Smile (2022) Review: It Follows made by committee.

I should say early doors, that it is entirely possible that this movie is the singular vision of one person and turned out exactly as writer/director Parker Finn intended. However I do feel like I have enough of an understanding of the way the giant disgusting industry works to feel relatively strongly that Paramount Pictures isn’t putting out an almost 2 hour horror movie that they’re not positive they can sell. Particularly when they’re putting money into weird viral marketing campaigns. So, with that aside, lets talk about the camel that is Smile.

Before I get into the issues I have with this one, I feel like it’s only fair to talk about what works first, and there are things that work to be sure. The concept on its (smiling) face, is genuinely creepy – and I wasn’t terrible surprised to hear that it was a short film before hand, because Lights Out worked much better in isolated scenes than in its totality and this kind of reminds me of that in that way. There are some truly unsettling and effective scene thought Smile, the majority of which were in the copious trailers, and one that doesn’t hit until the final moments of the movie. To spread that out across a relatively lackluster hour and fifty five minutes does not make for much to get excited about.

I will say though, there is a scene in the ending that absolutely bangs and if the movie had been more of that it might be one of my favourites of the year. Sadly, one good scene does not a good movie make. There are also some really great performances throughout; Sosie Bacon is great in the lead, and gives a pretty emotionally complex performance – for the most part. She reminded me a whole lot of Lili Taylor throughout, and I really appreciated that kind of off-beat performance. Caitlin Stasey is also great, albeit only briefly in the movie, and Kal Penn has a great and natural charm about him.

I imagine that the scenes that do work are the reasons the movie is seeing quite a bit of positive response, because when it works it does work. The other thing I see commented quite positively on is the thematic exploration of mental illness and trauma. Personally, I feel like the movie is getting an A for effort rather than credit for a real and meaningful exploration – how much of this is the fault of the studio or a bad script is kind of hard to tell, but it is there. The thematic exploration is also stated outright multiple times, seeming not to trust the audience with piecing it together on their own. It also creates an issue in the established rules of the world, and manages to simultaneously over and underexplain the smiling monster and there is some kind of disconnect between what the movie is trying to be about and what it is actually about.

Perhaps the biggest crime, to my mind, that this film commits comes down to the cat, Mustache. As soon as I saw that fucking cat I immediately required the movie to have a shot of that cat smiling with human teeth and really leaning into the wild premise and embracing a little absurdity. Instead, the cat is killed – as only true hack writer’s do – and used in a little fake out bit of nonsense, which I did not enjoy.

I will admit that it seems unfair to compare this movie to It Follows, but it really is the most obvious comparison the primary difference being that I quite like It Follows and found Smile a bit … tedious. A kind of funhouse version with a much less cohesive vision and made with the “assistance” of the production company and producers. Almost like seeing what Smile could have been in an alternate universe or something, rather than this pretty lackluster thing. \

A movie like this doesn’t need to be complicated, and should have a significantly more fun time with this premise. I think of something like last year’s Malignant, which runs about the same length but has a significantly more entertaining story that really leans into the goofiness of it all. There really could have been something like that here, and it does show through in more than one spot.

All in all, Smile just doesn’t quite put a smile (womp womp) on my face. I really wanted it to, but here we are.


Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022): He’s A Libra Moon And That Says A Lot!

The following may contains spoilers for Bodies Bodies Bodies. 

Alright sports fans, I have officially abandoned the 31 Days of Musicals in favour of enjoying my life. So, lets get right into an absolute banger of a movie: Bodies Bodies Bodies from the fine folks at A24. A classic tale about the worst people on earth being the absolute worst, and also Pete Davidson is there being himself; and you know what? It absolutely rules.

Director Halina Reijin and writer Sarah DeLappe have managed to assemble one of the most entertaining horror movies that I’ve had the pleasure of watching in 2022. The movie manages to be funny and extremely tense, and sprinkle in enough violent death and carnage to round the whole thing out. I really had low expectations of this one, worried it would be an empty and irritating mess, but it really isn’t. The characters are all extremely likable in how deeply unlikable they are, they are the very definition of deeply toxic people who kind of deserve each other, and inflict pain and suffering for seemingly no reason. It also manages to be a really satisfying whodunnit, that literally had my wife and I sitting on the edge of our seats wondering where things were going to go.

This is how you portray rich people, not as cool and aspirational, but as real and true fucking nightmare human beings, who don’t mean anything they say and who will say anything to ensure that they feel like they’re good people. This is one of the few movies that manages to make jokes about virtue signaling and hypocritical liberal bullshit, without it being some kind of gross right-wing propaganda. Instead, it takes aim at the center from the left in ways that are just so funny and gratifying. What if, instead of us eating the rich, we left them alone to eat themselves?

Along with a sharp-as-hell script, the movie has a spectacularly on-board cast. Amanda Stenberg and Mara Bakalova are the audience anchor characters, but this is an ensemble through and through. It also has the rare honour in this genre we all love of being almost entirely a story about and by women, the male characters have a role to be sure, but this is never their story and it really gives this wonderful and fresh feeling to the whole thing.

It’s hard to say too much about the story without spoiling it, hence the warning at the beginning, but it is so worth just going in as blind as possible. There are red-herrings and turns aplenty, and some really excellent tension throughout; building to a real fucking gut punch that manages to be extremely funny at the same time.

If I write much more, I’ll get to specific and I don’t want to do that, so lets close by saying: seek out this movie. It’s an easy contender for one of my favourites of the year. My expectations were, genuinely, low on this one and I’m so glad I gave it a look anyways. Just think, I could have been watching Kiss Meets the Phantom tonight, and that would have really been a night wasted. So, if you want a solid sexy thriller to check out this spookiest of seasons, add this to the list.


Paper Cuts: 10/21/16

If there was an Eisner for Best Week of Comics, this one would have to be nominated.


Die Kitty Die #1 (Astro Comix / Chapter House)

The sign of good story tell can be when you are reading a first issue but you feel like you have known this character your whole life.

Die Kitty Die is the creation of two classic Archie creators who have an undeniable chemistry as a creative team.

The art in this book is simply incredible.  The book opens with a classic “throwback” style of art that resembles Archie comics of the 1960’s.  Here we are introduced to Kitty as a character.  The artwork in this section – paired with the editor’s note – really makes you think you are reading a re-print, and it is delightful.

From that intro, we fast-forward and find ourselves with modern day Kitty, complete with art reminiscent of the Life with Archie or Predator vs Archie series; no surprise considering both creators worked at Archie during that time.

Oh, and there is a beautiful two-page spread from J Bone in the middle of this issue and it is simply stunning.

The colors are bright and vibrant and it matches the story telling.  We meet Kitty, a semi-forgotten comic character who also happens to be a real life witch.  The story is accessible to anyone and is not shy about taking a couple jabs at the current state of comics.

This book was just so much fun and full of energy that I implore everyone to check out the creators’ Kickstarter happening right now.

Ratings: 5 out of 5


Lord of Gore #1 (Devil’s Due)

The worst part about this book is having to wait until 2017 when the next issue comes out.

The art here is pretty good.  Daniel Leister definitely has an affinity towards Howard Chaykin and it comes through in the best possible way.

This was a fantastic first issue and really set up the world.  After reading the Lord of Gore background story in it, I was not too sure that this was not a real life horror franchise.

This is a fantastic tale of real life Hollywood and life of stars on the horror convention circuit.  If there ever was a perfect book for Horror-Writers, it is this book.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5


Spell on Wheels #1 (Darkhorse)

There have been many books and movies that have been trying to capture the same type of fun and coolness of the movie, The CraftSpell on Wheels finally is a worthy successor and really captures some of the same magic.

Artist Megan Levens delivers some wonderful art.  Her character design is fantastic.  Her cartooning style mixed with real-life-figure-proportions really grounds the book; no small feat, considering it is about witches with fantastical powers.

Writer Kate Leth really crafts a compelling first issue that deals with some real life fears that many women face, but still manages to keep the story light and not bogged down.

The creative team here is worthy of high praise for delivering a story of believable women in a fun road trip that really has some heart.

Ratings: 4.5 out of 5



Directed by Jorge Dorado (assistant director on The Devil’s Backbone, Bad Education, Talk To Her and many more outstanding Spanish films) with a screenplay from Guy Holmes and Martha Holmes, Anna brings us into the world of  memory detectives; people who have the ability to enter our memories to find more information about past traumatic events.

John is our classic disgraced professional. Once at the top of his game, his own traumatic experiences began to intrude on his work. Now desperate for money, John agrees to take on the case of Anna; a 16 year old girl who is either a sociopath or a victim of  trauma herself.  Played by Mark Strong (RocknRolla, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) John is a man haunted by his past and determined to get to the truth behind Anna’s behavior. As he develops a relationship with Anna, played with doe-eyed malevolence by  Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story), the questions  regarding her innocence begin to pile up.

Told through John’s visits to Anna’s memories, Anna is a girl who is constantly finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  If someone suffers any level of physical harm, Anna is there, yet she swears she has never harmed anyone. Anna’s unusual ability to control her memories and her constant flirting with John  seem to indicate that she is, indeed a sociopath. But is she?

We have a mysterious person following John, a suspicious father, a predatory teacher and so many questions it becomes difficult to keep track of everything going on. What is real, what is a memory and is it John or Anna’s memory that we’re seeing?

With such an awesome pedigree of talent behind the movie, Anna is, ultimately, disappointing. It looks gorgeous, the way the memories are filmed is beautiful and Mark Strong is an undeniably magnetic actor. Basically, I’ll watch anything with Mark Strong in it and I also have a fetish for Spanish cinema; perhaps I had set my hopes to high when seeing Anna, but it just fell a little flat. So much potential and such an intriguing premise lacked the necessary suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat. Anna is not by any means a bad movie, it simply suffers from trying to cram too much story into 99 minutes, which is a sin in and of itself.  I really do love the story and my biggest complaint is that I want more. I want more background and information on John and Anna. I especially would love to know more about this whole memory detective thing. I can’t help feeling this would make a much better television series than a movie.

Anna is currently available on V.O.D.

Curse of Chucky Review

Description from IMDB:
After her mother’s mysterious death, Nica begins to suspect that the talking, red-haired doll her visiting niece has been playing with may be the key to recent bloodshed and chaos.

Notable actors: Brad Dourif (of course), Fiona Dourif (his real-life daughter), Danielle Bisutti, A Martinez

My thoughts:
I did not go into this movie with high expectations.  While I enjoyed the previous films, a direct-to-video sequel that comes 9 years after the last installment doesn’t exactly scream “high quality”.  Still, I wasn’t looking for anything amazing, just something entertaining.  So, with my expectations cranked down to an acceptable level, I was ready to begin.

Let’s start with the things I liked about this.
Fiona Dourif was terrific as Nica, the wheelchair-bound protagonist who is suspicious of the Chucky doll from the moment he arrives at the house.  The acting in this movie was considerably below top-shelf, which only made Fiona’s performance stand out even more.

The majority of this movie takes place in the old house where Nica and her recently deceased mother lived.  It looked fantastic.  It kind of had the vibe of an old castle, or a smaller version The Overlook Hotel.  Huge and spacious, but sparsely furnished and dimly lit.  It allowed the film to feel claustrophobic, while still allowing for a lot of shadows and corners for Chucky to hide in.  Even though we see much of the house throughout the course of the movie, I always felt there was another room I hadn’t seen yet.
Even though I liked the look and feel of the house, I still kind of had a problem with it.  The size of the house (combined with the sparse furnishings) was pretty distracting.  They never said why they were living in this house.  I figured there had to be a story behind it.  But, unless I missed it, there was no such story.  Maybe it’s not a big deal, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Perhaps this isn’t a problem for everyone, but I found myself waiting for the bomb to drop.  I was waiting for the scene where they would talk about this house, and how them living in it was central to the plot somehow.  I felt like Dignan, screaming, “How did an asshole like Bob get such a nice kitchen?”

There was a bit of showing the audience the weapons of the family’s destruction early on.  “Here’s a knife.  Here’s an axe.  Here’s some rat poison.”  And so on.  The Evil Dead remake did this extremely well, building up a level of anticipation for the promise of gore to come.  The same concept was at work here.  The same concept was at work here.  And, while it wasn’t done nearly as well as Evil Dead, it was still enjoyable.

I really love the delivery guy at the beginning of the movie.  It was like they cast him straight out of porn.  “Hey there, pretty lady.  I like your face.  Is your mother home?  Yes?  Too bad.  We could’ve had some fun.”  (This is a bit of an exaggeration, but not as much as you might think.)

Now for the things I didn’t like.
The Chucky animation looked horrible.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the other movies, so it’s possible that the animation in those is worse than I remember, but it was really cheesy here.  I wasn’t looking for it to be perfect, but it was distractingly bad.

Curse of Chucky - Chucky

There’s a trope that is common in movies with children, and I really dislike it.  It’s when the child is the only one who can hear the doll talking,  yet acts like everything is normal.  In this movie, the little girl kept saying, “Chucky told me this.”  At one point, she dropped the line, “Life’s a bitch and then you die, bleeding like a stuck pig.”  Which, while humorous, struck me as extremely odd.  What little girl says stuff like that?  Wouldn’t she think it was strange that Chucky told her such a thing?  She was young (they don’t mention her exact age, and I’m terrible with the ages of children, but I would say she was no older than 7).  Wouldn’t she be freaking out that this doll – which is almost the same size she is – is talking to her and saying things like that?  Sure, the Good Guys dolls talk, but it’s mostly benign chatter like, “I’m your friend to the end,” and “I like hugs.”  Not “Your whole family is going to die tonight.”  Unless we’re dealing with extremely stupid children, they would react differently than the children in these movies do.

There’s a scene where a wheelchair hits a full-grown-man, and he does a complete flip.  I don’t necessarily care that this flies in the face of Earth gravity so much as I care that it looks terrible.

There was a complete lack of understanding of how electronics work.  On multiple occasions the power was blinking in the house, and the screens of the laptops in use were also blinking (in one instance, the screen turned to static snow, like an old TV with bunny ears on a terrible connection).  Laptops have batteries.  If the power blinks, laptop screens do not blink.  And yet, over and over again, that’s exactly what happened here.

They worked very hard to work the story of this family in with the first Child’s Play movie.  While I enjoyed the idea behind it, the execution was terrible, and it resulted in entirely too many false endings.  It’s like they weren’t quite sure how to end it.  The first ending was fine, if a bit sudden and more than a little illogical (I won’t discuss those issues here, since it would include a pretty big spoiler).  But each one after that got a little more goofy.  I could almost see the filmmakers winking at me.  “See?  See?!  Get it?!”  It got to be a bit old by the end of it.  (The end of the last false ending before the credits was really terrible.  And then, of course, there’s a stinger after the credits.  Just thinking about it makes me tired.)

My main problem was this: this movie didn’t seem like it knew what it wanted to be.  It was pretty serious and dark for the most part.  But, eventually, it turned into dumb Chucky one-liners, while never changing the tone of the movie.  It’s like they wanted to mix the darker horror elements of the original with the goofiness of the latter movies, but it just didn’t work.  If there’s a happy medium between those, they didn’t find it.

All of this sounds like I hated it.  I didn’t hate it.  For the most part, I enjoyed watching it.  If nothing else, it’s worth watching for Fiona Dourif and the creepy spaciousness of the house.  If you’re a fan of the previous movies, you may not love this, but I’m sure you’ll find enough to enjoy to make it worth your while.

In summary: it wasn’t great, but it was more-or-less enjoyable.  A rousing review, I know.

Rating: 2/5