Tuesday, October 3, 2017

IT, Alien Covenant, and Life (2017) [31 Days of Gore]

Time to catch up on some of the stuff I should have written about when I was taking a break from this blog.

IT



You already know the story: a group of kids—The Losers' Club—descend into the sewers in search of a missing boy. What they find is a clown that's anything but funny. I find the clown a lot creepier in theory than in execution, but I genuinely like clowns so maybe that's a personal problem.

IT looks great and it rarely bores, but I almost get the feeling it thinks it's better than what it really is: a monster movie. Don't get me wrong, I went for pulp and I certainly got it, but then there's oddly placed pieces of character development—or under-development; it's obvious the stuff from the book wasn't designed for a brisk two-hour movie, and there are so many characters you couldn't possibly spend enough time with all of them, so it feels a little weird to see it all truncated. I don't think IT is a great movie as is, but if another hour of it ever shows up in a director's cut some day, it very well could be great.

Early on, it's established that one of the kids freezes up when it comes to slaughtering lambs at his job. You think this is setting up important character information, but it turns out it's merely setting up the cattle-gun itself, which the kid will eventually use for protection. The town bullies, too, sort of feel like an awkward detail now; The Losers' Club wouldn't exist without 'em, but the resolution of the subplot seemed utterly rushed and ultimately pointless to me.

I usually love stuff like this, but this time I'm left feeling a little underwhelmed. Decent horror movie with great performances, but I think I need to see it again when the sequel comes out. 


Alien Covenant


The internet really hated Alien Covenant, almost as much as it hated Prometheus (my review can be found here), and because I felt no urgency to see it, I passed on seeing it in theaters. A curious thing happened when I caught it on VOD: I liked it a lot. I'm kind of exhausted by the Giger xenomorphs and expected Alien Salvation, but I was pleasantly surprised the aliens aren't a huge part of this movie and they aren't quite like the ones we've seen before. It's not a radical change, but it's enough to breathe new life into the franchise.

Some time after the events of Prometheus, a group of space-faring colonists take a detour to investigate a distress signal. An android identical to the previous film's (Michael Fassbender) is the closest thing we've got to a main character, until another character steps up to become the Ripley analog. Meddling with one of the most beloved movie characters of all time doesn't sound like a good idea, but it somehow never felt insulting or cynical to me. In fact, I was kind of happy to see Ridley Scott pay so much tribute to the direct sequel of his original film.

One of the biggest complaints I repeatedly heard about Covenant is the characters are stupid. I don't think they're stupid. Naive, sure, and maybe a little dim, but if you can get past the first film's idea that modern day truckers can be astronauts, then you should be able to suspend your disbelief that completely unprepared people would ever be sent on a mission like this, if only because A) it gives the film an excuse to get to the horror bits quicker and B) it puts Danny McBride in a role he's surprisingly good in.

Another complaint is the obvious twist near the end of the movie. Why Ridley Scott thought it needed to be a twist, I'll never know—it would've been a lot more suspenseful had he not tried to hide it so sloppily. Still, it leads to an ending that's not comforting, which is rare for $100 million dollar movies, and the fact there were decent R-rated horror movies in theaters this year is nothing to sneeze at.


Life


Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as astronauts who intercept an extraterrestrial sample on the International Space Station. This is no spoiler, though it takes too long for the movie to get to it: the biological sample rapidly evolves and begins killing them one by one. In a matter of days, it's smart enough to understand the inner workings of the ISS and forms a plan to reach Earth.

Okay.

I like this movie on paper, but it's a little too obvious about what it's trying to do. It's nice to see astronauts appropriately reacting to their amazing surroundings with awe (an oversight in Alien Covenant), but these heavy-handed scenes drag on. In one scene the crew is having dinner in a scene that's reminiscent of the original Alien, but it's lifeless and unbelievable. I'm not sure the cast was firing on all cylinders.

I think there's a fun story here, it just isn't executed particularly well, and I'm getting a little bored with "rapidly evolving" monsters. (2009's Splice handled this trope much better, and you can read that review here.) Life's not a bad movie, but it's not a good one, either. Like Alien Covenant, the ending's the best part because it doesn't want to reassure us that everything's a-okay in the world.

Still, I'm glad we're getting movies like these in theaters. I think it's a good sign for the future of horror. It's been a long time since mainstream movies had any bite.

No comments:

Post a Comment