Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Babadook review

Starting today we will be doing weekly reviews on things related to the current podcast. We are in the midst of a horror themed run, and so our first many reviews will be on horror films related to the current theme. The current episodes topic (Episode 9: Horror) leads us a review of The Babadook.

(A note on spoilers: When discussing more recent works we will endeavor to keep the spoilers to a minimum, something we do not do on episodes of the podcast. The reason for this is simple, we want the reviews to be either a recommendation or a warning about the topic of review, urging you to either check it out or avoid it. For older works however we will happily spoil them, anything older than a couple of years is fair game.)

 It’s become rare for these days for horror films to take a subtle approach to story telling. To let the tension and anxiety build while still telling a coherent story that is absent of cheap jump scares or over the top gore. American horror films have suffered overall in the last decade by becoming saccharine and absent of truly horrifying elements in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. There have been a parade of remakes from both Japanese horror cinema and European horror cinema, most of which fail simply because the filmmakers didn’t capture what made the original truly frightening. While the horror of Japanese films are often lost due to cultural difference, the horror of European films revel too much in the gore and violence that is no longer accepted by the PG-13 going audience of the U.S. It's no surprise that a film comes along that is truly frightening and engaging while not resorting to cheap gimmicks, isn’t an American film, but an Australian production. The Babadook, directed by Jennifer Kent (her first feature length production) embraces what horror films used to be: a long slow simmer brought to an intense cathartic boil. It shirks expectations simply by being a throwback to more classic horror films, where the idea of the monster was enough to terrify the audience.
    The film itself focuses on Amelia (Essie Davis) and Sam (Noah Wiseman) a mother and son who have a strained relationship. Sam, who is only six, has become a burden of stress for his mother, lashing out violently at times and being constantly hyperactive. He’s convinced that the boogeymen and monsters under his bed are real and will eventually come to get him, leading him to build several contraptions to fight them off. Amelia, due to his violent behavior, has felt compelled to pull him out of school early in the film, leading her sapped of what remaining energy she had.
Amelia’s herself is lonely and still grieving in denial for her husband who died taking her to the hospital six years previous to give birth to Sam. It’s not just her grief and her denial of it that define Amelia, but the underlying resentment towards Sam for her husband’s death. It’s subtle but apparent at the beginning of the film, and only serves to intensify as the move bears itself out.
Early in the film Sam asks his mother to read from a pop-up book he finds stashed away in a cupboard. The book, entitled Mr. Babadook, tells of a supernatural entity whose only purpose seems to be to torment the reader and eventually kill them. The book frightens Sam but seems to frighten Amelia more. She hides it, but it does nothing to assuage her or  Sam’s fears, so she tears it apart and puts it in the garbage bin. A few days later it appears again, this time taped up with new writing directed at Amelia depicting her killing her dog, Sam, and then slicing her own throat.
This is where the film picks up intensity. We watch while Sam’s violent anxiety increases and Amelia, even more sleep deprived, begins to act out against him. She takes him to a doctor in the hopes that placing him on sleep medication will help both he and her sleep and help to calm both their anxiety. Her plan fails and the visions and torment of Mr. Babadook soon begin to manifest in real life, becoming more intense as film goes on. Eventually leading to an ending that is both satisfying and laden with questions.

    I find a successful horror films to be one that has a satisfying plot arc, yet still contain unanswered questions for the viewer to ponder. The Babadook succeeds amazingly well in this: The nature of what the Babadook is, is never completely answered. By leaving the nature of the entity open to interpretation, the film manages to put the horror firmly in realm of the psychological. To add to this effect, Mr. Babadook himself is never fully revealed in the real world, only illustrated in the book. There are flashes here and there, but the movie never gives you a big reveal of what, or who the monster is. And that’s refreshing.
    Amelia and Sam play the mother son dynamic incredibly well. It seems to be the constant dilemma, to find a child actor that can actually act, but Jennifer Kent and casting director Nikki Barrett were fortunate to find a very talented young man in Noah Wiseman. He portrays Sam convincingly. Essie Davis as the beleaguered Amelia falls into her role with ease as well. Both actors capture the characters in such a way that there is a palpable fear of what might come next for them. 
  Also successful is the script, the moments early in the film where Sam builds his contraptions, catapults and boobie traps, aren't simply bits of characterization. The script puts these devices in, and their use becomes evident later in the film. The script plays out the subtext of the characters with some intensity. There's never a wasted line.
    As the director Jennifer Kent has succeeded on multiple levels. This is a movie that you can come back to and revisit time and again and still have the sense of unease of the first viewing: because of the deliberate pacing, the fact that it doesn’t rely on either jump scares or simple gore effects, and the fact the monster is in the viewer's mind as much as it is in the characters in the film. Mrs. Kent has succeeded in creating a horror film that actual embraces the horror, and delivers that to the audience.

    I don’t want to give numbered ratings on our movie reviews. It’s a simple guideline and easy to do, but when it comes to film there’s only one question that really needs to be answered: should I watch it? The answer to that question for The Babadook is yes. If you enjoy horror films, even only once in awhile, put this one on your list to view. It’s worth the time. 

The Babadook 
(2014, dir. by Jennifer Kent, starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Episode 9: Horror Films.

Episode 9: Horror Films
Hosts: Frank Shaw and John Belliston
Contributing Guests: Aubrey Spivey and Chris Thames
Produced by Hobos in the Back Row
Scripting by Frank Shaw and John Belliston and Aubrey Spivey
Edited by: Frank Shaw
Intro Music: Piano Sonata mvnt 1 by F.G. Shaw
Outro Music: Piano Sonata mvnt 3 by F.G. Shaw

Here it is! Episode 9: Horror films. This is the first of four episodes that will cover horror films. John and I are joined once again by Aubrey Spivey and Chris Thames and discuss what makes a film horror. We discuss the major genre of horror films and talk about a few of our favorites.

 Here is the Horror on Screen website. The reviews of the films are fairly short, but the list of horror films on the site is pretty expansive (though by no means complete). This link is the graphic showing the major genre's and sub-genre's of horror films. We on the podcast didn't completely agree with the sub-genre's but we felt the five major genre's were right on the money.

The Blood-Shed is a website that covers horror in a multitude of media (as well as some non-horror topics). It's a great little site for those that enjoy novels, comics and games as well as movies.

Finally here is the list of the movies we touch on in the podcast. Thanks goes out to Aubrey Spivey for compiling a majority of it:
28 Day Later – 2002 – Danny Boyle
Alien - 1979 - Ridley Scott
Audition -  1999 - Takashi Miike
Battle Royale – 2000 – Kinji Fukasaku
Bug – 2006 – William Friedkin
Cabin in the Woods – 2012 – Drew Goddard
Cape Fear – 1962 – J. Lee Thompson
Carrie – 1976 – Brian De Palma
Cigarette Burns – 2005 – John Carpenter
Coraline - 2009 - Henry Selick
Critters - 1986 - Stephen Herek
Dale and Tucker vs Evil – 2010 – Eli Craig
Dead Snow – 2009 – Tommy Wirkola
Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead – 2014 – Tommy Wirkola
Drag me to Hell – 2009 – Sam Raimi
Event Horizon - 1997 - Paul W.S. Anderson
Frankenstein – 1931 – James Whale
From Hell – 2001 – The Hughes Brothers
Godzilla – 1998 – Roland Emmerich
Halloween – 1978 – John Carpenter
Hard Candy – 2005 – David Slade
Hellraiser-1987-Clive Barker
Honeymoon – 2014 – Leigh Janiak
Hostel – 2005 – Eli Roth
House on Haunted Hill – 1999 – William Malone
Lake Placid – 1999 – Steve Miner
Let the Right One In – 2008 – Tomas Alfredson
Martyrs – 2008 – Pascal Laugier
Megan is Missing – 2011 – Michael Goi
Nekromantik – 1987 – Jörg Buttgereit
Night of the Living Dead – 1968 – George A. Romero
Oculus – 2013 – Mike Flanagan
Otis – 2008 – Tony Krantz
Quarantine – 2008 – John Erick Dowdle
Rose Red – 2002 – Craig R. Baxley
Saw – 2004 – James Wan
Shadow of the Vampire- 2000- E. Elias Merhige
Shaun of the Dead - 2004 - Edgar Wright
Sinister-2012 - Scott Derrickson
Society - 1989 - Brian Yuzna
Teeth – 2007 – Mitchell Lichtenstein
The Babadook – 2014 – Jennifer Kent
The Cell – 2000 – Tarsem Singh
The Thing - 1982 - John Carpenter
The Watcher – 2000 – Joe Charbanic
Tremors – 1990 – Ron Underwood
Trick 'r Treat – 2007 – Michael Dougherty
Wrong Turn – 2003 – Rob Schmidt

Friday, September 4, 2015

Episode 8: Bad Adaptations.

Episode 8: Bad Adaptations
Hosts: Frank Shaw and John Belliston
Produced by Hobos in the Back Row
Scripting by Frank Shaw and John Belliston
Edited by: Frank Shaw
Intro Music: Piano Sonata mvnt 1 by F.G. Shaw
Outro Music: Piano Sonata mvnt 3 by F.G. Shaw

Here's episode 8!
Frank reviews the Fantastic 4 movie. We discuss why bad adaptations happen and break things down into literary works, comics and videogames.

An EW article discussing Josh Trank's tweet about the good film he had, insinuating that studio meddling caused the bad movie.

An io9 article categorizing Philip K. Dicks films from best to worst (according to the author). Gives a short review on each film.

Here's a EW slide show ranking the worst comic book adaptations.

Uwe Boll interview on from 9 years ago. I think the attitude is changed with the publishers from what Uwe Boll has to say here, but at the time he may have had a point. The gaming industry was a different environment back then as well.