Review- My Soul To Take

Max Thieriot in My Soul to Take

While traditionally it has been that October offers us a barrage of horror releases other months are not immune from seeing them either.  It is a genre that though as much as I love it is drowning in sub-par sequels and remakes, which is sad because while finding a truly great horror film is kind of like finding a needle in a haystack when you do find one there’s almost nothing like it.



My Soul to Take, Wes Craven’s latest film, is very likely the film that will capture the title of Horror Film of the Year. While it’s true that Let Me In is a wonderful rendition of the tale it was not quite perfect and it is a tale already told whereas this was not.

This film hooks itself into you right away as we watch a jaw-dropping and fascinating opening sequence which chronicles who the Riverton Ripper was. Springing forward we are watching a late night party in the woods where those who were born on the last night the Ripper was seen alive, and is presumed to have died. They are about to engage in a cleansing ritual it is interrupted and things go south from there.

While there is a bit of willful misdirection by the film, certain scenes want you to lean one way over the other as to who the killer is, rest assured it does add up in the end if you look back on some of those scenes as just planting the seeds of mental illness and character building.

Almost from the word go this film ratchets up the tension and makes it a jaw-clenchingly enjoyable experience which is not only full of suspense but comedy, by design not by accident. What is even more surprising is that a seemingly superficial scene in which Bug (Max Thieriot) and Alex (John Magaro) are trying to eavesdrop on the girls in the rest room turns into one of the pivotal scenes in the film due to the fallout from it.

Even though this was a film that was converted to 3D in post production that bears commenting on because when I went to see it there was no 2D option available. While I don’t have a scorecard of native-3D vs. post-conversion I must say it is the best I’ve seen of post-conversion. The images are crisp and clear and there is depth of field. A lot of time and effort was put into it to make it all seem by design and indeed it did enhance the experience.

Finding a horror protagonist is a tricky thing. People who will watch a horror film will watch many and become jaded. We’ve all been there where we’re watching a horror flick and it stinks and part of why it stinks is we don’t like the protagonist and they just won’t die already. This film doesn’t have that concern Max Thieriot plays Bug as endearingly and affably as possible while still maintaining the utmost sincerity. We see him struggle through this nightmare and root for him not only to make it out alive but to not be the killer.

Another reason that this film manages to keep itself so engaging is while Bug is boyish, kind and sheltered he is never stupid. There is never a decision he makes or something he does that makes you roll your eyes and take you out of the moment.  

My Soul to Take will keep your eyes glued to the screen and your knuckles white. It is a great night at the movies waiting to happen and a breath of fresh air in a sometimes stagnant genre.

10/10
 
For More Information: please visit the film’s site. For tickets and showtimes please use Fandango.

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The Gay Dilemma

Vince Vaughan in The Dilemma

There has been much controversy swirling about the Ron Howard directed, Vince Vaughn starring, Universal film called The Dilemma, a rather apt title when you think about the conundrum the film presents. The kerfuffle is about a joke that Vaughn’s character utters “Electric cars are gay…”

Firstly, it must be said that this line is controversial because the word gay is being used out of context. It is not used in any of its eight assigned definitions. What this usage insinuates could be anything from stupid to effeminate (which is not synonymous with male homosexuality for the record).

This issue about the usage falls into no man’s land which is what makes it a lightning rod. On the one hand I do not and shall not be an endorser of censorship in any form. However, what has occurred with this line in the film falls just short. Universal didn’t have to agree to GLAAD’s demands of the line’s removal from the trailer but it was in their best interest after the publicity started getting negative. On the other hand, I firmly disagree with the misappropriation of the word.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is doing great work, which started well before the rash of suicides to combat slurs, like using gay as a synonym for stupid. I applaud their efforts and as you will see this kind of forum is where a real difference in attitudes and perceptions can be made.

Art imitates life, I believe, and not the other way around. Racism was much more pervasive and out in the open through much of American history than it is now. These attitudes were reflected in how minorities were portrayed by Hollywood. While racism still exists, of course, it is less socially acceptable now and its appearance in films, save for pedagogical purposes, is frowned upon. Hence, if homophobia becomes less present in society it’ll be a less functional device to implement in cinema.

There have been much, much more offensive gay jokes in the past such that what offends me most about this joke is actually the writing. Whether this version or the earlier version it’s bad writing and not terribly funny. Not to cast aspersions on the film as a whole. It may end up being funny and that joke just falls terribly flat because its unoriginal, unintelligent and unnecessary. Slurs should be viewed like profanity: what a writer must always ask him or herself is “Is the profanity/slur the most viable option?” If not substitute it.

Vaughn’s statement regarding the line where he defends the it rings hollow due to this fact. If the line was comedic genius I’d understand the need to defend it but whether or not this line ends up in the final cut will not change what the film is and what it’s about (knowing Vaughn there are likely ad-lib takes with different assessments of electric cars). This is not removing instances of “The N-Word” from Huckleberry Finn we’re talking about here.

My adolescence coincided with a world where “Politically Correct” was a buzzword and there is something to be learned from the concept. Mostly it’s this: political correctness can lead to over-zealousness and over-sensitivity but it can also create real change when applied to the right situations. Eradicating the use of the word gay as a pejorative would certainly be one of those cases.

The main factor that keeps me from lighting a torch, getting a pitchfork and charging the Universal Lot is the fact that I don’t think art will change perception of a given people in one fell swoop. Everything is cumulative.

Look at the very climate we live in now, in the 1980s and 90s there were to an extent varying degrees of apathy. Protests both for and against gay rights are much more prevalent now and the Gay Rights Movement has become a forefront issue not only in the US but worldwide. Many more people seem to be open about their sexuality now, which is great but there is a backlash, sadly. This openness has lead those who find fault with homosexuality, for whatever their prejudicial and ignorant reasons, to feel more inclined to persecute those who are, and those they deem to be, gay.

So the ebb and flow in societal assimilation is very violent at the moment, both literally and figuratively. Homosexuals are trying to refuse the counterculture label they’ve had to live with for better or worse and are standing up and seeking to be counted. Obviously, there are some who don’t want that. Things always come to a boiling point before a new sense of normalcy is reached. Hopefully, a nation repeatedly struck by the tragic losses of those whose only “sin” was knowing who they were will wake up and realize they are berating their sons and daughters into an early grave.

This drift in topic, away from the film itself, does have a purpose. For the word ‘gay’ to stop being used as a putdown the change has to come from society. It’s happened before, the mentally challenged and physically challenged weren’t always referred to as such. It wasn’t arts that lead the way to correcting the derogatory nicknames they acquired, it was people.

Timing is everything. That is why this silly little line has become such a talking point. If the political climate were calmer then GLAAD still would’ve objected but it may not have gotten this kind of attention. Oddly, the one thing we can be thankful for is that this film with its thoughtless insensitivity has created more debate. And discourse is good. Talking about this and saying its wrong repeatedly is the only way it’ll ever sink in. Eventually people will learn but movies won’t teach society but instead will follow. So let’s take the first step to making both better.

Beware of “Composite” Serials

In my previous post I asserted that, for the most part, I want this blog to be a positive place and I stand by that so please take this more as consumer advocacy than film nerd complaining, though in truth it is a little of both.

Now a little bit of background: I absolutely positively love the serial format, aka chapter plays, aka cliffhangers. Believe me when I say they are a sort of cinematic narcotic. It’s the simplest kind of story-telling done in the best possible way and more often or not they compel you to keep going and leave you wanting more. What’s not to love? I will admit that I have not seen as many as I’d like to because it is kind of a leap of faith to start one. Twelve to fifteen episodes at 20 minutes a pop is a larger commitment than you realize.

However, those I’ve seen I’ve greatly enjoyed for one reason for another. Furthermore their cinematic significance is not confined to being a footnote of a bygone era but also have left a lasting legacy. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both admit to owing a debt to the serial format in constructing both Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Now the point of all this backstory is so that you might better comprehend my anger when I recount the following tale as I learned of an industry practice the hard way. Whether they were created for a theatrical re-release, television or video so-called “theatrical” cuts of serials exist. Meaning, that tidy, condensed, at times confusing versions of stories intended to be much longer exist.

This is what I fell victim to. I had a complete version of Blake of Scotland Yard on VHS. I used a DVD/VHS deck to transfer it to a DVD. That deck broke and nothing else plays the DVDs. This is a situation I am still trying to to remedy. So cut to the present: I am hankering for serials anew, more specifically my favorites. I see Blake of Scotland Yard on Amazon and order it. Now I got two more serials there which are whole but this one is a so-called “composite.” Something I am just learning about and passing along.

So I may or may not watch this confounding version which is 73 minutes long as opposed to 303, (over four times shorter!) but I will not enjoy it.

So, buyer beware: before renting or buying a serial I implore you to check the running time they typically should run well in excess of three hours, so anything in typical feature length range is cut.

Happy viewing.

The Movie Rat’s Manifesto

Welcome to The Movie Rat. This blog’s name comes from a term I came up with for a friend of mine when we went to the movies every Saturday for a matinee and at least one other film. We were like mallrats except we went to the movies eventually he lost interest but I kept on going.

So a new blog and infinite possibilities and here there won’t be any annoying restrictions such as trying to keep one of the most universal artforms in the world “localized.”

What does one do when one sets out to start a new blog. Well, for the time being anyway, whatever one wants.

However, I am starting with this manifesto to let you know a few things I plan on doing and conversely not doing.

So here are some things you can expect and some things I will venture to avoid, five things in each category sounds like a decent start…

I will:

-Be re-posting older articles slowly but surely.

-Do daily themes such as: Monochromatic Monday, Two For Tuesday, Weird Wednesday, Theme Thursday and Film History Friday. These may change. I also Plan writing longer more theory-based papers from time to time. I have ideas for both Metropolis and Zé do Caixão (Coffin Joe).

-Will offer “seasonally appropriate” reviews: For exampled, TCM is currently doing 31 Days of Oscar. From September 1 through October 31st there will be a glut of horror titles, from November 1st through Thanksgiving; foreign films and Christmas-themed (sometimes only slightly) in December.

-Always be looking for new and unique films as well as different ways of viewing and/or acquiring them and being a consumer advocate to an extent.

-Always write personally. No matter how informed one is I will not presume that my opinion is anyone else’s. I firmly believe in the assertion that no two people ever watch the same film and can only offer my views and interpretations and if I need to use a few “Me’s” and “I’s” to convey that so be it.

I will not:

– Discuss the MPAA here. Ratings exist for a reason but I personally do not care. The MPAA, if you visit their site (www.mpaa.org), will explain its reason(s) and other reviewers will give you their slant on the rating (I suggest: www.lights-camera-jackson.com – he is a kid who is also a professional critic and always includes how kid-friendly a movie is) but it is of no concern to me. I am not a parental aid I am only interested in aesthetics. I would not deign to judge what is and is not appropriate for your children that is a decision that all parents must make on their own based solely upon their values and what they believe their children should see, hear or can handle.

– Use the phrase “well-intentioned.” Few films, if any, have bad intentions.

– Avoid, at all costs, saying “it’s the best of its kind since such and such” for I am likely to have missed films of its ilk since such and such and you may disagree with my opinion of the former film and therefore I won’t adequately express my sentiments if that’s all I say.

– Since I discussed hyperbole above I will not say I am going to post something. I mentioned on more than one occasion on Examiner that I was planning on writing something about hyperbole in film criticism. And I was, but I never did.

– Confuse the person with the artist, or allow any other bias I may have, creep in without at least addressing it and letting you know that there is a grain of salt. Unless, it’s a first run or DVD review this will be a very positive site but unfortunately some movies are bad and it needs to be said, however, I do believe that in an overwhelming majority of them there is at least some redeeming quality.

I’m sure there’s probably more I can add. Suggestions would be more than welcome, for either category. Starting tomorrow the fun really starts.