but it was 1980.  I found it to be perfectly acceptable 80s fog.

fog - ghosts 2We find out very early how many people are going to die, so each death feels like a countdown.  “That’s four down!  Two more to go!  Who’s next?  The mayor?  He looks like he can’t outrun zombie fog pirates.  I bet it’s him.”

fog - ghost stabThe entire movie felt like a story being told around a campfire, somewhere far away from civilization.  It was dark and dreary and ghosty and amazing.

The soundtrack is incredible (no surprise there: John Carpenter always brings the heat) and the cast was dynamite.  In fact, let’s just give a rundown of some of the cast.

fog - sandyNancy Loomis.  NANCY LOOMIS!  She’s the best.  She’s basically her same, sarcastic, Annie Brackett-ian self here and it’s perfect.  She’s perfect.  She should be in more movies.  I need to call her and tell her that.

fog - elizabethJamie Lee Curtis.  1980 was a big year for her.  The Fog released in February, Prom Night in July and Terror Train in October.  In this movie she plays a carefree hitchhiker who quick falls prey to the sexual prowess of…

fog - nickTom Atkins.  He played a ladykiller (what else would he play?) named Nick Castle.  Man, that’s a cool name.  (It’s also the name of the actor who played Michael Myers in the original Halloween.)  He seriously goes from meeting Jamie Lee Curtis to having sex with her in about 5 minutes.  During that time all the windows are shattered in his truck by ghost fog and he’s all, “What was that?  Let’s go back to my place.”

fog - stevie wayneAdrienne Barbeau.  She plays local DJ Stevie Wayne and she’s amazing.  She essentially works as the narrator for the rest of the town, and goes from “seductive DJ voice” to “concerned mother voice” at the drop of a hat.    She really is incredible in this.  And Stevie Wayne?  What a name.  I love it.

fog - kathyJanet Leigh.  Organizer of the town’s centennial celebration and wife to one of the first victim’s.  She spends the vast majority of the movie in a state of panic that the town’s celebration won’t go well, and the rest of it in fear of being stabbed.  She’s great.

fog - father maloneHal Holbrook.  Last but not least, the man who discovers the town’s terrible secret hiding in the walls of the church: Father Malone.  As soon as he finds out how the town was truly founded, he wants nothing more than to burn everything to the ground.  Or die.  Or both.

I will be watching this movie multiple times a year, most likely on dark and rainy nights.

Rating: 5/5

Mailbag: June 6, 2016

Welcome back to the HW Mailbag.  Only one question this week, but it’s a good one.

Current debate that’s going on at work…What’s scarier, ghosts/paranormal or slashers/killers and why?  Your thoughts? – @kcguru23

@kcguru23 works at a hotel and they have these debates during slow moments.  I wouldn’t mind working in a place like that.  Instead, I’ll just sit alone in my office, telling ghost stories to myself.  As it turns out, my scenario is still more interesting than The Innkeepers.

This question comes down to personal preference/beliefs.  I consider myself a believer in the paranormal, with a healthy helping of skepticism.  That is to say that I believe in ghosts, but, I don’t think they’re as prevalent as the wide array of ghost hunting shows would have us believe.

I also believe that there are malevolent spirits.  I’ve heard enough stories from people who have visited Waverly Hills Sanatorium if nothing else.

Still, ghosts/paranormal movies have never really scared me.  Those kinds of movies can be creepy, but they never really stick with me.  Recent installments in this genre seem more intent on hitting the viewer with jump scares more than anything else.  If there’s anything that screams “fleeting scares” more than movies crawling with jump scares, I don’t know about it.  There is such a thing as a well-done jump scare (the sheet flying off the clothesline in The Conjuring is a recent example), but far too many of them just seem cheap and lazy.

That’s not to say that all paranormal movies are bad, I just tend not to find them very frightening.

So, for this debate, I’ll side with slashers/killers.  I grant you that most things I just said about paranormal movies tend to hold true for slashers: they’re not very scary and like to rely on jump scares.  More recent movies like the “fake jump scare” jump scare, which I’m not a big fan of.

I’m siding with this because well-done movies about killers tend to get under my skin.  When I think of some of the most unnverving movies I’ve ever seen – the ones that really grabbed hold of me and left me looking over my shoulder for weeks – I think of movies about serial killers.  The Poughkeepsie Tapes.  Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  Even Zodiac to some degree, and that wasn’t even really that scary.

It’s something real.  Something I feel could actually happen to me.  I don’t necessarily expect a killer will be hiding in my garage, but I could always be wrong.  On the other side, I’ve been living in the same house for almost 10 years and have witnessed exactly zero paranormal events.  No violent deaths have occurred here, and it’s not built on an old burial ground.  I have no fear of ghosts in my day-to-day life.  But killers could be anywhere, man.  Just waiting to strike.  Maybe one of them has been living in my attic for a couple months, just hanging out until the time is right.  I’ll never know until it’s too late, which is why I have various weapons stashed in random places in my house.  YOU HEAR THAT KILLER IN THE ATTIC?  I have weapons that you don’t know about, and they’re EVERYWHERE.  I may not have much training, but I can swing wildly with the best of them.  Find another filthy attic to call your home.

The concept of the home invasion subgenre scares me, but I’ve yet to come across one that has really stuck with me.  The first 45 minutes of The Strangers was pretty cool, but it all just kind of fell apart.  I recently watched Hush – which I really liked – but it didn’t really affect me.  The idea that someone could randomly break into my house and torture/kill me is terrifying, but I’ve yet to see a movie that has really been able to harness that terror.

A quick story about serial killer movies.
As we all know, Zodiac was based on a true story.  The Zodiac Killer was an actual killer who was never caught.  Still, the murders took place in California in the late 60s.  After watching Zodiac – again, not really a scary movie – I checked my garage to make sure he wasn’t hiding out in there.
To repeat: I checked my garage to see if The Zodiac Killer – a man who, if still alive, would likely be well into his seventies – was hiding in there.  I live in Kentucky and have a very loud garage door.  There is no reason he would be in there, but I just had to check.

A view from my garage

In closing, I’ll roll with slashers/killers over ghosts/paranormal, and it’s not particularly close.

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