Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) Joan Hall Captivates Completely

Still from A Good Marriage with Joan Hall
Based on a Stephen King story, from his 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars. A Good Marriage stars Joan Hall (Death Race, The Bourne Legacy), Anthony LaPaglia (Crazy Kind of Love, Mental), Kristen Connelly (Cabin in the woods, The Whispers) and Stephen Lang (Avatar, Conan the Barbarian) and is directed by Peter Askin (Trumbo, Company Man) and King himself adapted the story into a screenplay.

This is the first time since the 1989 film Pet Semetary that King has adapted his own work. In his novella, Darcy Anderson discovers that her “perfect” husband is, in fact, a notorious serial killer. She accidentally finds a box of trophy objects from the murders and she decides to take things into her own hands rather than contact the police.

In the film, Joan Allen captivates completely as the older partner who finds that her loving husband has a killer inside of him. Another personality called Beadie, who rapes, tortures and kills women and has done so for years. Allen shows every emotion that her character is going through on her face, not comically but subtly with just enough of a “tell” that we know what she is thinking.

The horror, shame, disgust and fear all mingle on her face and in her actions. Anthony LaPaglia, as Bob, is also impressively sinister and smarmy. The audience do not believe that he will stop for one moment. In one dream sequence, which seems frighteningly real, it is apparent that Darcy does not really think he will quit killing either.

The very fact that her husband has managed to keep this secret from her and their two kids for 12 years indicates a man who is obsessed. His workshop screams OCD, everything put neatly in its place, even his “evidence” box is specifically placed, which is how he knows that Darcy now knows his secret. Stephen Lang, as the retired detective, hovers about in the background ominously and later shows up to reveal that he knows that Bob Anderson was Beadie.

For those who have read the King novella, the story will already be familiar. That will not spoil the film though. Peter Askin does a great job keeping that other shoe dangling tantalizingly in the air as we wait for Darcy to decide how she is going to deal with this horrific discovery. The sly underlying horror is still in the movie.

The fact that her sick husband believes that everything will be fine and that she will accept his promise to never kill again shows just how far gone this “split personality” killer was. His glib explanation that he never killed anyone, that it was his dead friend Brian, aka BD, rolls off his tongue while Darcy listens in growing horror.

Stephen Lang’s Holt Ramsay rules the screen when he finally makes his appearance. His doomed ex-investigator, who clearly has lung cancer that is rapidly killing him, is a scene stealer. A Good Marriage is, however, Joan Hall’s film. She nails her performance and is so thoroughly convincing that she is reminiscent of the late great Geraldine Page in top form.

A splendid little film with spotless performances from its stars and a first rate adaptation from the master himself. Director Askin does a brilliant job as well; he is not afraid to have silence versus a score in a tense or emotional scene. A real 4 out of 5 star film available on US Netflix.

Monster aka Monseuteo (2014) South Korean Oddity

Still from Monster trailer
This 2014 South Korean film is an oddity. Monster, aka Monseuteo is directed by In-Ho Hwang (Spellbound, How to Catch a Virgin Ghost) who apparently could not make up his mind how to present the film. Marketing for Monster is straight suspense or thriller and murder mystery stuff. A serial killer who forces his victims to play “hide and seek” or die, as the trailer shows at the end of the review.

Min-ki Lee, who starred in Spellbound, plays Tae-su; psychopathic step brother and serial killer who turns his victims into pottery after burning their remains in a kiln. He mixes their ashes into the clay and they are turned into beautifully turned pots or urns.

At the beginning of the movie, the audience is introduced to Bok-Soon, played by Go-eun Kim in what is her third film, a mentally challenged woman with the maturity level of a 10 year-old. We learn this later when she meets up with Tae-su’s latest victim and vows to save her. The two females both interact at the same emotional level providing some pretty comedic moments in a film that has quite a few hair raising scenes of murder and mayhem.

Bok-Soon sells vegetables at her late grandmother’s stall. The owner of the pitch where the stall is located keeps trying to get the girl to leave as the lease ended with the old woman’s death. Her sister Eun-jung is planning on going to university and the two sisters bicker about where Bok-Soon will live.

Tae-Su’s older step-brother is asked by a corporate head to take $300,000 to a young girl in exchange for her cell phone footage of his beating the young lady up. The brother takes the money instead and asks his homicidally inclined sibling to get the phone. Tae-Su kills the woman, but cannot find the phone. He takes the 10 year-old sister of the “phone girl” and tells her if she can escape he will spare her life.

The killer also tells the youngster that if she asks anyone for help who cannot overpower him, he will kill them. The child finds Eun-Jung and Bok-Soon and asks for their help. As a result, Eun-Jung is murdered and the mentally challenged Bok-Soon must save the other girl and vows to kill Tae-Su.

Moments in the movie are veritable blood baths. These more horrific moments are then juxtaposed against scenes of comedic integration between the two “10 year-olds.” While these set pieces do not match or even feel like they belong in the same film, the whole thing works in a weird sort of way.

At one point Tae-su’s brother, who is terrified of him, attempts to have the serial killer murdered by a specialist from North Korea. The two men battle and the choreography of the long fight scene is very impressive and looks real. The psychopath wins and later on shows that he is capable of taking on a whole group of South Korean police as well as a group of killers who are all intent on taking him out.

Tae-Su feels a bit like the South Korean version of Michael Myers, or perhaps a Timex watch; this sociopathic murderer can take a licking and keep on ticking. Monster is streaming on Netflix at the moment and is worth a look. It is entertaining in an odd way and there is an urge to watch it to the end, just to see what happens to Bok-Soon. Pay no attention to the details given on Netflix for the film as they do not fit the film either. Fans of South Korean films will recognize the older brother from Memories of Murder and A Bittersweet Life.

Prepare to be perplexed…

Hannibal: Season Three: Let There be Excitement and Horror

publicity still for Hannibal
Great excitement is on the horizon as Hannibal Season three gets underway, and once again the one show that dares to show horror on a scale unimaginable on any other series will rule supreme on NBC. Mads Mikkelsen is back as one of the most fascinating serial killers ever brought to life in fiction. Gillian Anderson also returns as his aide de camp and the two have “relocated;” moving to Europe so Lector can continue his particular culinary reign of terror.

Will (Hugh Dancy) follows and having missed the first episode of the third season, and mistakenly watching the second one instead (Damn you On-Demand NBC!) merely confused as it seemed that not only Graham survived the season two finale blood bath, but Abigail also managed to escape death’s cruel clutches.

Not so, it turns out and once the realization came that the episode should not be finished until viewing Antipasto, it was time to do a tiny bit of binge watching and catch up properly before the third episode comes along. Looking at IMDb, the publicity still shows a bearded Laurence Fishburne in what looks to be a church. Perhaps the same one in episode three, Primavera, so just maybe Jack Crawford, Fishburne’s character also made it through the finale which looked so deadly last season.

If so, the next thing is to either get very excited about the return of not just Hannibal, but Will and Jack as well, or to be shattered to find that Crawford is the same as Abigail, an illusion or dream. Regardless, the games have started already, although discussion of this second episode of season three will have to wait until a three-episode binge brings me back up to date. Being a Mikkelsen fan already, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would make a good replacement for Lector. Anthony Hopkins may have made cinematic gold out of the cannibalistic murderer but Mads has made him, Hannibal, a small screen cult classic.

The series itself features some of the most graphic, bloody and disturbing FX on television, even more disturbing than anything seen on The Walking Dead. In Primavera the corpse in the cathedral becomes untwisted and morphs into Antler Man, walking across the floor in a scene that may well induce nightmares later this evening.

It is not, however, the FX alone that sells the show it is the acting and the plots. The character interaction along with the intellect, and yes, plus the incredible graphicness of the deaths and the gallons of blood spilled make this compelling, addictive and un-missable. It is this winning combination that makes me an ardent fan who keeps coming back for more, an audience version perhaps of Will Graham…

I will be back after catching up to write about this brilliant show once again. All that can be said now, is that perhaps Hannibal was the reason that The Following was doomed to be cancelled. As good as Joe Carroll was, he was no match for Hannibal Lector.

Bon appetit.

The Pact (2012) It’s Not What It Looks Like

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Don’t let the trailers fool you. I was expecting something completely different after being bombarded with misleading trailers; first in the cinema and then on the internet. Despite my false expectations, the film surprised the hell out of me and I really enjoyed it.

Written and directed by Nicholas McCarthy The Pact is actually a “lengthening ” of his short film of the same name. The short starred Jewel Staite and I don’t mind going on record saying I think it’s a shame she wasn’t used in this version of the film.

Nicole (Anna Bruckner) is alone in her mother’s house. Mom is dead and the funeral is the next day. Nicole calls her sister Annie (Caity Lotz) and demands that she come over. Before Annie can get there, something happens to Nicole and she vanishes after going into a dark room in the hallway.

When Annie arrives, Nicole cannot be found. But according to Annie this is not unusual for her sister. After the funeral (Nicole is not there) Annie’s cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins) and Nicole’s daughter Eva (Dakota Bright) come to the house. Annie has a nightmare and when she wakes up, Liz is missing and some real scary shit is going down in the house.

It is unusual in films for an area of “occult” activity to take place in a “cracker-box” two bedroom tract house. But this movie uses this suburban setting masterfully. I will admit to jumping almost out of my skin at least three and a half times watching the events that unfolded in this little house.

I expected a completely different film. The trailers were misleading and I thought it would be like a Paranormal Activity rip-off and it did put me off a bit. I finally decided to give it a go after watching the trailer yet again and reacting to the Skype call where Nicole is talking to her daughter and she asks, “Who’s that behind you mommy?”

The was not so much a horror film as it was a supernatural thriller/mystery. The main protagonist was, once she pulled in that outthrust lower lip, someone you could warm to. She also convinced the hell out of me when she got frightened. So although I was disappointed that the lovely and talented Jewel Staite was not in this film, I did discover the considerable acting talents of Caity Lotz.

The only real problem I had was with the blind “medium/clairvoyant” character Stevie (played by Haley Hudson). The filmmakers seemed to go out of their way to make this character as strange-looking as possible. She might as well have had a sign around her neck stating, “Look! I’m weird-looking/acting and not normal! Of course I can talk to the dead!”

It was not big, nor was it clever. It was, if anything, just annoying and it detracted from the film. But despite this drawback, I still jumped like a Mexican jumping bean on speed several times and I swear that my heart stopped at least once. Pretty good for a film that is not really a horror film in the “classic” sense of the term.

So at the end of all this discourse, I have to say it’s a definite 4 out of 5 star film for me. It scared me in all the right places and it introduced me to Caity Lotz whom I don’t recall ever seeing on film before.

Put a lid on your popcorn bowl while watching this film or it will wind up all over the floor and the furniture.

Ouija believe this is actually pretty scary?
Ouija believe this is actually pretty scary?

 

 

My Soul to Take (2010): The Film Critics Love to Hate?


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Written and directed by “tongue-in-cheek” horror master Wes Craven, My Soul to Take opened to almost universal pans. No-one, it appears, liked the film and critics united in an effort to slam this film. As a huge Wes Craven (and fan of all the Screams) I am amazed at the amount of “Craven-bashing” that took place when this film premiered.

It is almost like a rerun of Craven’s other film, Cursed; which to be fair was a pretty messy affair (being re-shot no less than 3 times) and critics again rallied to beat Craven metaphorically about the face and eyes in their rush to show their hatred for this film. I waited for the film to be released on DVD and watched it.

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I liked the rated and un-rated version…

I liked it.

So when critics slammed the s**t out of  My Soul to Take, I withheld my judgement (as usual) until I’d seen it. Unsurprisingly, I liked it. In fact, I liked it so much I bought a Blu-ray copy of the film. So while I have to restrain myself from giving the middle finger of disdain to the world’s film critics, I have no problem with sending a huge raspberry their way.

Starring:

Max Thieriot
Denzel Whitaker
Raul Esparza
Shareeka Epps
Bug looking pretty damned guilty.
Bug looking pretty damned guilty.

The Plot:

On the night that an almost unstoppable serial killer with a split-personality is seemingly dispatched, 7 babies are born in the local hospital. 16 years later on their birthday, they are all hunted down by the presumed dead serial killer and one boy, Adam ‘aka Bug’ (Thierot), finds out that his dad was the serial killer. Adam must figure out who is killing all his peers and stop him or her.

The Device:

*Warning: this could be seen as a spoiler.*

All the film’s action hinges on the device of “soul eating” and that when a person dies their soul is consumed by their killer. Apparently, when the original serial killer died, his soul was split into 7 parts and each baby born on that night took a portion.

The Twist:

The killer isn’t who you (repeatedly) think it is.

The Verdict: 

The film is honestly not as bad as the critics would have you believe. Okay, so some of Craven’s sly humour is missing here. The overall plot is not too complex and basically folks, if you’re expecting another version of the Scream verse; you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not as clever as Scream or Cursed (which I liked remember) so be prepared.

It does feature another “super-human” Big Bad that is fairly impressive. So overall, I really cannot understand the total lack of love that this film gets.

The Score: 

I would have to give this a solid 4 out of 5 stars just for the split-personality angle and the 7 souls schtick. A good popcorn munchin’ film with solid performances by all.

*This is an experimental review format that I’m trying out for this film. Let me know what you think. Vote on the format you like best and I’ll try to write future reviews in that format.*

*Just to let you know, I’m popping my Poll cherry here, please be gentle! I’ll “post” the results after a week or so. Thanks guys.*

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