Sunday, January 19, 2020

Saw Did it Better

Hidey-Ho, horror nuts. Welcome to another WTFHM!

This week, I want to talk about the Kroger brand cereal that your mom used to buy. You know, the big bag of Coco Tuffs and Sgt. Crunch that she swore was exactly like the name brand but we all knew really wasn’t.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, good for you. You got to eat the real thing as a child. Apparently, your parents loved you more than the rest of ours did. 

Anyway, no matter how much you tried to fool yourself, it just wasn’t the same thing as good old Captain Crunch and once you got older and got your own job, one of the first things you did was swear to buy only name brand Coco Puffs forever…or at least until you had your own kids.

My point in sharing a little bit of my childhood cereal pain is to say just this: Nothing is as good as the original version of whatever cereal you’re eating. No matter how much milk you put on it, you just can’t improve upon a thing that was done right the first time.

Case in Point:

Escape Room starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, and Yorick van Wageningen.

If you were hoping for a synopsis of this one, I’m sorry, I just can’t. The fact of things is that you’ve probably seen this movie already:

The Cube Series

The Saw Series 

The Circle

The Collector Series

Cabin in the Woods 

Etc and so forth. And much like actual Captain Crunch, you enjoyed those movies way more than the Kroger-brand in a bag stuff.

I guess the best I can do with this one is a How to Make a Puzzle Death Trap movie list. 

#1 – Get yourself a group of strangers

Can’t have a puzzle death trap without four to seven people who don’t know each other. Nothing brings strangers together than being made to solve a puzzle to save their own lives. They can’t like each other though. There’s no room for friendships in these kinds of movies.

#2 – Choose your archetypes

So, you can go a bunch of different ways with this, but the common types tends to consist of these people:

The Brain

In a way, he’s a little like the exposition guy in that his only purpose is to keep everybody on track. He’s the guy who’s done this before or is a certified astrophysicist mathematician or in this case, he’s just a gamer nerd. Most of the time, he’s the final girl in this story (not this time, though. He’s just a magical negro in this movie).  

The A-Hole

There’s one in every single one of these. He’s the guy that’s out for himself and only himself. He uses the other people and generally stirs up crap when everyone’s trying to work together. You'll know him because he usually says things like: "I don't lose" and "This is about survival." 

That being said, Jason (Ellis) wasn't a big enough a-hole for me. Sure, he was a jerk...but he was kind of likable. A real no-no in this scenario. I mean, he's supposed to be as dangerous as the traps themselves by the end of this. Jason's just...well, I didn't have any real desire to punch him in the throat at any given point in this movie.

The One with Issues

This can also be the slut or the drug addict, whatever. Sometimes, there’s even more than one. They’re usually the designated loser of the group that ends up screwing things up in one way or another and gets somebody or everybody killed. 

The Red Shirt

He serves no real purpose. He’s usually dead just when you get to know him. The red shirt in this one lasts a little longer than most, but, well, we don’t know too much about his character when he croaks, so it’s like he dies in the first few minutes anyway.

The Hero

The hero is usually the one wholly likable person in the group IF there is a wholly likable person. This guy(or girl in this case) is the one who keeps it together, saves lives, and typically goes out like a G. (They never manage to make it to the end.) 

The Final Girl

Like just about any horror movie where people die one at a time, there’s always a final girl (sometimes a guy) who manages to make it all the way to the end of the movie. They’re usually an innocent despite whatever evil that put them in this mess in the first place.

# 3 -- Common Thread

There’s always a common theme to whatever put our characters in this mess in the first place, their sins, somebody they’ve all wronged, their birthdays, whatever. They usually don’t figure out what until the beginning of the third act.

Sometimes, though, sometimes we never find out what the common thread is or even who or what put them in the puzzle death trap in the first place (Cube, for instance) and, in my opinion, that’s one of the better plays in a movie like this. Too bad the filmmakers of Escape Room didn’t go that route. I mean, sometimes we don’t need to see the man behind the curtain. 

# 4 – Intricate traps

Whatever traps are in place were clearly designed by geniuses. You have to be a math whiz or some kind of Jeopardy genius if you want any hope of solving the puzzle and getting out alive. It’s the kind of thing that makes you, the viewer, go “What kind of mad genius came up with these things?!”

It’s too bad the writers of Escape Room can’t ever be mistaken for anything like that. It might’ve made for a better movie. Look, I’m not saying I’m the smartest person in the room, but I had most of the puzzles figured out well before any of the characters did. Pretty sure, you all will too. The traps were straight out of Dora the Explorer.

In a few words, this movie was elementary and, that’s another thing. As an honorable mention:

#5 – For the love of God, be scary!!

And if you can’t be scary, be gory. If you can’t be gory, at least be fun. Jeez, this isn’t hard, people. It’s horror, not Shakespeare!

And I’m not the only person with that concern about this movie, clearly.

I mean, if you have to ask...

If this movie had been smart or gory or maybe even interesting maybe it might’ve earned a jewel from me. As it stands, however:

Okay, next week’s movie…well, thanks to a blizzard hitting Michigan this weekend, I didn’t have a chance (or really the willpower) to make it out to get next week’s movie.  Once again, it's going to be a surprise for all of us!

See you next week!


Sunday, January 12, 2020

Curse of La Boring

Hidey-Ho, Horror nuts and Welcome to another WTFHM!

So, you know how you find yourself in anticipation of a movie based on an amazing trailer? You know that excited feeling you get when you first see that movie you’ve been waiting for all this time?

Now imagine that you see that movie...and the trailer turns out to be the best thing about it.

Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

That brings us to this week’s movie.

The Curse of la Llorona starring Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola, Irene Keng, Oliver Alexander, and Aiden Lewandowski.

Oookay, so let’s just start this off by noting that this story takes place in The Conjuring universe...but has nothing to do with those movies, really. We get a small character crossover (Amendola reprises his role as Father Perez from Anabelle) and a few easter eggs, but really, you don’t have to sit through the Conjuring to watch this movie.

Picture it, 1673. A family is playing in a field, the little boy gives the mom a necklace, everyone but the little boy disappears, the little boy finds his mother drowning his little brother, then she grabs him and drowns him too.

That all appears to be a dream sequence, by the way, but if everyone’s dead, then I don’t know who’s doing the dreaming.

Anyway, fast forward three hundred years to 1973. Anna Tate-Garcia(Cardellini) is a case worker trying to live her life after the death of her husband. She’s having trouble keeping up with her cases because she has to look after her two kids.

She’s about to get one of her cases taken away, but she manages to convince her boss not to give it to her younger, prettier, and childless coworker instead and goes to see about the mother in question.

She rolls up on the mother, Patricia (Velasquez) and quickly finds that something is really wrong.

Like real frickin’ wrong.

Like, her kids are locked in the closet wrong.

Anna tries to get them out and is attacked by the mother. Fortunately, Anna showed up to Patricia’s apartment with a cop and he manages to pull her off Anna and take her away kicking and screaming. Anna lets the kids out of the locked closet and puts them in foster care, even though they don’t want to go.

When Anna tries to question them about why they were in there in the first place, they just say something to the affect of “because she will get us.” Anna naturally assumes they mean their mother and puts them in child protective custody.

Okay, that leads me to a very important rule in horror. Listen to the kids. Anytime a little kid tells an adult that a monster/ghoul/ghosty-goo is coming to get them, you can take that as gospel.  So, suffice it to say, Little Carlos and Tomas (Alexander and Lewandowski) are lured out of their beds by La Llorona the next night and Anna gets a call that the boys have been found dead in the river.

Since Anna doesn’t have a babysitter or anything, she wakes her kids up, puts them in the car and drives over to the crime scene. She tells her son not to wake his sister and to stay his behind in the car.

That whole thing is weird to me, by the way. I consider myself to be a pretty good mom...but if it was, like, three in the morning and the kids were asleep already and I have the option of waking my kids up and taking my kids to an actually crime scene where there will more than likely be two dead children or just leaving them home for a few hours, I’m pretty sure I’d take the risk and leave them at home.

But, whatever, she takes the kids anyway. And while she’s dealing with two dead kids and a hysterical mother who blames her for getting her kids killed, Chris decides to get out of the car to get a closer look at the dead bodies because...well, he’s a kid.

Sure enough, while he’s creeping around in the shadows, he comes across a woman in a dirty white dress, crying and…

You ever play Left for Dead? Well, then you know what happens if you come across a woman crying in the dark.

Chris manages to get away, but not before the woman leaves a burn mark on his arm. He makes it to the car where he’s followed by the la Llorona ghost, where she might’ve gotten them if not for Anna coming back to the car.

Okay, so, after that big scare, La Llorona has now decided that she’s going to scare the crap out of Chris and his little sister Sam (Kinchen) and leave weird burn marks on them. And before you ask, yes, Anna gets investigated herself for the marks on her kids, but don’t worry about that, it doesn’t come up again.

So, Anna interviews Patricia, who tells her that it was La Llorona who was trying to get her kids and now because Anna let her boys die, she prayed for La Llorona to get her kids next.

Anna doesn’t pay that or any of the weird stuff too much attention until one night la Llorona attacks Sam in the bathtub. Anna manages to save her and gets her very own burn mark on her arm for her trouble.

At this point, Anna realizes that some serious ghostly stuff is happening. She seeks out Father Perez’ help and in an obligatory plug for Anabelle, he tells her that the case reminds him of a little case with a porcelain doll. Then he tells her he can’t help her. But he knows a guy that used to be a priest that can help.

Enter Rafael Olvera (Cruz) who, the minute he finds out who she’s dealing with says he can’t help her. She convinces him otherwise and he comes to help anyways.

Olvera sets up candles and blessings around the house to protect Anna and the children, but they don’t really do anything...but it all looks pretty cool, but it's pretty pointless.

I mean, really. The La Llorona ghost blows out protective candles and chases them all over the house before they manage to lead her out of the house and keep her out with crushed up tree-beans (from a fire tree in ancient folklore, blah, blah, blah) on the threshold of the front door...and that doesn’t work because Sam leaves her doll outside and decides she wants to get it back, which she does. But not before wiping away some of the tree-beans.

Anyway, La Llorona gets back in the house and goes after the kids. The kids get away, but then Patricia shows up with a gun and shoots Olvera and looks at Anna all like; “I’M GONNA KILL YOU FOR KILLING MY KIDS”.

Anna’s like; “No you’re not.”

And then Patricia’s like; “Okay, maybe I’m not.”

So, Anna and Patricia rush to help their kids, who are in the attic. Anna saves them by stabbing La Llorona in the chest with a knife made from the Fire Tree.

And they all live happily ever after...except I didn’t because I had to sit through this movie.

There’s a lot of noise in this movie. Like a lot of scenes that are just filler and not much else. They don’t lend much to the plot or give us any real background. They’re just...there. And what does happen seems like it’s only happening because the screenwriters ran out of anything interesting to say and just started pulling things from the air to keep things moving. This movie is like a pit into nothingness that just goes on and on and on...

And, you know, La Llorona is a real legend, right? I hate it when they do actual ghost stories dirty like that.

Yeah, no me gusta.

Next week, Escape Room which I hear is craptastic! Good thing I love Craptastic movies.

See you next week!