When Is It Time To Stop a Movie?

This is a topic I was thinking about just recently. It was likely inspired by some godawful Netflix or the like. There are many schools of thought on this but essentially it’s something I’ve never been consistent with and it’s also an emotional visceral decision rather than an intellectual one, so I thought it was worth some examination. Without further prelude: Do you have a hard and fast rule regarding when to just stop watching a movie?

Clearly the environment one finds themselves in will impact how heavily you debate it. I’ve only theatrically ever walked out of one film, Jumanji. While I don’t necessarily regret the decision, the thought of “I’d rather be home and I should be leaving” did factor in. Either way, that’s the only precedent and while I’ve been tempted I’ve not done it again.

The stop or move on question comes into play a lot more when dealing with home video, more specifically on Netflix.

Some films, such as the one referenced in the picture Satan’s Little Helper, have the Train Crash Effect on you as a viewer, which is to say no matter how bad it is you have to keep watching. Regardless of the fact that I never even grew an ironic fondness of the film it was good fodder for joking.

Some films, of course, are so terrible they actually hurt your eyesight. The prime example of this would be Dollman, a film that’s the antithesis of Demonic Toys inasmuch as its so bad it’s offensive. That film I turned off within 10 minutes.

Which brings us to the argument of time; Syd Field’s theory that you typically know if you like a film within the first 10 minutes has some basis in fact but isn’t gospel. It’s more a guideline emphasizing the importance of a strong start to screenwriters. Few, if any, endings have ever salvaged a film in my mind. Many endings have ruined films. Usually, the cut-off is the mid-point. One film I saw recently really started to collapse around that point and few improve beyond it.

Is the 50% rule set in stone in my mind? Sadly, it’s not that easy. I’ve rarely stopped a movie past that point, but I have found redeemable qualities or scenes beyond it in the past when all that had preceded said point had been irredeemable.

I’m given further pause by films I nearly quit on very early on but I stuck with and eventually loved. The most notable example being Dogville. Eventually I got past my resistance and really started to appreciate what was happening. That does complicate things and is a case against ever turning anything off.

While I certainly understand the philosophy behind not wasting one’s time any further the allure of the unknown and the possibility of something to latch on to is compelling.

When watching a film as a group it’s easy to make it a democratic process. The question can be raised: “Are we done with this?” If there’s no consensus you can tune out in some fashion, which is an option when viewing solo but then why even keep the movie playing?

I suppose this is a roundabout way of putting my thoughts down and hoping for some insight from without that will lead me to a conclusion but in all likelihood it will remain an instinctual decision. If I think there’s something I can glean or catch from continuing I shall, if it’s pointless I shan’t. What are your thoughts?

Review- Final Destination 5

Jacqueline MacInnes Wood and Nicholas D'Agosto in Final Destination 5 (Warner Bros./New Line)

Were I to be completely and totally hateful I’d start this review with something like: “Final Destination 5, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways” and I would do so without any sort of qualifications. Instead I will qualify this review by stating the following:

I have gone to see each and every Final Destination film willingly and while two of them have been atrociously bad at the very least they had me come coming back. I absolutely love the first installment of the series without any reservation and I still think there are possibilities in the concept which keeps bringing me back but this…this is a train wreck and not the kind where you wanna stick around and watch either. It’s just nightmarishly bad almost from the word go. So what makes this one so much worse than the others? Now, I can say with far much less crassness than I would’ve otherwise, let me count the ways:

Firstly, I think all the sequels have struggled in terms of casting, there aren’t that many Devon Sawas around these day to plop into these kinds of films, however, I cannot recall the last time I was this appalled and offended by the ineptitude of the cast of a film. I will not name the names but you have the internet use the IMDb. The most prominent characters in the film are portrayed by those with the least chops or the least faith in the material. If you look at those top three there is at least one who has proven in the past she can act so part of it falls on the direction also.

However, your two leading males are made even worse by comparison when Tony Todd waltzes in for a few scenes and just blows everyone out of the water.

Now, there’s also the writing to blame. This is best evidenced by Agent Block, which I believe was likely shortened from Agent Blockhead in earlier drafts because rarely if ever have I seen a character this stupid, much less one that’s supposed to be in law enforcement. The last character I saw that was this dumb was in Satan’s Little Helper and he was a kid not a cop. Courtney B. Vance is a good actor but he cannot salvage dialogue so bad that anyone with half-a-brain who ever saw a police procedural show can punch holes in.

While one piece of the formula which was the persistence of visions (Oh, film jokes) is gone here (as there’s only one) and I’m fine with that but it’s as if they had to fill it with something and what they did fill it with is even more annoying because the paranoia they feel knowing death has a plan goes outward and it turns the movie into something it’s really not. You also have in this film fewer false alarms, near misses and chain reactions therefore while the kills might be more spectacular in execution they have less suspense leading up to them and you have here the flattest, least likable characters to date so all you’re left with is hoping for deaths that you know will happen.

It’s true I feel 80s slashers skewed the equation of the horror film where in certain cases you wanted death but even they knew better than to always kill everyone. Almost invariably there was a character you couldn’t stand that wouldn’t get it. Here it seems as if the effort has become less and less in terms of building characters that you’re at least interested in watching dodge death’s attempts.

What could possibly make bad acting, bad casting, bad writing, bad directing any worse? Oh, yeah there’s a twist too not only that but it changes the nature of this film and I really wish it hadn’t it’s as if what preceded the end of this film wasn’t bad enough it needed a little coup de grace.

All in all I can’t say I’ll give up on the franchise because there is something inherently scary about having escaped fate and then always looking over your shoulder and it takes a lot to squander that (and they did). So it’s a new low in the series that will hopefully take the next one (which there may or may not be) back to its roots.