“Monday Morning Movie Review: You’re Next (2013)” – 2013’s You’re Next is a refreshingly taut suspense and horror film that I actually had seen some years earlier, before inadvertently—but fortuitously—watching it again. It follows a wealthy family as they’re picked off, one by one, by a group of masked assassins. It will keep you on the edge of your seat—and away from your windows.
That’s it for this cinematic Sunday. Enjoy viewing these films!
The plot of the film involves a mysterious illness or curse that enters a remote Korean mountain village when a Japanese tourist arrives to town. The malady causes victims to develop glowing red eyes and dark skin, as well as odd contortions of their bodies. Ultimately, sufferers kill their entire families.
It is near the beginning of this curse that Officer Gong-joo witnesses a naked, wild-eyed woman banging on the doors of his police substation during a thunderstorm. Gong-joo and his partner hide behind their desks, debating about who will check on the naked woman, but the woman has fled by the time they muster the courage to investigate. At a crime scene a short time later, they find the woman, along with her family, dead or raving violently at their burned out home.
It is established early on that Officer Gong-joo is a pitiful loser, but he loves his daughter, Hyo-jin, a predictably adorable little Korean girl. Gong-joo cheats on his wife, shirks work responsibility, and is the laughingstock of his police precinct. He is a coward and an utter failure, but he is—in spite of it all—a good father.
When his beloved daughter comes down with the strange curse, he has the opportunity to prove his courage.
We’re getting into that hot time of year, which for most people means going outside, doing yard work, and having fun. For those of us that are of a lazier, doughier disposition, it’s a time to avoid the unpleasantness of Southern humidity with some good flicks and frosty A/C.
In that spirit, I decided to return to a retrospective of past Monday Morning Movie Reviews this Lazy Sunday, featuring a selection of three flicks spanning decades:
“Monday Morning Movie Review: Digging Up the Marrow (2014)” – This flick was one I’d seen on Hulu for years, but had always passed over. I finally watched it, and really enjoyed its twist on the “found-footage” phenomenon. The premise is that the “movie-within-a-movie” seeks to prove that monsters are real, with only an obsessed old man as their guide.
“Monday Morning Movie Review: Witness (1985)” – A modern classic starring Harrison Ford as a cop on the run in Amish Country, Witness is a powerful story of a man whose principles, while out of place in the modern world, help him fit into the world in which he takes refuge.
Apologies to readers for the slightly delayed post today. I returned late Sunday evening from a weekend trip, so I’m playing catch-up a bit this morning.
Robots: do we fear their ultimate takeover of humanity, or are they amusing, neurotic pals, like C-3PO? I remember receiving a LEGO R2-D2 with a programmable drivetrain early in high school, and in my doughy innocence, I imagined myself walking around with a three-foot droid serving drinks and quipping in 8-bit beeps and blips. Instead, it was a twelve-inch-high kit that could turn in circles and emit a few beeps on a pre-programmed path (there was a way to program him to do more, but I lacked the intelligence and/or technological capability to do so).
That’s all to say that I find the idea of robot buddies fascinating. One of my spoiled complaints about the modern world is that, while technology has certainly grown more useful—WiFi, for example, and thermostats that can be set remotely—it hasn’t gotten much cooler. The optimistic sci-fi worlds of the 1950s and early 1960s, with helpful droids and interplanetary exploration, have been replaced with the dystopian sci-fi worlds of the 1970s. The modern world feels less like Star Trek or Star Wars and more like Logan’s Run.
Needless to say, I was immediately drawn to the premise of Robot & Frank, a 2012 film that takes place in “the near future,” when friendly robot helpers are expensive but available, and smartphones have just become brighter and more transparent. It’s a comedy-drama, but heavier on the comedy side, albeit understated.
Thanks to Audre Myers at Nebraska Energy Observer and the documentary Missing 411, I’ve become interested in Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Yeti, etc., etc.—cryptid humanoid megafauna of various stripes. I’m not sure if they exist, but I’m open to the possibility. Indeed, I want to believe they are out there, wandering in the deepest forests of North America, living their secretive, hairy lives.
So I was quite interested to watch the Hulu series Sasquatch, a three-part true-crime documentary about an alleged Bigfoot attack in Northern California in 1993. The attack left three Mexican migrants dead on a pot farm, with their murders unsolved to this day. Indeed, it seems (from the documentary) that the murders were never actually reported to the authorities.
Let me say up front: while the documentary was quite good, it was incredibly disappointing: an egregious example of bait-and-switch.
Back in 2014 the indie game Five Nights at Freddy’s fired the imaginations and nightmares of gamers with its twitchy, fast-paced, stressful management of a low-powered security camera system and a couple of security doors. The premise of the game is simple: survive the night as a security guard while the animatronics at a haunted pizzeria come to life.
It’s not surprising, then, that Hollywood would take note of Five Nights at Freddy’s success and attempt to capitalize on this very specific horror niche. 2019 saw the release of The Banana Splits Movie, a horror comedy ludicrously based on the late 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Banana Splits.
I haven’t seen The Banana Splits Movie (though it’s definitely on my list of “weird things to watch”), but I have seen the most recent entry into the subgenre of animatronics horror: 2021’s Willy’s Wonderland, starring Nicolas Cage in a role completely counter to the over-the-top acting style Cage usually employs: he doesn’t speak a single word in the entire film.
What happens when a luxury transport ship on a routine voyage to Mars is thrown off course, set adrift on an endless voyage across the cosmos? That’s the premise behind 2018’s Aniara, based on the 1956 Swedish epic poem of the same name.
The answer, ultimately, is quite bleak. Aniara fits fully into the nihilistic ennui that Scandinavians—materially prosperous but spiritually adrift—relish so stoically. Seriously, the Swedes seemed obsessed with existential crises and a sense of meaningless in life. At its best, that gives us the likes of Danish Christian existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard; at its worst, it creates the kind of mindless pleasure-seeking the passengers of the film’s title ship indulge in here.
For all the film’s depressing messaging about the futility of life (to be fair, being trapped on an endless voyage in space, eating only algae to survive, would be a fairly depressing and psychologically destructive experience), it’s a fascinating look into how a society might develop, survive, and perish in the depths of outer space.
Foreign-language films can be a mixed bag. They can require the viewer to come into the plot with some foreknowledge of the culture and its history; lacking that background can make appreciating the film difficult. The reliance on subtitles also requires intense focus, so multi-screen viewing isn’t really possible.
Those can also be strengths, though. Forcing audiences to stay glued to the screen increases immersion into the story. Further, figuring out the cultural and historical context is fun and rewarding, and deepens our knowledge of the world.
Such is the case with the Vietnamese horror film The Housemaid (2016), which takes place during the First French Indochinese War in 1953 (that is to say, the First Vietnam War, before the Americans butted our ways into a French colonial struggle).