Freaky

Posted on November 12, 2020 at 5:51 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Teen drinking, mother abuses alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Constant very intense and graphic horror violence, many grisly murders, disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: November 13, 2020
Date Released to DVD: February 8, 2021
Copyright Blumhouse 2020

If you read my reviews, you know I usually skip the horror movies. So, forgive me if my thoughts on “Freaky” reflect my ignorance. But I was intrigued by the premise of a large male serial killer switching bodies with a blonde teenage girl. And I like the cast, so I watched it, and it’s pretty fun.

But I don’t know enough about horror films to tell you whether the pedestrian set-up and stock characters are just a shortcut because the filmmakers don’t care — and know the audience doesn’t care — and everyone just wants to get to the good stuff, or because they are making some sort of meta-commentary on the whole idea and genre of teen slasher movies. Maybe both. Probably it does not matter. So, let’s just get to the good stuff.

Certainly, the movie wastes no time in getting there. It begins, as all good self-aware teen slasher movies should, with teens in a luxurious but still somehow creepy setting, outside a mansion, trading stories about a legendary serial killer known as the Blissfield Butcher. Some say he’s just a legend. Some say he re-appears every year. We have just enough time to see how arrogant and obnoxious these overprivileged kids are (that’s how we feel better about their horrific murders, right?) before the Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) arrives, killing them in various creative but grisly and very bloody ways.

Then we meet Milly (Kathryn Newton of “Big Little Lies”), who lives with her recently widowed and therefore vulnerable and clingy mother and her older sister, a police officer. Milly is in high school. She has two devoted best friends, Josh (Misha Osherovich) and Nyla Celeste O’Connor. But she also has bullies, including tiny but fierce mean girl Ryler (Melissa Collazo), some guys, and her shop class teacher (Alan Ruck, yes, Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”).

After the homecoming football game (which does not get cancelled even though a group of students have all been horribly murdered, but okay), Milly is left alone waiting for her mother to pick her up. The Butcher attacks her with a mysterious knife he stole from the mansion. And it turns out to have magical powers or a curse or whatever. When the Butcher stabs Milly, their bodies switch. And, as they will later find out, if they don’t switch back by midnight the next day, they’ll be stuck that way.

This is where everyone starts to have some fun. Vaughn is a hoot trying to persuade Nyla and Josh that it is really Milly inside that 6’5″ middle-aged male body. And Newton has a blast with her new bad self inside the body of a high school girl. Milly is not able to muster the courage to stand up to her shop class teacher or the bullies or to talk to her crush, Booker (Uriah Shelton), but Milly on the outside, Butcher on the inside usually does. Let’s just say that there’s a reason it’s the SHOP class teacher who has been so mean to her.

And of course it all ends up at a big teen party.

In between all of the murders and mayhem, there is room for some sly humor and some genuine warmth as Milly-in-the-Butcher’s-Body hides out in a discount store dressing room and talks to her mom on the other side of the door, and some romance as she and Booker have a quiet, very sweet conversation in a car. There’s a vicarious thrill at seeing the Butcher-in-Milly’s-body stand up (even if it is in a murderous manner) to the people who treated Milly badly.

I’m still not a horror fan, but I enjoyed this one, and if you are a horror fan I’m pretty sure you will, too.

Parents should know this is a full-on horror movie with many disturbing images and grisly murders. Characters use strong language and there are references to sex (some crude) and to alcohol abuse.

Family discussion: What did Milly learn about her mother in the dressing room? How would you convince someone that you were you if you suddenly looked completely different?

If you like this, try: “Jennifer’s Body” and “Shawn of the Dead”

Related Tags:

 

DVD/Blu-Ray Fantasy High School Horror movie review Movies -- format Stories about Teens

The Lovely Bones

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Peter Jackson, whose film versions of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy could be a textbook example of how to adapt a literary work for screen, could find his latest film, “The Lovely Bones” as the example on the next page of how not to. His sincerity and artistry are there, but unlike Tolkien’s triology, Alice Sebold’s book-club favorite is not essentially cinematic. What made the book successful with critics and the public was not the story but the language. Jackson’s efforts to translate the graceful, lucid prose into images loses all of the story’s delicacy and becomes cloying and dissonant. Instead of a poetic meditation on life and the human spirit it becomes more like “CSI” if one of the detectives was dead.

As in the book, we know right from the beginning that Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan of “Atonement” and “I Could Never Be Your Woman”) is dead and telling us her story in a tone of calm, slightly distant regret. She was 14, the oldest daughter in a happy, loving family. She had a crush on a boy named Ray (Reece Ritchie). She and her father made meticulously constructed boats in bottles. And then, one night, walking home from school , a neighbor invites her to see a cool clubhouse he dug beneath the cornfields, filled with candles and snacks and board games. And he kills her.

In the movie’s best scene we and Susie both think that she has escaped the killer (Stanley Tucci) as she bursts out of the underground room and races through the streets. But then we realize just before she does that it is only her spirit that survives. Susie has been murdered. She will watch the rest of her story from a personal heaven, an in-between place for a soul that is not ready to let go.

But the lyricism of the book translates on screen into under-imagined images that look like stock photos used for screen savers or the discreet artwork of a mid-range hotel. Leafy trees, aquamarine skies, fluttering fields, and of course spa music (from Brian Eno) and quavery voice-overs.

Ronen is breathtaking, and Susan Sarandon adds some life as the boozy grandmother who steps in when the parents are devastated by Susie’s loss. The script softens the brutality of the story and irons out some of the sub-plots. But it gives us too much information about the less interesting parts of the story and not enough about what we really care about. But we are never sure whether we are there to see justice done or to put Susie’s soul to rest and by the time Susie meets up with her murderer’s other victims and returns to fulfill one last human longing, it feels more like a campfire ghost story than a meditation on love, loss and the enduring human spirit.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Crime Drama

Changeling

Posted on February 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Radiantly beatific, Angelina Jolie glows with mother love in bright red lipstick and a series of divine cloche hats as Christine Collins, a devoted single mother, in this fact-based drama directed by Clint Eastwood. In 1928 Los Angeles, while she was at work, her son Walter just disappeared. Months later, the police told her they had found him, but the boy they gave her was not her son. She was pressured by corrupt cops to accept the new boy as hers. When she persisted in pointing out that not only was this boy physically different from Walter but that his dentist and teacher were on her side, she was committed to a mental institution and told she could not leave until she dropped all efforts to prove that her son had not been returned.

Eastwood’s meticulous direction and the sheer outrageousness of the story make for absorbing drama, though the very strangeness of the underlying facts makes the material seem overpacked (the running time is almost two and a half hours) and its discursive unfolding diminishes the dramatic effect.

It is impossible not to bring Jolie’s public role as a devoted mother of six to her performance here. Once Hollywood’s most notorious wild child, Jolie has transformed her public persona into a sort of earth Mother Courage on behalf of her own multi-cultural brood and on behalf of all the world’s poor and neglected children with her work for the United Nations. All of that blends in to the ferocity she brings to this role, diminishing the power of the story. The stand-out performances here are Ryan as the indomitable inmate and Jason Butler Harner as the man who probably knows what happened to Walter.

An additional distraction is the effort to put three separate stories into one long drama. The first act is the boy’s disappearance and the horrifyingly absurd attempt to persuade Collins that another child is her son. The second is a “Snake Pit”/”One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” diversion after she is thrown into the state mental hospital, where she is subjected to abuse but meets another inmate (the always-outstanding Amy Ryan) whose honesty and courage helps sustain her hope. And then there is a third act, where Collins all but disappears as the crime drama plays out and we find out what happened to the boy and what happened to those responsible.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a true story Courtroom Drama

Righteous Kill

Posted on January 6, 2009 at 8:00 am

Has there ever been a cinematic pairing as eagerly anticipated as this one? Perhaps, but I can’t think of one that has been anticipated as long. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were both in 1974’s “The Godfather II” but their storylines encompassed different generations and there was no overlap. They both starred in “Heat” 21 years later, but shared only one scene. A mere 13 years after that, we finally get to see them together at last, starring in “Righteous Kill” as New York City detective partners investigating a serial killer who might be a cop. In real life, we have been waiting for a long time to see them together but in the parallel universe of the movie, DeNiro and Pacino have been partners for three decades and are each other’s closet friends and most respected colleagues. The pleasure of the movie is not in its predictable story but in seeing two of the greatest actors of our time play with and off of each other on screen, especially in the unimportant moments that give you a sense of a lifetime of connection and understanding.

That’s just about the only pleasure, though. The ending is predictable, the progress toward it derived from any of a dozen of interchangeable cop films. DeNiro and Pacino connect and compete, DeNiro cooling down and Pacino heating up. But we’re watching them, not their characters. They get some solid support from John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg as a rival team of younger detectives with some personal and professional gripes, but Brian Dennehy looks worn in the under-written over-used character of the exasperated lieutenant and Carla Gugino’s forensic detective is a fantasy figure — too young and too kinky for this kind of set-up. Except for 50 Cent, who can’t act a smidge, the actors are game but the script is tired.

Related Tags:

 

Crime Drama Thriller

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Posted on July 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for violent and disturbing content and thematic material
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Violence with graphic and very grisly images (severed limbs, wounds), guns, car crashes, character impaled, character is a convicted pedophile and there are references to child sexual abuse, some innuendo, reference to death of children, serial killers, s
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 25, 2008

I want to believe, too, but this movie did not make it happen. Six years after the record-breaking television series ended its run, this attempt to carry the franchise forward is unlikely to make any new fans or entirely satisfy the old ones.
xfiles.jpgThe series made an advantage out of the disadvantages of television budgets and technology by recognizing that it is scarier to leave a good deal to the imagination than to give too much away. By deftly allowing the audience to project its own fears onto the show’s ambiguities, it tapped into its era’s skepticism and paranoia.
But its success means that expectations will be high, and so this movie disappoints with its familiarity and by simply giving too much away in both the dialogue and plot.
It still charts its course between doubt and faith. Five years have gone by and both Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) have left the FBI. Scully is practicing medicine at a Catholic Hospital called Our Lady of Sorrows, desperately trying to save a boy dying of a rare disease. The FBI asks her to find Mulder because an agent’s life is at stake. His investigation into the paranormal has been discredited and he is living as a recluse, clipping out newspaper stories, but he and Scully are persuaded to come back to help the FBI determine whether a priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly) is really having psychic visions about the abduction of the missing agent or whether he is faking, delusional, or a perpetrator. Mulder thinks Father Joe is worth listening to, but Scully does not because of her natural skepticism and her revulsion at his record of child abuse. Still, as another woman disappears and Father Joe’s comments about the case — and one to Scully herself about not giving up — seem to have meaning, they continue to rely on him.
The question of giving up is a theme throughout the movie as several characters have to decide when future effort is pointless or too painful. But the theme is pounded too hard and too often — we end up wishing the film-makers would just give up themselves and move on to something else.
Duchovny and Anderson are magnetic personalities and gifted performers with great chemistry. A scene where they snuggle together under the covers has a welcome natural vibe that keeps us rooting for them. (Be sure to stay all the way through the credits for some additional insights.) There are some striking visuals, particularly in the first scene, with a row of black-suited FBI agents crossing a vast snowy field, stamping with poles as they follow Father Joe, in search of a clue. But part of what made the series work was the sense that the plots were almost or even about-to-be possible. This one is at the same time too pedestrian and too far-fetched. It can coast on the affection of its devoted fans, but won’t make believers out of anyone.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Based on a television show Movies -- format Series/Sequel Thriller
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik