What'cha Watching? (TV or Film)

The Haunting of Bly Manor is great little reworking of The Turn of the Screw. I adore gothic fiction, especially the early stuff that’s also quite romantic. I’m reading through all of King’s novels in publishing order and you really can see the impact those stories have had on Mike Flanagan’s work. There’s some shit in Bly Manor that’s pure King, which makes sense since considering his batting average for King adaptations.

I may prefer it more than Hill House. It’s much more emotional and less unsettling than the first series, but I like the characters more and the shit that happens to them hurts in a really meaningful, adult way.

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I have also been watching The Hainting of Bly Manor, and so far I am enjoying it much more than Hill House. Like the previous series, it has focus on family trauma, but like @keydemographics said, it’s much more grown up about it. Also, much like Hill House, the shot composition and editing is GORGEOUS, if a little showy. So far there have been a couple stunning deep focus shots, a la Citizen Kane. I can’t tell if they were shot that way, or if they’re composite, but either way they are well done. I’m always tickled when I see old school techniques applied to modern works! Another great sequence (scare and cinematography spoilers, if that’s a thing): Our heroine is framed by a tall, curved, out of focus faucet. As the shot ends, we get a rack focus to see the faucet clearly as she hears a noise and leaves the room. Cut to a hallway, where she is framed by another out of focus, curved object. This time, no rack focus. We’re back to another identical shot of our main character framed by the faucet, ending again with a rack focus to the faucet as she hears another noise. The same hallway shot, but this time, as it ends, we get a rack focus, revealing the curved object was the nose of a plague doctor mask worn by a ghost!!! Anyways, I’m only two episodes in, but I’m really enjoying this show! If they manage to finish the series without a oner episode, this will probably by my favorite show since the first season of the Terror.

Last night I watched Crimson Peak, and I really enjoyed it! I loved the decision to not make this a horror movie (“the ghosts are a metaphor!”), because it allowed them to really show off the creature design. There’s mabye 3 seconds of anticipation before they just show you the damn ghosts in their gory glory. Everything about the design of this movie is beautiful!

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The show continues to use those shots for scares and it works really well! They also use jump scares in a really effective way in that they’re tied to specific symbols and characters. It makes sense that they appear out of nowhere basically.

To expand on the family trauma and the more adult way Bly Manor handles the subject matter; Hill House was about a family that couldn’t move on from who they were when they experienced the events at the manor, it was about how trauma stunts people. Bly Manor is about dealing with that trauma in a productive way, one that means you have confront and then move past grief actively rather than passively, otherwise it swallows you.

One of my favourite things about the new series is how a bunch of people who are complete strangers yet share the same trauma to varying degrees, sit around and work through their grief. Everyone means well and is trying make everything better for everyone else and it still doesn’t fix what’s happened, but it makes the people around them able to process it.

Also; props to Flanagan & Co’s references. Casting Greg Sestero and Matthew Holness in minor roles absolutely delighted me.

EDIT: Finished it. Bly Manor rules. They stick the landing. Bly Manor > Hill House.

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Taking a break from Ozark season 2 (how will he get out of this one? oh by talking) to watch Bly Manor.

I loved Haunting of Hill House, I’m only three episodes into Bly Manor but it seems to be taking it’s time in telling it’s story and delivering the scares. No bad thing. As much as I feel Haunting of Hill House is one of the best shows Netflix has ever made, it did have a ghost of the week styled vibe in the way it tackled each of the characters but I must have rewatched the 6th episode about 10 times. They’d be hard pressed to try and top it. I think the ending of Hill House suffered as a result, because it peaked early.

The only thing I may take issue with Bly Manor is the English accents, I know Turning of the Screw was a Victorian era ghost story, but we don’t all talk like that anymore, not even in the 80s. However, maybe there is a ‘perfectly splendid’ reason that it’s building up to…

So pleased that someone is adapting classic ghost stories with such gusto. Makes me think of all the other ghost stories out there that could be given the same treatment.

Garth Marenghi!? That’s awesome. Always found it weird that he dropped off the radar. I actually met him in person a few years ago, when he was screening his directorial debut - Possum. He’s was really nice in person, though Possum was like the polar opposite to Dark Place. Dude knows his horror.

Just finished episode 2 of The Good Lord Bird on Showtime.

Still absolutely love it, but it was a lot heavier than the previous episode. That’s to be expected with a show with such dark subject matter though. It had a whole espionage feel to all the characters passing around secrets of simple things like reading and writing, which is of course unbelievably disturbing that people had to hide that… It also explored the contradiction of slavers, and in modern reflection the right wing, and how they claim to be ‘holy men.’ I thought back on AOC’s recent speech in congress during that scene.

This show feels like its trying to echo Quentin Tarantino’s style of modern westerns, without all the glee he has of saying slurs. The scene that stood out the most was Sibby’s “trial.” In a QT version of this, the Judge would be some kind of high value character actor who has a big speech about how great slurs are or something.

Johnson is fantastic in this. A lot of the episode circles around him trying to keep his cover whilst wrestling with the moral quandaries of Bob’s need to stay safe and Brown’s need to dive in head first into revolution. This felt like the moment that Onion was really radicalized and accepted his role in the insurrection.

John Brown only shows up for the last five minutes, but GOD DAMN. Hawke just completely dominates whatever scene he’s in. Every line he spoke had me rolling, and Steve Zahn’s guest appearance was really good too!

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I just finished season 2 of The Boys and honestly it’s pretty good. It’s self-aware enough to straddle the line between dumb action movie and cultural/political satire without being insufferable or preachy and there’s a throwaway line absolutely murdering Joss Whedon that I can’t get out of my head.

It feels like it could have been really dull to watch “superman-but-bad” but I think the show works because it engages with the idea of superheros as symbols and with how capitalism creates and hollows out those kinds of symbols for profit. Also there’s an episode where someone drives a speedboat through a beached whale and it fucking whips.

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My partner is watching the new Cabin Fever and I told him if it doesn’t have pancakes kid, I’m not interested.

Update: It does, but it isn’t as good.

As if Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever has been remade? The mind boggles. Still remember him being acclaimed as the next horror maestro on the eve of Hostel being released.

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Finished my rewatch of The Knick. GOD, what a finale. What a show.

“This is it. This is all we are.”

A movie called Magic (1978) that I’d never heard of before, starring a very young Anthony Hopkins.


Mostly there for Mr. Hopkins, so much of his performances revolve around the gravitas of an older man, what was he like when he was younger?
He also does some close up magic!
The movie is a thriller/drama about an up and coming magician who has an odd relationship with a ventriloquist dummy.

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I remember being a little taken aback watching The Elephant Man. Seeing him with color in his hair was weird.

So, I just finished watching Good Night Mommy (2014) and have discovered that I have grown to hate movies with twist endings. Good Night Mommy is well shot but so much of it just fails to come together in a coherent whole.
Spoilers

The twist of course is that one of the twins has been dead the whole time,and the kid is just imagining that his brother is alive and telling him that his mother is some kind of impostor. This is telegraphed throughout the movie, but I really didn’t pick up on it until the end, and it just felt like such a lazy cop-out to what could have gone in some more interesting directions instead of the old cliche of “they were dead the whole time!” There is the giant red herring that the mom is an abusive POS throughout much of the film, which is meant to appear out of the ordinary compared to how she was before the surgery. And I know this is a movie but can we at least acknowledge that mental health services exist and that if your kid is imagining that his dead brother is still alive you should go fucking seek out some help for him!?!

So yeah, this movie made me realize that no matter how well acted or competently shot your movie is, your twist ending sucks and is always unearned. I’m sure there are a few movies out there that get it right, but I just can’t help letting out a massive groan every time a movie pulls that at the end now. This of course means that I will now have to avoid watching all new horror movies since twist endings have become something of a crummy staple.

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Small update, I guess for my horror movies this month.

The other night I saw Pulse, the Japanese original. The one Harvey Weinstein sat on for his shitty remake so nobody remembers it over here. That movie is BLEAK as all fuck. And it is so terrifying. Maybe the most anti-internet movie ever. Internet’s haunted, guys. And it is going to kill you.

Also saw Lady Terminator last night, the Indonesian rip-off of James Cameron. There’s a lot of weird gross things going on with genitals in this movie. It’s a shameless copy of Cameron’s movie, even with scenes recreated shot-for-shot. But it does have a weird Sorceress plotline and the Bill Paxton analogue gets fucked to death.

So that’s about a usual week for me.

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I remember enjoying Good Night Mommy, but I agree with you that it doesn’t really hang together in the end and probably wouldn’t stand up well in a re-watch.

I just watched The Lodge which was made by the same pair of filmmakers. Actually it has some similar themes and maybe even problems as Good Night Mommy, but I think it’s a better film. Before spoiling anything I’ll just say that I recommend it but only if you’re looking for a really bleak horror movie.

Mild thematic spoilers and vague plot structure for The Lodge

Both Good Night Mommy and The Lodge lean pretty heavily on the trope of children behaving badly and turning that up to 11 for maximum creepiness. They’re also both about trauma and victims and the cycle of abuse, but because The Lodge brings in the extra factor of religion there’s a bit more to unpack. There’s also a twist in The Lodge, but I would say it’s not as significant and so the film doesn’t rely on it as much for its effect.

This week I also finally got around to watching Midsommar, because I’ve been listening to the horror podcast from the Reply All hosts, Scaredy Cats Horror Show, and it’s the only movie they cover I haven’t seen yet. I find Reply All to be kind of a mixed bag, but what I’ve listened to of this podcast is pretty fun. Carmen Maria Machado is on two episodes and she’s great. I dunno there’s nothing much to say about Midsommar, y’all probably already know it’s good.

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Have you ever seen First Reformed? The Paul Schrader (screenwriter for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) movie? Ethan Hawke plays a priest who has a crisis of faith that leads him down a path of eco-terrorism.

It’s an extremely dark film, and not at all comedic like The Good Lord Bird, but if you want to see Hawke deliver an intense performance, you’ll probably like it.

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I just blasted through both seasons of Kingdom (the Korean one) in two days courtesy of Netflix and it’s pretty good! The basic premise is a zombie plague erupts in (I think) 19th century Korea and the response to it is disrupted by palace intrigue and aristocratic superiority. It wouldn’t be too unfair to label it as Korean Game of Thrones meets The Walking Dead, I guess, albeit far less plodding and annoying than the WD.

The first season managed to balance a fine line of humour and drama with the cruel and petty tyranny of the Korean provincial aristocracy ruining the lives of the peasants they’re supposed to rule over being on full display and coming across as suitably dark and comedic as a result. Season two sacrifices a lot of that initial humour in order to try and stick the landing for the storylines introduced in the first season and I think it broadly nails the landing. It becomes a lot neater in wrapping things up, some characters’ plot armour becomes a lot more pronounced and it does the Ghost of Tsushima thing of maybe believing in the essentially noble mission of the aristocracy a bit too much but it’s a fun romp nonetheless.

I would’ve been happy for it to end in season two and it definitely left itself open to the possibility of a cliffhanger conclusion with one of the final scenes. Unfortunately the other thread that’s opened in the final scenes is what’s likely to be the driving force for the next season and is the most The Walking Dead epic villain they’ve potentially had and I’m not confident that it’ll benefit a third season at all but we’ll see. Also read somewhere that the show writer has envisioned at least ten seasons of the show and, man, I wish TV was comfortable just being a lot shorter.

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HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT

How is this possible? How is there a sequel to one of the most revered horror films of all time that is as about as interesting and nerve wracking as the original film?

My partner and I watched the Director’s Cut last night, and I am just blown away. So much of this film is just unnerved feelings and sinister tones, the horror shown through dialogue. I didn’t expect this at all… I didn’t expect a sequel to The Exorcist that NO ONE talks about being this good.

God, I just wanna go back and watch the scenes of the cop talking to the Gemini killer. The growling sounds in the background, how his voices changes with every other line, the intensity of his performance… How is this movie not talked about more?

Kermode talking about it:

THIS WAS SO GOOD WHAT THE FUCK

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I finally watched The Revenant which was waaaaay more of a “dad movie” than all the conversation surrounding it made me believe. One you look past the surface level flourishes, you see an extremely conventional revenge story with characters so archetypal it comes off as a little weird. Like, Domhnall Gleeson’s army captain is so honourable and his loyalty to Hugh Glass is so fervent that I expected there to be backstory between the two of them, but there isn’t. And young Jim Bridger is written to be almost comically doe-eyed and naïve.

It is a very pretty film though, Emmanuel Lubezki knows how to shoot the winter and the whole One Perfect Shot-ness of it only occasionally distracted me. The choreography of the film’s action scenes, especially the bear attack (why the fuck did you shoot the grizzly Hugh, YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN THAT), is pretty brilliant. This whole thing probably would have been downright excellent if it was divorced from Iñárritu’s pretentions and more honest about what it is.

And, yes, it’s Tom Hardy who delivers the stellar performance, not DiCaprio. Fitzgerald is a chillingly sympathetic take on the outlook that I suppose many settlers had towards Manifest Destiny. If you have the will, then it is your moral obligation to dominate the land, and its people.

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Watched Enola Holmes over the weekend and quite enjoyed it. It’s about Sherlock’s (presumably non-canonical) younger sister solving a mystery about their mother’s disappearance and the attempted murder of a young lord. It’s a pretty breezy whodunnit aimed at young adults, but is quite charming with a very talented cast selling the by-the-numbers plot.

Honestly found it a quite refreshing take on the Holmes mythos is after burning out on the BBC series and suffering through the god awful Guy Ritchie flicks.

I mostly liked The Revenant, but It’s true that the most complex character of that movie is the environment, not the people who inhabit it. It’s also weird, having lived a number of years in Alberta seeing outdoor places I’ve literally been in a movie. But seriously, Canadian to Canadian: I can buy surviving the bear, I can’t buy him surviving going in that water. That’s an inescapable death without immediate fire and dry clothes. Like, as far as I’m concerned, everything after that point takes place outside of the mundane world.

As a settler, I had no idea how to parse the Indiginous themes in the movie. It felt like an outsider’s take, which is uncomfortable to see. But it did feel like the environment (as a character) rejected Fitzgerald’s thesis, providing some degree or resistance to that viewpoint.

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