Last Update 12/27/18


The Terror (2017)

Although I enjoyed the novel despite my antipathy to the authorís horrid politics, the tv series strikes me as high quality but failed. An expedition in 1947 to find the Northwest Passage runs into supernatural trouble instead. The characters never come to life in this relentlessly depressing adaptation. I couldnít develop any concern about the stranded sailors as none of them were well developed before they died. The story is fairly loyal to the book but for some reason it lacks the suspense of the novel, and I was just as glad that it was a short season.  Relentlessly depressing as well, with murder, cannibalism, mutilation, and other goodies. 12/27/18

The House That Never Dies Reawakening (2017)

This is a subtitled Chinese horror film set in a house whose residents were mysteriously killed a century earlier. The mansion is being refurbished. The workers disturb a grave that is sealed with an incantation. The wife of the construction boss, a doctor, begins having strange visions immediately afterward - I never did figure out the connection, although perhaps the dubbing was worse than I realized. The usual things happen. She visits the house and has visions of past events. Lights flicker. There are jump scares. There's a very long and involved flashback that really disrupts the tension and is more about political maneuvering among military officers than anything else. By the time it was done, I had pretty much lost interest in the main story. 12/12/18

Night of the Living Dead (1990) 

This is the apparently little-known remake by Romero of his classic zombie movie. The plot is the same but the actors are better and it is in color, although oddly enough, I donít think it is nearly as effective. Patricia Tallman and Tony Todd are both uncharacteristically ineffective. The timeline is all screwed up. The outbreak has just started but Todd recounts stories of them trying to round up the walking dead which suggests it has been going on for at least several days. The zombies are sometimes capable of using tools, but at other times they are not. I had lost interest by the end. 12/5/18

Star Trek Discovery, Season 1 (2017) 

The latest incarnation of this universe takes place a few years before Kirk gets his first ship. Despite the presence of Klingons and other trappings, the show does not feel much like Star Trek, not necessarily a bad thing. The first episode introduces the main character, a human woman raised among Vulcans, as she commits mutiny out of conviction that she has a chance to avert a war with the Klingons. The war breaks out, she is sentenced to life in prison, but is taken aboard the starship Discovery for reasons not initially clear. Episode three is problematic. If the Federation was conducting crucial research in space, why in the world would they do so near the border with the enemy Klingon? And if they have instantaneous interstellar travel, how did they forget it later? Episode four has another problem. Why would someone interested in the tactics the creature uses to fight decide to cut off one of its claws for study?  Itís not bad over all although at times the dialogue makes me cringe. Particularly episode 7. And Harry Mudd is so badly done heís almost offensive. And would a crucial ship in the middle of a war allow its crew to become heavily intoxicated? Oddly, the show becomes steadily worse as it progresses. They needed a show runner to keep things consistent as well as someone who understood basic logic. When they entered the mirror universe, I almost stopped watching. Early promise completely wasted.  12/4/18

Slender Man (2018)

This is basically the same story as in the Candyman series, a legendary creature that kills or takes away victims if they perform some particular sequence of actions. A bunch of high school girls decide to perform the sequence to prove that it's all a fake. The next day one of them goes missing. Lots of annoying imagery and other camera tricks that I could have done without. Lots of underlit scenes, even in the day time. The four protagonists are so much alike it was hard to remember which was which. There are continuity jumps and sometimes it's too dark to see what's going on. And how did the missing girl take a video of herself from a distance while she was alone? Little suspense or tension and I had absolutely no interest in the characters because they lacked personality. 11/19/18

Overlord (2018)

Saving Private Ryan meets Night of the Living Dead. Actually, I've seen at least a couple of previous movies with the same plot, but they were direct to video and not nearly as good. A small group of American soldiers are sent to sabotage a radio tower in France and discover that it sits on top of a laboratory where the dead are being turned into almost invulnerable killing machines. Comic book Nazis abound and eat lots of the scenery but the acting otherwise is okay. Not a lot of special effects, and they are also okay. Enjoyable enough of its type but nothing out of the ordinary. 11/15/18

Modern Family Season 9 (2017) 

I still find this show highly entertaining, although it has clearly begun to struggle a bit to find new situations for its characters. A few episodes are bland, but others are quite funny. Jay and Gloriaís young son is cute and good in his part. There are some guest star cameos from Terry Bradshaw, Billy Krystal, and others to catch our eye. It still appears that the writers havenít quite decided what to do with Haley or Lily, the latter of whom has essentially a cameo or two for the season. During the final few episodes, it felt as though the writers were groping for some new direction but not quite finding it. Manny's college experiences are barely mentioned. Ditto Luke's job. Ten years is a long run for a tv show so it's understandable that they may be running out of fresh ideas. 11/6/18

Halloween (2018)

Somehow I had the impression that this was supposed to be the FINAL meeting between Michael and Laurie, but it has another ambiguous ending, so probably not. That said, it's a lot better than most of the previous sequels, though overly reliant on jump scares. The cast is good, except for the nutty psychiatrist, who made me cringe in every scene. There are some small problems - mostly Michael covering ground much too fast to be plausible and some murky motivations. The police response to the crisis seems almost lackadaisacal. People refrain from shooting Michael even when it is obviously the right thing to do. A couple of people  I wanted to see die just wandered off and never reappeared. I got my money's worth, but I'm not sure I will ever watch it again. Went to see this on Halloween, which seemed appropriate. 11/1/18

Pyewacket (2017)

A young girl struggling to deal with the death of her father experiments with the occult and in a moment of fury puts a curse on her mother. The movie generally avoids jump scares and builds the suspense more methodically and even convincingly. Pyewacket is a shapechanger and there seems to be little chance that the protagonist can win. A lot of the scares actually occur off screen. Several reviews claimed the movie was confusing but I don't understand that at all. The plot is very straightforward. There is some mild misdirection at the end but I was never unsure what was happening. The actress does a good job although I thought she was too old for the part.  10/25/18

Mr Mercedes Season 1 (2016)

Season One is actually the first novel in the Bill Hodges trilogy. The story pits a retired police detective against a mass murderer who was never caught, and who decides to taunt the man who failed to track him down. The killer is a computer whiz and a really unbalanced headcase who is planning a major atrocity in addition to the lesser incidents he is causing along the way. Hodges is assisted by the young man who mows his lawn and by an autistic woman who finds a real purpose for the first time in her life. The acting is excellent across the board, but there are lots of long shots of people doing nothing important, apparently so that the story could be stretched out to ten full episodes. There are some liberties taken with the book, though not enormous ones, and a couple of scenes left out confused me a bit, particularly when a flashback is thrown in without warning. Season 2 is the second novel, Finders Keepers. 10/17/18

The Burning Court (1962)

This is the French movie of the John Dickson Carr novel, although it has a much simpler and less interesting plot. It is dubbed, not very well, and not terribly well done. It opens with a note about a family cursed by a witch generations earlier. A family of mostly unpleasant friends and family members convene at the family mansion. One of the guests, a young woman, is a direct descendant of the witch. She is uneasy being there, even aside from their family history. The story takes rather a while to get going even though the characters have all been fairly well introduced. The family patriarch, already ill, is poisoned the first night they are there, although at first everyone believes it was a natural death. Two of the guests had planned the murder, but it appears to have been carried out by a third party, who disappeared by walking through a wall. Physical violence erupts among the heirs. Watchable, but not recommendable. 10/14/18

Venom (2018)

In a nutshell, without spoilers, absolutely horrible. There were so many plot holes and implausibilities in the first few minutes that I could never accept it as the real world after that. The special effects and many scenes are so fast moving and dark that I could not tell what exactly was happening. People had information that they seemingly plucked out of the air - I saw a lot of this in the Predator reboot as well. At one point the parasite tells our hero that it has absorbed all of his memories and literally minutes later it does not know who his ex-fiancť is. The villain is incredibly stupid and his evil is exaggerated even more than in comic books. SWAT teams appear without being summoned and without an emergency. People always seem to be in the right place at the right time. The whole premise is based on a plan by the parasites that was completely unnecessary to achieve their goals. The effect of parasitic invasion varies dramatically depending upon the needs of the story line. Should have been direct to video. 10/11/18

Hereditary (2018)

I had heard good things about this one. The story opens with the somewhat odd funeral of an elderly woman whose family considered her secretive and hard to understand. The beginning is very subdued, the soundtrack low or nonexistent, and other than an odd shape in the darkness - and a seriously creepy kid - not much really happens, but there is an implication that some unseen plan is being revealed. The little girl's horrible death came as a complete shock. One problem I had was the complete lack of sympathetic characters. No one in the family is playing with a full deck except maybe the father. I kind of figured out what was going on half way through and the ending did not come as a big surprise. Excellent acting, but viewers who like gore and jump scares and lots of action are going to get awfully tired watching what is essentially a two hour plus psychological drama. 10/5/18