RESOLUTION (2012)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Before we watched Resolution, I did some searches for recent horror/thriller movies with good and original concepts. Resolution kept coming up, and with 100% on Rotten Tomatoes (albeit out of only like 9 reviews or something) I thought I had really found a winner. WRONG.

Resolution has a whole lot going for it, which makes its ultimate failure all the more frustrating. Michael (Peter Cilella) goes to see his best friend, Chris (Vinny Curran), a drug addict who is essentially just living in a cabin and doing nothing but smoking crack and shooting guns. Michael wants to take Chris to rehab, so for some reason his plan is to handcuff Chris to the wall and wait a week while he goes through withdrawal and then take him to rehab. So, stop right there. Michael is not a doctor or a nurse or have any kind of experience or training in anything that he’s trying to do. I know Chris is his best friend but . . . wouldn’t that be all the more reason to have the situation handled by a professional? Michael didn’t even take into consideration what he was going to do for Chris to use the bathroom, forcing Chris to use a bucket.

Anyway, a bunch of stuff happens. Michael and Chris are threatened by neighborhood drug dealers and Michael finds out Chris is squatting in a house owned by Charles, which is also on a Native American reservation. Creepy stuff starts happening, Michael starts finding things around the cabin that seem like clues to something. Michael thinks the area is haunted, but he talks to another guy in the area who used to do research with other French students who tells Michael he doesn’t think the area is haunted, but the area needs a story. A good story with a beginning, middle, and end.

More clues and crazy shit pop up, including what appears to be a video of Michael and Chris being murdered by the drug dealers. They later find a recording that sounds like them being murdered by Charles. Obviously, Chris wants to leave, but Michael thinks it’s a curse and doesn’t want to bring it home. Instead, they leave the house and from afar watch as the drug dealers break in and are then murdered by Charles.

Obviously I’m skipping over a lot of details here. Because they don’t really matter. At this point, I thought the movie was genuinely creepy and suspenseful. But then, the camera rises over above Michael and Chris, who look into the camera as they’re put in the giant shadow of something. Chris starts crying and apologizing and Michael says “Can we try it another way?” THE END!!!!!!!!!!

Ugh. So this feels really similar to The Babadook to me. Because during the entire movie, there’s some kind of entity creeping around that the characters can’t see or even acknowledge. Until the last 5 seconds? When they suddenly see the thing (and we don’t get to) and know exactly what it is? What? It felt like an ending that the filmmakers themselves didn’t understood, which is one of the worst kind of movie endings. This just felt like a huge waste of time and a big disappointment.

Christopher

I really enjoyed this movie until the very end where it didn’t have an ending. I’m tired of watching terrible horror movies that don’t wrap up anything.

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THE PACT (2012)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

The Pact wasn’t perfect, but it was really good.

It starts off following Nicole, who is trying to convince her sister, Annie (Caity Lotz) to come home for their mother’s funeral, which Annie does not want to do because of the extensive abuse their mother inflicted on them. Nicole talks to their cousin, Liz, who is watching over Nicole’s daughter, Eva, just before seeing an open door in the house and walking into a dark room.

So Annie does come back once she finds out Nicole is missing. Staying in their mother’s house, she finds a picture of her pregnant mother with another pregnant woman in a floral dress. After the funeral, Annie sleeps and dreams of a man crying and when she wakes up, Liz is gone. A force starts practically throwing Annie around the house, making it nearly impossible for her to escape. Annie goes to the police, who don’t believe her, and a mysterious Google maps address shows up on her phone; when she views the location she sees a blurry photo of a woman in a floral dress. Annie and a cop, Bill (Casper Van Dien) go back to her mother’s house where they find a secret room that Annie has never seen before, complete with a bed. Annie then gets a friend from high school, Stevie, who is now a nearly comatose psychic to come into the house and see if she can help. Stevie starts crying and apologizing when she sees the hall closet (which is what Nicole had walked into); when Annie asks why she’s apologizing Stevie tells her she can see the abuse that Annie and Nicole took from their mother while in the closet. In the secret room, Stevie goes into a seizure-like fit where she starts screaming Judas, and they see what appears to be a corpse of a woman in a floral dress floating above them.

Stevie’s brother takes her out of the house, so Annie starts Googling Judas (at first I was afraid she literally had no idea what Judas represented, which was alarming) and finds out that that was the name given to a never-caught serial killer who decapitated a woman in a floral dress named Jennifer Glick. Then Annie finds out her mother was in a church group (or some kind of club, I forget) with Jennifer Glick, and also in the group was Annie’s mother’s brother, whom she didn’t know existed. Bill goes back to the house without Annie to investigate but is murdered by someone we can’t see. Annie then goes back to the house and essentially draws a ouija board on the floor, which Jennifer Glick uses to tell Annie that yes, Judas murdered her and Judas is also Annie’s uncle. So that’s all crazy, but then it gets crazy.

Right around the time that the ghost of Jennifer tells Annie everything, Annie sees Judas climbing out of a hole in the floor of the hidden room. He opens a small hatch in the wall and crawls out, wandering openly around the house and then going to a bedroom and crying, like in Annie’s dream. Annie flips out and tries to hide and finds the bodies of Nicole and Bill in Judas’ hole in the floor. She steals Bill’s gun but is obviously so terrified and then caught off guard when Judas finds her, he has no real problem knocking her unconscious, causing her to wake up later, tied up in that torture closet. Judas comes to kill her, but she manages to escape (he tied her hair around some kind of pipe, which she desperately chops off with Judas’ knife to escape, which was both sad and painful to watch) and stabs him with a hanger. Jennifer’s ghost pulls Annie out of Judas’ way and toward the gun she dropped, which she quickly uses to kill him.

Here’s what I loved about it: it had some supernatural/ghost-y elements, but the main scary thing was real (it reminded me of The Changeling in that way); Annie was smart and strong; Stevie’s character was really interesting and weird; all the weird family stuff. What I didn’t like was how we never really found out anything as to why these things happened. I get that Judas is a serial killer and there’s no real “why” to that. But what was the pact exactly? I assume it was between Annie’s mother and Judas, but what was it really? Did Judas have anything to do with the abuse and was he living in the house the whole time they were? Mostly I just thought this set up was really smart and interesting so it made me want to know more. But I also know what’s a fine line, especially in horror movies, of what to show and tell and not. I was a little disappointed when the movie ended because I really was so interested in finding out all the details, but overall that doesn’t keep the movie from being successful.

Christopher

This movie was far better than I was expecting and I think it’s the best horror movie I’ve seen in a while. I think it did a good job of being realistic and scary at the same time. I feel like so many horror movies have a lot of faith that the audience won’t question too much but I felt like The Pact did a good job of paying attention to details. It did a great job of letting us know what we need to know at the right time.

I did think that there could of been a bit more to the back story of the whole situation but I really didn’t care that I didn’t get that. I liked seeing the sister solve this problem. I’m sure what would of come after would of been interesting but I’m glad we got to see the main event.

Watch this if you haven’t!

THE IMPOSTER (2012)

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Christopher

I expected this movie to be boring so I pushed off watching it for a while. Every time Elizabeth brought it up I would try to suggest something else. This time when she recommended it I felt like I was ready for some reason. It was great. Why did I push it off for so long? Anyway I’m glad I finally saw this film because it’s a great documentary. I also find it interesting that part of it takes place in San Antonio. The other part of this movie takes place in Spain. Most people, like the ones in this movie would not associate the two together. My grandmother is Hispanic, from San Antonio, and very into the Spanish roots of her heritage. The Imposter had so many elements that were already familiar to me. Because of this I found all the characters to be very compelling. I wanted the family to find their lost child and I wanted the guy who was pretending to be the lost kid to just get caught. BUT THEN the movie throws you a curve ball and it has you thinking about all other types of scenarios.

I think this movie was well-shot and intelligent. It helped you understand a very complicated situation.

Elizabeth

I have a lot to say about The Imposter, but the more I think about it I think it’s a movie that’s better left without much details given. But I really thought this documentary was incredible. The situation, the people, how everything played out is just so crazy and weird and sad. You really should see this.

 

SOLO POST – PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (1996) / PARADISE LOST 2: REVELATIONS (2000) / PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011) / WEST OF MEMPHIS (2012)

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Elizabeth

Recently, Chris was out of town for about 2 weeks. During my time without him I thought it would be good to watch stuff I wanted to see but knew Chris wouldn’t be interested in. The first day I was alone without him, I scrolled through my queue of movies and found Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which I had heard about only because it was on a list of Louis Theroux’s favorite documentaries. Not that it’s a subject I enjoy, but anything with “child murders” in the title I knew would be a no-go for Chris. So I started watching it with literally no idea as to what it was about, except child murders. So I really had no idea I was about to go down this crazy rabbit hole that would lead me to three additional documentaries and knowledge that is both empowering and terrifying.

All four of these documentaries are about The West Memphis 3 and the murders that began everything. In 1993, three boys were raped and murdered; one had been castrated. This happened in West Memphis, Arkansas, which maybe is not the most forward-thinking place around. The cops immediately focused in on Damien Echols, who was 18 when they arrested him. They zeroed in on him because the cops immediately thought it was a Satanic killing, due to the boys  being raped and tied up and what appeared to be their clothes wrapped around sticks placed in the mud. The cops contacted the local juvenile detention center cop and asked if he knew of any kids who might be into Satanic stuff and he immediately thought of Echols, who had had run-ins for shoplifting, who wore black clothing and listened to heavy metal music. Jason Baldwin, 16, was his best friend and Jessie Misskelley, 17, was their sometimes hangout buddy. They questioned Misskelley, who is also mildly retarded, for 12 hours without any of his family members present. They only recorded the last 45 minutes, where Misskelley confesses to being there when Echols and Baldwin kill the kids. But the confession doesn’t make sense with what happened and he mostly just agrees and repeats what the cops tell him. The cops arrested all three and sentenced Misskelley to life plus forty years, even though his entire wrestling team testified to Misskelley being a town away at a wrestling match, at which Misskelley also signed and dated a sign-in sheet for. Echols was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection; Baldwin was convicted and sentenced to life without parole. This was also despite sworn alibis and lack of any physical evidence.

So when I finished the first Paradise Lost, I knew it ended in the mid-90s and I immediately needed to know what happened. I couldn’t believe I had never heard of all of this before. It was so scary to think of these three kids being killed and three other kids being put in prison, one sentenced to death, for something they clearly didn’t do.

Over the course of the next two Paradise Lost movies, they explore possible other suspects and the convicteds’ constant efforts to appeal their sentences. This seems like it should get easier as more and more DNA exonerates them from being anywhere near the crime, but a lot of political and legal red tape keeps getting in the way (like the original trial judge being the only judge to see these appeals and he’s the only one who can allow a new judge to take over). In the end of the Paradise Lost movies, we never find the killer but the convicted are finally freed based on something bizarre called the Alford Plea in which they maintain their innocence but plead guilty and the judge lets them out based on time served. Even though the judge gave a heartfelt speech at the end in which he acknowledged the legal system had completely failed these men, it did little to hide the fact that Arkansas just couldn’t man up and admit that they falsely convicted and imprisoned these men.

A few days after I finished the trilogy, I watched West of Memphis, which is the most recent and is separate from the Paradise Lost trilogy. It was really long, but was also really comprehensive. It also had the most updated information and the hindsight to go with it. They revealed how the defense was able to raise money to hire awesome experts and DNA analysis that further exonerated them but also pointed more and more to one of the victims’ stepfathers. The passing of time also lets this documentary explain that they’ve since found out that the boys were not in fact raped and the one boy was not in fact castrated and all of the crazy injuries everyone thought were ritualistic, like the castration, was caused post-mortem by animals. So in a way, even though these boys still died horribly, it’s slightly less horrible than everyone originally thought. They also did a really good job at explaining all the Alford Plea craziness.

This story is downright insane from every angle, and totally horrifying and scary from every angle. I know there’s a movie about it out now, Devil’s Knot, but these documentaries are so incredible everyone should watch these instead. And I will say I found West of Memphis to be significantly less brutal and probably more focused. But these are stories people definitely should know about.

JAGTEN [THE HUNT] (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION:

  • Best Foreign Language Film

Elizabeth

I chose the above picture for our post on The Hunt because it represents how I felt after watching this movie. Upset and beat up.

I didn’t think The Hunt was going to be that hard to watch. It’s about Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), a kindergarten teacher, who is falsely accused of child molestation. The film is smart about this; it shows us everything that happens, so we know that Lucas is innocent. We see why Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) says what she says: Lucas is her father’s best friend and she has a bit of a crush on him. She overhears her teenage brother and his friends talking about erect penises (they even show her a picture) while watching porn. Klara makes Lucas a heart and kisses him on the lips, which right away makes Lucas take her aside and suggest that she give the heart that she made to her mom and that she shouldn’t kiss anyone on the lips except her parents. Obviously embarrassed and upset, Klara then tells the principal, Grethe (Susse Wold) that she doesn’t like Lucas, and that he’s ugly and has a penis. She says it sticks up like a rod, which is exactly what she overheard her brother saying. So, as an audience, we never have to be scared that our protagonist actually is a child molester, which I thought was smart.

So because our good guy is a good guy, and therefore no kids really get abused, I thought The Hunt would be more mild. But it is so hard to watch. First of all, for me personally, it was really hard because Klara reminded me so much of my niece. Klara was probably around 5, and my niece is 4. And even though Klara wasn’t sexually abused, things are not easy for her. She almost immediately takes back what she says about Lucas, saying she was being stupid. But none of the adults believe her, assuming she’s so traumatized that it’s making her say it didn’t happen. Klara obviously feels guilty, but also really doesn’t understand what’s going on, and it was hard seeing her so upset. In one scene that just made me start crying, Klara walks to Lucas’ house and asks if she can walk Fanny, Lucas’ dog, whom Klara loves. Lucas tells her she shouldn’t be there without her parents’ permission, and she starts crying and telling Lucas that she made a mistake, she didn’t mean to get him in trouble, and that she’s scared. IT WAS SO HARD TO WATCH. This poor girl, whom everyone believed when she told a lie and then no one believed when she told the truth, is just so upset.

What also makes this so hard to watch is how everyone turns on Lucas for no reason. I don’t even like saying that Klara told a lie because Klara never says that Lucas touched her, or made her touch him. All she really says is that he has a penis. Beyond that, anything else she says only comes from continual prodding by adults who are clearly already convinced Lucas is guilty. But why? Lucas has obviously been a teacher for a long time, and he’s good at it and the kids love him. He has a son whom he loves and has never abused. But once Klara says a few sentences, everything everyone knows about Lucas suddenly doesn’t matter at all. Which is scary. Kids say weird/wrong things all the time. Like how my niece’s dad explained, after being asked, to my niece as best he could about how digestion works, and all my niece took from that conversation is that “Pancakes make you poop,” after he used the example of eating pancakes and then eventually you go to the bathroom. My niece’s dad never actually said “Pancakes make you poop,” but that’s what she took from it and that’s what she told everyone else. So when Klara says that Lucas has a penis and that it sticks up like a rod, which is obviously a bizarre thing to say, no one looks into it, no one wonders if maybe Klara is repeating something she heard, or anything. And this is after Grethe acknowledges that Klara has a vivid imagination, and after Klara repeatedly tries to take back what she said. It’s a scary thing, because no one wants to not believe a victim of sexual abuse. But, that doesn’t mean everything has to be taken at face value.

The Hunt is also difficult because there’s a lot of animal deaths; there’s a few hunting scenes, and eventually some unknown people kill Fanny, which was my biggest fear for the whole movie. You don’t see her get killed, but you see Lucas and his son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrøm), react to finding her. And you also see Lucas bury Fanny in his yard, crying in the rain. FUCKING. KILL ME.

In the end, the charges against Lucas are dropped. Before that, other children start saying he touched them, too, and make up elaborate details about where the abuse took place, Lucas’ basement. But when the police come and find that Lucas doesn’t even have a basement, it’s clear that the kids are just making shit up. So, while I’m glad our protagonist didn’t end up in prison for life, I still wouldn’t say the movie has a “happy” ending.

All in all, The Hunt sort of reminded me of Dancer in the Dark: the whole time I was watching it, I wanted it to be over, and I think it was very well-made and well-acted, but after watching it I just wanted to kill myself and I never want to see it again. Would I recommend this? I mean . . . it’s very good, but very difficult. And probably not the best choice for parents; even though nothing really bad happens to kids, seeing Klara try to deal with the whole situation was really tough for me to watch and I don’t even have kids. So maybe just watch with caution.

Christopher

This is one of the scariest, most frustrating movies I have ever seen. It’s all about a man who is falsely accused of being a pedophile and even when the little girl takes it back, no one believes her. It’s so awful. This move was kind of broken down into parts. The second half of the film had a different feel to it to me than the first and I think that saved it for me. As a whole this is a good movie but the first half, seeing everything go down, not in our protagonists favor, felt, at times, like watching Blackfish. It was just so hard for me to watch I couldn’t really sit still, I had to go to my desk and paint for a while. But the second half is interesting to me, the main character changes for a while, and then you get to see how something like this could be forgiven, kind of. This movie is crazy and I would never recommend it to anyone just because it was so difficult for me to get through but if you are interested, watch it because it is a good movie.

THE DICTATOR (2012)

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Elizabeth

Man, I was disappointed with The Dictator. I think everyone in it is legitimately funny and I really liked Borat and really, really like Bruno. I don’t know what it was about The Dictator that just didn’t do it for me. But I just wasn’t feeling it. Bummer.

Christopher

I wanted to see this solely on the fact that Jason Mantzoukas in this film. After watching it however, it was pretty awful. There were some funny movements, mostly of which were in the trailer, but I didn’t really enjoy watching this. I do still need to see Bruno though. Maybe we’ll watch that soon.

FRANCES HA (2012)

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Elizabeth

My interest in seeing Frances Ha definitely would come and go. I wanted to see it when it first came out, then I didn’t really care, then I was interested that it became a Criterion, then I didn’t really care. Then it got nominated for a Golden Globe, so Chris and I finally watched it.

At first, I was not into it. It reminded me so much of annoying rich kids that I went to art school with, as well as the annoying rich kids I was surrounded by when I lived in New York for a summer.

But, this might sound crazy, but I feel like Greta Gerwig’s performance as Frances is somewhat similar to Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in There Will Be Blood. In that I mean because they both start off as seeming like one kind of character, and then they slowly and quietly turn into a character that’s just straight up crazy. Frances Ha really surprised me in how good it was.

Christopher

I definitely started this movie not liking it at all and really hating Frances. But as the story evolved it turns really good. And Frances is still annoying, but I found this movie to be extremely relatable. Many of the reasons I loved Spring Breakers seemed to be present in this film? I’m not even really sure what that is, I think they both just capture the generation I think I’m part of so well?

Frances is basically homeless and kind of just hangs out all the time. She dances but doesn’t really seem that into it. I think that was the biggest problem I had with it. if I did not have a job you better believe I would be making art all the time. Also, in many ways I think I’m jelous of the kind of life she has. But I think I would be miserable in her shoes. I guess I just wish I was at a point in my life where I don’t have to think about money all the time, and I wish I did have more free time to create, cause I don’t get that kind of opportunity at work.