Archive for the ‘Philosophical Writer's Guide’ Category

Thoughts on “The Cellar”

December 8, 2022

This is the second movie that features a recognizable female lead, which this time is Elisha Cuthbert.  I never actually watched any of her shows, as it turns out, but she was such a pop media presence that I, and almost everyone else, knew who she was.  She looks quite a bit different here, and I could really only recognize her by her voice.

The main plot here is that a family moves into a house that they got for an incredible price, which should always be some kind of warning for the people who buy it.  Sure, in the real world it usually means that there’s some kind of rot or structural issue that’s going to take a ton of time and money to fix, but in the horror world it usually means that there are some kind of ghosts or demons in the mix.  That’s the case here as well, as the previous family that owned the house had almost everyone disappear without a trace, and creepy things start happening.  Soon enough, the teenage daughter — who didn’t want to move into the house in the first place — is home with her brother while the parents are at a business meeting and after the lights go out is told by the mother to go into the basement to check it, and since she’s freaked out about that the mother tells her to count the steps to get over her fear, and is freaked out when the daughter mindlessly keeps counting long past the number of steps, and then disappears.  At least partly out of guilt, the mother obsessively investigates the house and discovers that the previous occupant left behind some equations that link to alchemy and to Baphomet, a demon who wants to bring about the apocalypse.  The rest of her family ends up getting caught up in the mindless counting, and she ends up discovering how to open the way to Baphomet’s domain and manages to rescue the daughter, and then tries to get everyone to leave the house but discovers that outside the house is a wasteland, and then all the family starts doing the counting again and she starts doing it herself, which ends the movie.

I admit that I found the ending a bit disappointing.  I actually did want this to be a happy instead of a Downer ending, but worse than that was the fact that it isn’t clear what happened.  Early on, it’s stated that Baphomet wants to use these things to bring about the apocalypse, and so the wasteland outside the house could be reflecting that he succeeded.  Or, it could be the case that they are simply trapped in that dimension and can’t get out, and that the house itself in our reality is still the same, since it was also established early on that these are different dimensions.  It kinda blunts the Downer Ending a bit if we don’t know just how much of a Downer it really is.

That being said, this is a movie that shows that all you need is a decent plot and some decent performances to make a credible horror movie.  I could easily nitpick the fact that the movie doesn’t explain anything about Baphomet and his goals or methods.  Why is counting so important?  How does that allow for the dimensional shifts?  How would that cause the apocalypse?  None of these questions are answered, but what’s important is that the answers aren’t important to the plot, and the movie itself doesn’t really draw attention to that.  So we can go along accepting that these are the way things are and then use that to build the horror without worrying too much about what it all means.  Thus, the movie has just enough plot and exposition to get us to the scares and so we know to be creeped out when people start mindlessly counting without either keeping things way too obscure and hidden or spending too much time on exposition.  This leaves us able to enjoy Cuthbert’s performance — which, though not as good as Christina Ricci’s — and the tension that the movie at least competently builds.

Given all of that, this movie is somewhat on the cusp between a movie that I would definitely rewatch again and one that I might rewatch again.  But on consideration, I think it is at least as good as “The Changeling”, and for a lot of the same reasons, and that one is in my closet.  So this one goes there, too.  And this clearly shows that for horror the important thing about the plot is not having something complicated or deep or that gives a wonderful message, but instead to have a plot good enough to do what you want to do, filling out just enough that we know what’s coming when the creepy things start to happen but not necessarily explaining every little thing.  This movie does that, and when you add in the strong production values and Cuthbert’s strong performance, you end up with a horror movie that’s better than most of the horror movies I watch.

Thoughts on “Monstrous”

December 1, 2022

This is the first of two movies that I picked up at least in part because the female lead — and the main protagonist — was a recognized actress that I kinda liked.  This time it’s Christina Ricci, who is no stranger to creepy roles and movies, but who at least recently has done a few more “normal” things as well (“Pan-Am” for one, which I didn’t watch).  The idea also sounded somewhat interesting, as it was about a woman and her son moving to a new house and facing some kind of threat, so it was worth taking a chance on it since it was, again, relatively inexpensive.

The movie is set in I think the 50s, and she has moved away and is renting that house because of something her husband did to her son, that the movie is very cagey about mentioning.  She also has dreams and visions that include a woman that she seems to recognize.  At the same time, her son sees a monster coming from the lake, and it seems to enter his room, but later he starts talking about it not being a monster but instead being a “pretty lady”, even though Christina Ricci’s character still sees it as a monster, and ends up stabbing it once.  As things progress, her son doesn’t seem to be making any friends at the school she drops him off at every morning and when she throws him a birthday party no one comes, but it is revealed later that he didn’t give out the invitations, which ticks her off.  Soon after, she comes to pick him up from school and he isn’t there, and no one knows who he is, and then a police officer comes and takes her into the station, and as she is questioned about what really happened to her son her “phone” rings, and it is revealed that she has a cell phone and it isn’t really the 50s at all, and that she’s been living in a delusion the entire time.  It turns out that her son drowned, possibly because she left him alone with his father who didn’t watch him closely enough and she then returned to find him already dead.  The reason that’s possibly is because while she implies that that’s what happened, it isn’t clear that that’s what happened because her retreat into delusion is out of guilt, and the scene that shows it doesn’t include him.  At any rate, it turns out that the woman she was seeing was her grandmother, who talked about how much simpler things were in the past which is what spawned her retreat into that as a delusion, and she was living in her grandmother’s old house and driving her old car.  She ends up driving away in the old car, seemingly having accepted her son’s death but perhaps to simply move away to retreat into delusion again.

The premise here is actually a pretty good one.  While someone retreating into a delusion isn’t a new idea — in fact, the movie “The Turning” did it a while ago — in general what happens in these sorts of movies is that someone is in an insane asylum or something and everything is a complete hallucination.  What’s interesting here is that she is living in the real world and is at least mostly functioning in that world, but her delusion is interpreting the modern world in 50s terms.  This opens up all sorts of ways to hint that she’s in a delusion and to play out the plot and the interpretations.  So it’s both a pretty standard premise and also one that the movie has a potentially interesting spin on.

But the main problem with this movie is that it takes this simple and interesting premise and makes it way, way too complicated, and in ways that leave things open that the movie didn’t need in the first place.  They have the relationship to the grandmother — which they hint at enough that I suspected that it was all a delusion long before the end — the delusion itself, the monster, the monster becoming a pretty lady, the incident with her son, a conflict with her landlords, and her motivations for the delusion itself.  The actual monster idea gets barely touched on, and is quickly replaced with the “pretty lady”, and we never do find out the details of what happened to her son.  What you really want in a movie like this is to build things slowly and drop hints that things aren’t right and that she’s living in a delusion without spoiling it, and the movie spends too much time on other things to leave room for that.  Sure, it might be — and likely is — the case that some of the things she sees aren’t accurate to the time and so would provide such hints, except that we get into what Shamus Young referred to as “Trust the Storyteller” and so any inaccuracies that people familiar with the time would notice will be easily explained by the writer simply making mistakes about what would happen in that time.  It’s actually really difficult to drop these sorts of hints without giving anything away, and so what we’d need is for the character herself to note it and then explain it away, which would allow us to accept that explanation but then be reminded of it later.  But with all the additional complications the small details get lost — like the people at the school looking at her funny — in the overwhelming little details.

If it was me, what I would have done was remove the monster part entirely.  Make it into a more classic ghost story by keeping the “pretty lady” angle, which ties into the grandmother angle.  Yes, you’d probably have to name it “Pretty Lady” or something, but that would create an interesting pun and red herring for the plot of the movie, since at first blush that would seem to refer to her and not to the ghost/monster.  This would also allow them to avoid showing the monster early in the movie like they did here, which would be good because once you introduce and show a monster you can’t easily go back to showing the everyday routine, since the actual known threat from the monster will overwhelm that.  And for a movie like this, what we really, really want is to see the everyday routine so that we can find the hints that this is all a delusion, and so making us wonder when the monster will appear again works against that.  Once the monster is eliminated, the movie can mostly proceed as it does, although while I’d keep the hints that it was the father who was responsible for the drowning I’d make a clear statement at the end that she left the son alone for a short time and he drowned because of that, which explains the enormous guilt that she’s feeling that causes her to retreat into her delusion.

The sad thing is that, as noted above, this isn’t all that novel a concept.  This is a concept that should really be a slam dunk.  Even if they fumbled on the hints — which they did — the premise is interesting enough that all you need is a sympathetic lead and a remotely interesting sequence of events combined with a simple ghost story to keep the audience’s attention through the movie until the end.  But things are so confused and so complicated with a number of unnecessary things that it can’t really be enjoyed on its own, and the fact that nothing gets settled at the end doesn’t help.  It boggles my mind that in terms of plot the movie fumbles things so very, very badly with a premise that is both so simple and so familiar and thus should have been easy to pull off.

Now, normally a plot fumbled so badly would get me to toss this into my box of movies to sell.  I mean, I was indeed actually bored at times while watching it, which is a bad sign.  But Christina Ricci puts on a wonderful performance, which makes me really feel for her character and interested in how things work out for her.  It’s a shame that that wonderful performance comes in such a poorly realized movie, but her performance is so good that I can easily imagine myself rewatching it just to see her performance again.  If they had managed to even provide even a simple, basic plot, her performance would have easily made this a move that I would rewatch on a fairly regular basis, but since they didn’t, it will go into the box of movies that I might rewatch at some point in the future, although it is probably at the top of that list.

Thoughts on “Slapface”

November 24, 2022

So this is another Shudder exclusive, and the basic plot revolves around a young boy and his older brother, who is trying to raise him alone because their parents died in a car accident.  One ritual that they have is a game called “Slapface”, where they slap each other in an attempt to work their frustrations out on each other.  The young boy is also being bullied by a group of young girls, one of which — Mariah — seems to like him but since the other girls dislike him she participates in the bullying.  The young boy is also obsessed with a local monster called the “Virago” who is supposed to live in an old insane asylum.  On a dare from the bullies, he goes inside and ends up awakening the monster, who then starts defending him from things like a dog that was sicced on him and some other threats.  At the same time, the older brother starts dating a woman named Anna, who starts to get concerned about the young boy.  It also turns out that the young boy has gotten in trouble with the law which has the Sheriff on their case.  Eventually, the Virago kills Anna and then the young boy is being chased by the young girls and the Virago ends up attacking Mariah for taunting and puts her in the hospital, which ends up getting the young boy put in jail.  Later, he wakes up and finds everyone slaughtered in there, and returns to his house, where he ends up confronting his brother and the Virago attacks the brother as well, ultimately killing him, but after the young boy seemingly kills the Virago the creature disappears, implying that maybe it never really existed in the first place.

The big problem with this movie is that it seems to be aiming at making a point, which is about bullying, as that’s the message it displays at the end of the movie, calling out bullying and noting that it can come from family members as well.  That seems to be why we have the ambiguity at the end where it tries to imply that the young boy was doing all the things himself, and that’s actually not a bad way to present the issue (it’s also not an uncommon tack to take, with the monster actually being the repressed rage of the main character).  But the way it is presented doesn’t work here.  First, the way they set things up makes it unlikely that the young boy is actually the killer.  Mariah seems to see the monster before she is attacked, and it seems unlikely that the young boy could have killed everyone in the police station on his own.  Given that, it isn’t all that credible that there wasn’t really a monster, and if that’s not the case then the bullying point falls a bit flat, as while he would be being bullied the monster’s reactions would indeed be over the top.

This is only compounded by the fact that while the bullying is indeed generally bullying it’s pretty weak as bullying and the points would work better as family drama points rather than anti-bullying points.  While you can make a point about the bullying of the young boy and Mariah’s falling into line and being mean to him to avoid being bullied herself, it works better as an issue for him to deal with and a rather strange relationship and friendship than as something focused on as a bullying plot.  Also, the movie tries to present the game of “Slapface” as terrible bullying — mostly by having Anna be incredibly bothered by it — but while it could be interpreted that way it could also be interpreted as a creative way for the two of them to work out their issues with each other, yet one that’s tragic because it’s one that isn’t particularly healthy, and only reflects that neither of them really know how to cope with the loss of their parents.  So as an anti-bullying message the girls are bullies but he could in general avoid them and the impact it has on his relationship with Mariah works more as a drama plot than as a bullying plot, while the case of the brother is generally more a case of attempting to cope with the situation and maybe failing than as bullying.  For a movie that clearly wants to be a message about bullying, it doesn’t establish the bullying enough to work as a message movie.

Beyond that message, there isn’t really much to the movie.  We don’t really find out what the purported motive of the Virago is and don’t even know if it’s real, and most of the movie is spent on the relationships instead of the horror.  But they reveal the “monster” way too early to return to and settle into normal domestic issues after we know that there’s a violent monster out there, which colours the entire rest of the movie.  There might be some interesting domestic issues here, but we can’t really focus on them while we are trying to figure out what the deal is with the monster and when it will strike again.  So the horror is revealed too early for us to go back to the simple domestic issues that the move wants to explore, but those issues run for too long afterwards and so sideline the monster plot that was already established.

As you might expect, I didn’t care for this movie.  The structure doesn’t work for either the horror or dramatic parts of the movie, and the anti-bullying message doesn’t work for the plot and structure of the movie.  I’m not going to watch this movie again.

Thoughts on “The Seed”

November 17, 2022

“The Seed” is another Shudder exclusive, that I hesitated on buying the first time I saw it but ended up buying it anyway.  The main reason is that from the cover it seems like it would be at least trying to mimic the old exploitation type of alien pregnancy type movies, where you have some kind of creature using strange powers to seduce women sexually where that’s the main horror.  While I’m not really opposed to that sort of thing, it didn’t sound like it would make for all that interesting a movie and in these times a lot of the charm of those sorts of movies — their openly admitting that the main reason for the movie is indeed the sexual fanservice, for one — would be lost since, well, they would have to try to fit into the new model of that sort of thing.  Even with that, I couldn’t expect much of a plot, and without that there wouldn’t even be its ridiculous campiness to play along with.  So the movie would likely just be bad instead of being so bad it’s good.  But it was cheap and a Shudder exclusive so I decided to give it a try.

The plot, as it turns out, is indeed that sort of alien seduction type of movie, although it oddly tries to mix a bit of an action alien invasion plot in as well.  Three comely young women go out to a secluded mansion to shoot a photoshoot for the one’s social media page, and also to watch what is supposed to be an impressive meteor shower.  The meteor shower seems spectacular, but at least one meteor seemed to zip around in the sky oddly and crashes into their pool.  They fish it out and find that it’s some kind of creature that seems to be dead.  The next day, they find that it has moved, but still seems dead (and rather smelly, as they note).  They encourage a local boy who is taking care of the place — for his brother, who is sick — to take it away by paying him lots of money and having the most conservative of them — who is also an animal lover — give him a kiss.  This seems to cause the creature to wake up and it ends up scaring the boy away.  They try to drag it away themselves but that doesn’t work as it’s too heavy.  Later that night, the animal lover goes out and brings it in after hearing it cry, and feeds it.  This does not please either of the others, but again they can’t move it.  They don’t have cell phone service anymore and so two of them head out to find a neighbour — who, it turns out, has disappeared — while the other stays behind.  She wants to confront and kill the creature, but it somehow hypnotizes her and she changes her tune entirely.  That night, the other woman whose parents own the house heads down in the middle of the night and sees the creature using a whole host of tentacles to bring the first woman under its lower body to sexually stimulate her, and then hypnotizes her as well so she joins in.  The animal lover, of course, is quite puzzled by their change in attitude but goes off to find the neighbour again or at least the keys to her truck, and finds that she has been killed (possibly by suicide).  When she returns, they have moved the creature into a bedroom and are lounging around unconcerned by any of this.  When the animal lover goes into the room, the creature tries to hypnotize her but she breaks free, and when she confronts the other two they argue over it until the other two transform with black liquid coming out of their eyes and the like and also becoming very pregnant.  The animal lover tries to attack the creature, but it calls the other two in who knock her out.  When she regains consciousness, the other two have run off and she does manage to kill the creature, and sets out after them.  She kills the one girl and then gets into a fight with the other, but a local sees them and shoots the animal lover thinking that she was trying to kill the other girl.  Of course, that girl kills him but the animal lover recovers — she was shot in the shoulder — and shoots the other girl before she can finish giving birth … and then looks up to see a host of meteors heading towards the Earth.

There are two basic ideas you can have for an alien invasion story:  a subversive invasion or an overwhelming force invasion.  You can try to bridge the two — the original miniseries “V” did that and moved from one to the other — but in general they rely on different things and can almost be different genres.  The overwhelming force invasion works well for action-packed stories, and ultimately “V” ended up there, while something like, say, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” works well for horror as it ramps up the paranoia and delivers most of its horror not from the gore of an overwhelmingly physical attacker, but instead from the idea that people are acting strangely and so something is happening to them, but we know not what.  You don’t need to have multiple aliens for the former, as “Alien” and “Predator” showed.  In those, you have a strong physical presence stalking the crew and picking them off one-by-one.  If you go for the latter, then you don’t need a physically imposing alien, and it actually works better if you don’t have one so that it can stay hidden longer.

The ending as I relate it above is the sort of ending that works for an overwhelming force alien invasion in the mold of “Alien” or “Predator”:  the woman has just spent a lot of time gruesomely killing the alien and her friends, she’s bloodied and injured, and she looks up to see a host of other aliens arriving.  That sort of ending is supposed to invoke a feeling of “It took this much effort to kill one of them, and now we have to face hundreds or more?!?“.  The problem here is that it didn’t really take that much effort for her to do that because the alien is not physically imposing.  Once she gets a free shot at the alien, she kills it rather easily and it doesn’t even seem to be able to move to stop her.  She tracks down her friends rather easily, and while it might be implied that they are given a strength boost from their alien pregnancy they are slow-moving and awkward and the strength boost isn’t sufficient that she can’t, all on her own, overcome it.  Her worst injury comes from the idiot local who despite being able to see the other girl attack the animal lover shoots her anyway.  The alien and its thralls are in no way a physical threat, so seeing a lot of them arrive is not going to invoke that “Oh, crap!” feeling.

Especially since the movie breaks away from the infiltration aspects which is what the movie really should have focused on.  The alien seems to be quite manipulative and given its weak physical state is going to have to be to make any of this work.  Converting the two girls from people who hated it and, in one case, wanted to kill it to unconcerned thralls is genuinely creepy and that sort of quiet subversion works really well.  However, when the movie has the animal lover break its hypnotic spell without explaining why she was able to do that and when it never tries to hypnotize her after that, we have to wonder how easy it is to resist it.  There is never any indication that it can hypnotize men, so that would strike against a successful bulk invasion, as the men would notice the changes and be able to act against it.  It’s physically weak, and the movie already established that one of the girls wanted to kill it outright, which will be repeated across the country and the world, especially if they land in bulk.  And the argument that happens between them talks about the one girl suddenly wanting to make money off it and and then the two of them being shocked at their transformation, implying that they were not fully under its control at that point.  Given all of this, it really doesn’t seem like such an invasion could work out.

If they wanted that kind of ending, what they really should have done was show the last girl giving birth to an alien and the animal lover killing both, but then when she left showing that there wasn’t just one birth but two, and that creature is still alive and moving on to try to reproduce on its own.  This would give the decided image that this is not over yet while continuing the idea that the main threat is subversion, not an overwhelming invasion.  Yes, there still would have been some of the issues raised above, but they could have been ignored more since if the alien was sneaky enough and chose its victims carefully enough it would be able to succeed for quite some time.

The sad thing is that when the movie is focusing on the subversion angle, it’s actually pretty good.  The changes in personality are pretty creepy and would have worked to build an interesting mystery if they were focused on more.  Another thing the movie does really well is set things up to pay them off later.  They set up the cricket bat as a weapon that the animal lover uses at the end to fight the other two.  In the argument, the one girl accuses the animal lover of not having the killer instinct and at the end she kills the two of them off (and the movie is clever enough not to have her comment on that and let the audience get that themselves).  About the only thing they don’t pay off is that the animal lover is a bit too into being kissed by the local boy which doesn’t get followed up on.  But there are a lot of these little moments which are quite nice.

So, would I watch this one again?  This is a question that I’ve gone back and forth on for quite a while.  There are enough good things in this movie to consider putting it into my closet of movies that I would rewatch again, but then keep reminding myself about how it messes up the subversion which would make a rewatch less interesting.  Then I note that there are worse things in that closet, but then I note that most of those are comedies which I can be more forgiving off than this.  Ultimately, I’m going to stick it in my box of movies to maybe rewatch at some point.  As I said, there are enough good things in it to rewatch it but it not paying off its best element of the subversive alien means that rewatching it can’t be a regular occurrence.

Thoughts on “The Last Thing Mary Saw”

November 10, 2022

This is another Shudder original (yes, I still do pick them up when I see them).  When I talked about “Our House” and “Get Out”, I noted that they were movies that had a premise and plot that would work well as a straight drama, and that the attempt to shoehorn in the horror aspects worked to their detriment as they didn’t align very well.  Here, my impression is that this movie is, in fact, actually a drama and not a horror movie at all, despite being attached to a horror streaming service.  This has interesting implications for what it means for something to count as a horror movie.

The movie is set in Puritan times, and starts with a young woman with blindfolded eyes being questioned by a priest over being in league with the devil and a witch, which she denies and ultimately disproves by being able to recite a proper prayer.  The movie then moves into flashback mode, where we discover that she was in love — and in a sexual relationship — with the young female servant of the family, and the family, on discovering this, uses religious penances to try to force them to abandon the relationship.  However, they end up sneaking around to be together and make a deal with the guard — who was crippled by the family when he tried to run away from their service — to let them be together in the chicken coop.  They are discovered and the matriarch somehow damages the tongue of the servant so she can’t speak, after they discover some poison and make a sort of plan to poison people in the family in revenge.  The family abuses the servant and reduces the young woman to being a servant, and so the young woman poisons the family but her lover is killed by a servant from another homestead who tried to rape the servant and had his finger cut off for it, and then the matriarch, who had died, comes back as a ghost and blinds the woman, who ends up being hanged for her murders.  There’s also a hint about the family having a terrible secret that plays into the sinfulness but is never really developed or paid off, and there’s a story where there’s a hint that the matriarch was some kind of spirit from that story, but again that’s not really developed or paid off.

The movie is pretty much devoid of supernatural or horror elements of any kind.  The matriarch might be a ghost or some kind of supernatural entity by the end, but for the most part she’s just a religious head of the family trying to break up the lesbian couple.  When she dies and is lying in state her finger changes colour and twitches a bit, and the deaths of the family at the end is pretty horrific, but is this really enough to call this a horror movie?  After all, “Hamlet” has ghosts and “Macbeth” has witches, but surely that’s not enough to classify them as horror as opposed to the tragic dramas that they really are.  And yes, the end scene is gory and a bit horrific, but “The Birthday Cake” had a fairly horrific poisoning scene at the end and again that was a Mafia movie, not a horror movie.  Dramas can have supernatural elements and can have torture and gore and even be horrific, so there must be something else that is required to make something a horror.

For me, it seems like what makes a horror movie a horror movie is similar to what, to me, makes art art, which is that it intends to produce an aesthetic experience in us.  For horror, that is in fact a very specific aesthetic experience, in that horror always has its primary intention to make us feel fear.  The ur-example of horror would be horror works that make us feel afraid while engaged with it but also would even make us feel a little bit afraid about the world outside (which “Tales from the Darkside”, to me, tried and failed to do).  But you can have more fantastical or more shallow horror that is too divorced from reality to make us feel afraid about the things that might be lurking in reality would still count as horror as long as its intention is to make us feel afraid as long as we are immersed in that world.  As long as its main intention is to scare us, a work counts as primarily horror.

I don’t think that applies to this movie.  One might think that since it was an original work created for a horror streaming service that that would indicate that its primary intention is indeed to be horror and so to scare us, but if that’s the case then it would have completely failed to do so and so would be a complete failure as a horror movie.  While this has certainly been the case for a few of the horror movies I’ve watched, I don’t think that applies here.  To me, it really seems like what we are supposed to take away from this is not the horror of the situation to make us afraid of the world or entities either in or out of that world, but instead the horror of what the beliefs of the family ended up doing and causing.  The father has done and countenanced horrific things, but he isn’t at all portrayed as someone to, in general, be afraid of, and isn’t even necessarily a bad man.  The matriarch’s actions don’t seem to be there to scare us, but instead are there to ensure the tragic outcome of the movie.  We aren’t afraid of her or even afraid of her for them, but instead see her as a being who commits the terrible acts necessary to result in Mary ending up blind, so that the last thing she saw before she died was her lover being killed.  This isn’t just a Downer Ending for a horror movie, but it seems to me is what the movie was building up to and trying to convey.  We are supposed to, it seems to me, see this situation as pointless and tragic, a reflection of the blinkered ideas of the family over nothing, as opposed to something that we are supposed to fear.

So, as horror I would find it a massive failure.  What do I think of it as a drama?  I found it to be reasonably competently crafted, and so for someone looking for that sort of drama it might be worth giving it a shot.  However, I myself am not that interested in that sort of drama and so didn’t find it all that interesting.  I don’t think it was bad, as a drama, and so I didn’t mind watching it, but at the end of it all I have absolutely no interest in watching it again.  There just isn’t anything that really interests me, as I didn’t care that much about the situation or the family, which might be chalked up as a failure on the part of the creators, except that part of the reason that I didn’t care is that this sort of progressive drama has been done a number of times and so seems like old hat.  Which might be the most damning thing about it:  it takes a common progressive idea and simply presents it without adding anything interestingly new to yet,

So, I think this is going into my box of DVDs to sell at one point.  I think the writing and performances are such that it probably deserves better, but at the end of the day it’s just far too “Meh” for me to keep.

Thoughts on “The Nanny’s Night”

November 3, 2022

The basic premise here is that a young woman and her friend are looking to sacrifice a virgin to gain supernatural power.  After their first intended victim reveals that she probably isn’t one, the titular nanny decides to sacrifice her charge instead.  However, the course of virgin sacrifice never did run smooth, and so they end up encountering a host of complications including the victim trying to escape and at least one other serial killer sort of person wandering around that stops them from completing the sacrifice.  At the end, the two of them are supposedly dead and the charge is hustled off to another strange cult-like group, presumably to be sacrificed again, but the end credits scenes reveal that the nanny’s body is gone and an urban legend killer is also wandering around.

This, obviously, is a light horror movie, and as such it’s all right.  That being said, at the end I actually wanted them to succeed in the sacrifice not because I really liked them or hated their charge, but because otherwise the entire plot would have had no point.  Thus, to have the charge spirited away to be potentially sacrificed by another group makes the rest of the movie pointless.  If the movie had made it clear and focused on the competition among the various groups for the victim, that would have been a lot more fun and given the movie far more of a point, which is desperately needed.

As a light horror movie, I feel about the same way about it as I did about “Black Friday”:  I didn’t mind watching it but because there’s nothing really to it I don’t have any interest in watching it again.  The problem with these two movies, I think, is that they aren’t funny enough to watch for the jokes but there’s nothing more to them to watch later.  They’re just fun enough to get through once but not fun enough to watch again.  That’s the risk, I think, with light horror:  if it isn’t really, really funny then there isn’t really anything to them and so nothing to hang a rewatch on.

So, this is going into my closet to maybe rewatch at some point.  It’s just good enough to maybe rewatch for the humour, but doesn’t really work otherwise.

Thoughts on “Black Friday”

October 27, 2022

I’m returning to individual movies for a while, starting with “Black Friday” that is probably most notable for being another horror movie that Bruce Campbell plays a relatively major role in, this time as the manager of a toy store on Black Friday.  Of course, this one turns out to be an even crazier Black Friday than normal, as meteors from the sky create some sort of strange monsters that kill people and, even worse, use them and their bodies to create some kind of strange biological entity that ends up turning into a huge kaiju monster that the employees need to defeat to survive.

The employees are a mix of pretty standard horror movie tropes, from the single father to the hot chick to the extremely fussy about cleanliness somewhat teenage slacker.  This is good, because this movie is a rather light horror movie — pretty much a given for almost anything Bruce Campbell does — and we don’t really need to have deep characters to pull off that kind of story.  All of them have issues that they are dealing with — the father and the hot chick are some kind of friends with benefits, and the somewhat slacker has issues with his father — and there’s a subplot about the store not being able to provide overtime pay and planning on laying people off after Black Friday, which tie into the manager’s subplot where he really and legitimately loves the store and even the employees — when he treats them badly, it’s more because that’s how he thinks the store should be run based on how it was run when he was climbing the ranks than out of malice — and so goes out in a blaze of glory to go down with the store and save them.  But as I said, since this is a light horror movie the issues are touched on just enough to provide the characters with some small arc and to provide something for the movie to do in between horror-filled attacks.

One big disappointment of mine is that for a movie called “Black Friday” that lampshades how the mob is very similar to how normal consumers act and can be seen as merely taking it to an extreme, there isn’t really much in the movie that takes advantage of that or references it directly.  One employee lampshades that it’s all about consumerism and tries to appeal to the kaiju on that basis, but since he’s a terrible person it ends badly, and the others never pick up on that.  It would have been nice for them to use it in some way to defeat the kaiju.  Also, the ending has the three survivors driving away happily with all of their issues sorted out … only to simply show another kaiju in the background, making it pointless.  But this isn’t presented as it being a twist ending and isn’t remarked upon at all, and given that we knew that there were more meteors and so expected it it doesn’t really seem relevant, and it’s not presented in a way that would be at all funny in line with the lighter tone of the movie.  So it seems to be something that we could figure out and maybe ask about but that neither we nor the movie cares enough about to do anything with, which makes for a disappointing ending.

The movie is lighter and is paced fairly well and so I have to admit I kinda enjoyed watching it, but afterwards found that I had absolutely no interest in watching it again.  There’s just nothing to it that would make a rewatch interesting.  There aren’t enough jokes to make it worth rewatching to laugh at them again, the character arcs aren’t deep or interesting enough to want to re-experience, the plot has nothing interesting to it, and there’s no real mystery and so nothing to look for on a rewatch.  So it wasn’t a bad movie and as I said I kinda enjoyed it but at the end of it all it really just seemed like a more empty movie, something that I could watch once and somewhat enjoy but that had really nothing specific going for it to make it memorable.  As such, I think I’m going to toss it in my box of movies to possibly sell.  I have far, far better movies to rewatch out of the ones that are already in my box to maybe rewatch at some point.

Comparing “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” and “Scream Queens”

October 25, 2022

So while I was rewatching “Scream Queens” with an eye towards comparing it to “Pretty Little Liars:  Original Sin”, I had a strange and horrible feeling.  I couldn’t help but feel like “Original Sin” actually used “Scream Queens” for its inspiration.  I tried to tamp down that thought by thinking that perhaps they were inspired by the same series, but that didn’t last long before I realized that their slashers were too different for that to be the case.  I could argue that “Scream Queens” was inspired by something like “Scream”, but “Original Sin’s” slasher is far more of the unstoppable force of a “Friday the 13th” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which does not fit into a “Scream”-style movie.

Now, I don’t think that “Original Sin” was inspired by “Scream Queens”.  I think the reason it has a more “Scream”-like structure with a more “Friday the 13th”-like slasher is because they wanted to use that sort of slasher but also wanted the secrets part of the original series, which explains why things ended up the way they were.  But that I could see it as being inspired by an excessively over-the-top horror parody and still find that the parody did those elements better is a very bad sign for “Original Sin”.

Let me start with the big similarities.  The obvious one is the actual plot, which is similar to that of “The Row” and “Scream Queens” in the sense that its basis is the actions of a group of women in the past that are getting paid back in the present, on people who are not them but are associated with them in some way.  Sororities are the big one in the other two works, and a high school clique is the one here.  You can see right away that this concept is a really good one for the “Pretty Little Liars” universe — which indeed completely ran on such past sins — but isn’t a good fit for a “Friday the 13th”-style slasher.  Someone getting revenge for a past slight is, but keeping that secret isn’t.  A mystery around who is the actual killer works better when the killer is more of a normal person who could be everyone — or even multiple people — while “Original Sin”‘s killer is a hulking brute who would stand out in a crowd, and so needs to stay out of sight.  That sort of killer also kills people by overpowering them, while a “Scream”-style killer kills by outsmarting them and thinking one step ahead of everyone … which is the perfect sort of replacement for “A”, sticking to their hypercompetent characterization but adding that they kill people on top of that.

This is probably why “Original Sin” failed so miserably with the reveal that the principal was involved and running the show the entire time.  For a “Friday the 13th”-style killer, none of that is necessary so there was no mystery to be resolved by that reveal, and so it came completely out of nowhere and seemed unnecessary.  A simple “psychopathic killer brutally getting revenge for a past sin” works really well with a “Friday the 13th”-style killer, but if you want a mystery you want a more normal slasher whose killings can reveal hidden and puzzling motives to resolve.

Another big similarity is that both of them build in a double act between the nice girl who looks like the traditional Final Girl and a Mean Girl.  Let me talk about the Final Girls first.  “Scream Queens” has Grace, whose mother was a member of the sorority and over the objections of her father she wants to join that sorority and make it better.  As she notes, she’s the only member who doesn’t have a mother.  The same thing is true of Imogen, as Imogen’s mother’s suicide starts the killing — although the slasher, ultimately, didn’t kill her — and is a major issue for Imogen throughout the series.  However, “Scream Queens” uses that to advance the plot and the character and “Original Sin” doesn’t.  Again, the main reason that Grace joins the sorority is to get a sense of who her mother was and to rebuild something her mother cared about.  In addition, Grace believes that she was the child born in the past when the teen mother was left to die so that her friends could dance to “Waterfalls” because, as noted above, she was the only one without a mother, explaining why the killings are suddenly starting now.  And, in fact, that ends up being a red herring that raises the issue of why the killings would happen now because it is indeed because the girl born that night has joined the sorority:  she’s actually the killer.

In comparison, “Original Sin” doesn’t really do anything with Imogen’s mother issues.  It doesn’t explain why she wants to oppose Karen or ended their friendship, for example.  It isn’t the impetus for her to run against Karen for Homecoming Queen.  It’s totally irrelevant to the overall plot.  All it does is come up on occasion when the writers need Imogen to get upset about something, and is hinted at at the very end when the principal comments that her mother took the coward’s way out.  But it has no real meaning to the story at all.  This is another reason why the principal reveal doesn’t work; Imogen is a main character and yet her story doesn’t relate to that at all, even as a red herring.

“Scream Queens” also gives Grace some character arcs.  She starts off with her father being her best friend, who is also a bit overprotective.  As things progress, she learns to stand up to him and take risks on her own and he learns to trust her more, with them having a lovely scene where they part after resolving those issues.  Imogen doesn’t have a father-figure and her relationship with Tabby’s mother must be sidelined by Tabby’s relationship with her, and so she doesn’t get any arc like that.  She does get a boyfriend arc, but it’s also shared with Tabby and feeds into the rapist angle, which is mostly disconnected from the rest of the plot.  Grace also gets a boyfriend arc, which works out better as he’s her main compatriot for most of the series, and is more directly related to the plot as he ended up working with the killers at one point and committed a murder.  This also creates a great character moment as he talked her out of killing the Dean because it wasn’t like her, but then reveals that he killed in order to find out who the killers were and so turned into the sort of person that he told her not to be, which devastates her.  And then he dies before they can resolve that.  And then on top of that her father also ended up dating one of the killers who is also killed in a devastating way.  The only misstep here is that the two of them don’t really bond over that shared experience — which would have made it matter more to the overall story — but it’s still miles ahead of what “Original Sin” did.

I’ve already talked about how I thought “Original Sin” messed up the “Mean Girl” Karen, but what I had forgotten that both of them actually shared the idea of the main “Mean Girl” being less powerful than one might expect.  I had remembered that Chanel — the main “Mean Girl” — wasn’t as strong as she seemed, but had forgotten that the series started out that way.  Chanel gets called in to talk to the Dean, and comes in with an attitude of arrogance expecting things to just go her way, insulting the Dean unnecessarily, but the Dean pretty much shuts her down completely and it’s only the intervention of the representative of the overall sorority groups that avoids having the sorority shut down, with a compromise that Chanel hates.  But even here, Chanel certainly believes that she has all the advantages and only fails because she runs into someone who just has it completely in for her and isn’t looking out for her own advantage.  Moreover, later on Chanel manages to get the sisters to cover up a murder through bribery, showing that she can indeed manipulate people into doing what she wants.  To directly compare scenes, in “Original Sin” Imogen and Tabby simply assume that people hate Karen enough that Imogen can beat her in the election for Homecoming Queen, while here when Grace’s friend runs against Chanel for Sorority President her friend says the exact same thing, but then later another sorority sister points out that Chanel will by necessity win because there are only eight girls in the sorority and Chanel’s posse of four will vote for her, so the friend needs to get all of the other votes just to get a tie … and Chanel will win with a tie.  This, then, requires some machinations — including getting Chanel arrested — to spin the vote against her … and it still doesn’t work.

In “Scream Queens”, we can see that Chanel is not an ideal manipulator — and we are shown early on that that’s likely because she was a nobody a short year before this — but that she does have some ability and some power and some things she can use directly for leverage to get what she wants.  “Original Sin” provides nothing of the sort for Karen.  Thus, we don’t really see why Karen has any power at all and the moments where they make her sympathetic only serve to make her sympathetic, whereas for Chanel those moments are character moments that make us think that there might be more to Chanel than meets the eye.

“Scream Queens” even does the “homophobic racist” line better.  Yes, the series is over-the-top and so definitely would throw out more incidents, but more importantly the incidents seem to be casual for Chanel, and in instances where there is no benefit to her to express that and, in fact, where it actually hurts her cause to do that (like with the Dean, whom she fires insults about being a lesbian at).  Karen gets two small incidents that are not casual and are done to deliberately hurt people or to try to gain an advantage.  This time through, I definitely felt that Chanel was that sort of person, and never got that for Karen.

There’s even a Ouija Board scene in the series, but unlike the one in “Original Sin” it’s actually relevant to the plot.  The deceased Chanel No2 first tells Chanel that her boyfriend is cheating on her (again) which turns out to be false and gets Chanel in bad straits with him.  It then implies that Chanel is a threat to the other Chanels, which gets them to plot to kill her.  Then she has a dream/vision from Chanel no2 warning her about the threat and encouraging her to stand up for herself and take charge, which she does, foiling the plot.  In contrast, I used the equivalent scene in “Original Sin” as evidence that Imogen was behind the killings because otherwise that scene would have been irrelevant.

So I think that “Scream Queens” used its elements better than “Original Sin” did, especially the ones that they have in common.  However, in watching it this time I think the biggest issue is in the sort of slasher “Original Sin” went with.  As noted above, a “Scream”-style mastermind slasher would have fit really well with the “Pretty Little Liars” universe, but instead they chose a “Friday the 13th”-style slasher.  And then tried to pay it off with a “Scream”-style reveal which didn’t fit.  Now, they could have made all that work if they had, say, created a discrepancy in the murders that would have raised questions about what was going on.  If the slasher was killing bullies at the school but the texts and some of the murders were tied directly to the revenge plot, then they could have created a set of killers where the principal was trying to keep the slasher on a leash but the slasher’s main goal was stopping the bullying.  Heck, it even would have worked if the principal was more interested in killing bullies and cleaning up the school along with the direct revenge.  And a benefit of these is that it would have allowed for them to commit more murders, as one of the main issues with “Original Sin” as a horror series was a lack of killing.

As structured, though, it couldn’t do that.  There simply weren’t enough killings for either sort of slasher to work.  A “Friday the 13th”-style slasher needs more killings to establish the killer as a threat so that we are afraid when the protagonists encounter them, and a “Scream”-style killer needs more killings to establish a pattern that provides a puzzle that makes perfect sense given the reveal.  With only about three killings, there’s not enough there to provide either a real threat or a real puzzle.  “Scream Queens” used the sorority and university environment to provide for victims that are disposable but can be used to establish a pattern of killings and demonstrate that the slasher was one step ahead of everyone.  If they had expanded the victim set to the bullies in the high school, “Original Sin” could have done that as well.

But it didn’t, and I think that’s really where it failed.  And that is why I will rewatch “Scream Queens” again at some point and won’t rewatch “Original Sin”‘s first season.

Thoughts on “Psycho 4”

October 20, 2022

This is the last of the four movies in that pack of “Psycho” movies, and if it isn’t the last of the official “Psycho” movies it at least is one that really seems to wrap up the story of Norman Bates.  The movie picks up a number of years after the third one, with a radio host exploring men who kill their mothers when Norman calls in to talk about his own experiences, with the expert on the show almost remembering him.  This spawns an exploration of Norman’s youth and relationship with his mother, and so sets this movie up as basically a prequel to the entire series.  Norman reveals that his is considered cured and is married, but will have to kill his wife because he didn’t want to have children that might turn out like him and she essentially lied to him and tricked him into getting her pregnant, figuring that he’d come around when it was going to happen, which is obviously not the smartest thing to do with someone who had the hangups that Norman had.  At the very end, he returns to the house to kill her but can’t do it and then destroys the house, finally freeing himself from the influence of his mother.

The movie is reasonably well-acted and is written pretty well, but it fell a bit flat for me.  I think the main reason for this is that while exploring Norman’s past and his relationship with his mother is a valid thing to do, the movie ended up answering questions that I didn’t really care about, and if you aren’t interested in seeing how Norman became the person he is you aren’t going to be that interested in the movie.  The structure of the radio show moving to flashbacks does work well for that sort of story, though.

I was also a bit disappointed in the ending.  The movie ends up having him try to flee the house but hurting his leg while doing so, which means that he has to drag himself out of the cellar which takes an interminably long time but is rather boring.  The sad thing is that they had him be confronted by the image of his mother a number of times as he fled, and they could have built the suspense and tension entirely through that, especially given that the big thing that needed to happen here was that he confronted and overcame the image of his mother and his past to hopefully become fully healed.  Once that’s resolved, about the only tension is seeing whether he escapes alive or dies, and given his wife and unborn child we probably all want him to live now that he knows that he ought not kill his wife to avoid having a child like him, so it’s just a slow-moving section rather than one with real tension and suspense.

I didn’t mind the movie, and as it wraps up Norman’s story I could watch it as part of rewatching the entire series, but it’s not a movie that I’d want to rewatch on its own.

Now that I’ve talked about all four movies, what do I think of the disk and them as a series?  Well, unlike the Amityville movies, these four movies actually are a series, each of them playing off of each other and picking up where the others left off and filling in details that the others left open and vague.  That gives them all a big plus in my opinion.  And all of the movies are, in general, relatively good and competently done movies.  I like the first the best and, well, think that my opinion of them overall goes down from movie to movie, but at the end of it all the last movie is still an okay movie that isn’t really focusing on something that I was interested in, which still puts it above most of the horror movies that I’ve been watching.  Given that, it should be no surprise that this pack will end up in my closet of movies that I will rewatch at some point in the future.

Thoughts on “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin”: The Reviews

October 18, 2022

I had said that I’d look at some of the good reviews before, well, reading any of those reviews.  That turned out to be a mistake because of an odd situation with the PR for the series.  First, when they dropped the series officially they dropped the first three episodes first and then dropped the rest of them, which meant that a number of people watched the first three episodes and would have commented on them first.  But since I was looking at the formal critic reviews, that itself wouldn’t have been a problem for me.  However, what they also did was make the first five episodes available to the relevant press and critics but then would have made them watch through the various streaming services to see the rest of the series.  What that means is that most of the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes review the first five episodes and not the entire series.  And I watched the entire series in one shot because it was on my own streaming service, so that wouldn’t make for a very good review comparison.  So it’s not all that easy for me to look at what people like about the series, aside from the normal ones about liking diversity.

But I did find three that talk about it and talk about the entire series.  The first one is not one that I’m going to focus on too much, but it’s from The Decider and talks about whether you should stream or skip the entire series.  I’m just going to pull the summary out from Joel Keller’s review and talk about it:

Our Call: STREAM IT. Fans of PLL will enjoy Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin because it’s basically a more violent reboot of the original series. But there’s a lot going on in this series, which might get overwhelming at some point.

Speaking as a fan of PLL, I wonder why in the world he thinks that this series being a more violent reboot of the original series means that fans of the original series will like it.  While there was some violence in the original series, I don’t think too many fans were crying out for there to be more violence.  And adding violence into a work can change its tone, which might mean that it would alienate fans.  The original series was a combination of a teen drama and a suspense work, and adding violence to those sorts of works ends up hurting both, as the teen drama is much less dramatic when the other plots involve violence and death, and paying off the suspense parts in violence requires, well, paying off the suspense and so ending it.  My biggest fear starting out was indeed that the violence of the slasher parts would take away from the other parts, and it did.  I don’t think that Keller was a fan of the original series, and so wouldn’t really be able to connect to what that series had.  So he certainly wouldn’t have felt my disappointment and the disappointment of fans of the original series that the new series was nothing like the original series.  Oh, and if he thought this series had a lot going on he definitely would have been overwhelmed by the original series.

The next review is again someone who didn’t watch the original series, but was a fan of teen drama.  It’s from The Daily Beast, and is by Cameron Spilde.  But because he never saw the original series, he says things like this:

If you know anything about the original series, you’ll understand the players and the construction of its antagonists, but it’s not necessary to have seen a single frame of any Pretty Little Liars iteration that has come before to enjoy this. And as a now-confessed PLL newbie myself, I relished the chance to dive in without a 10-hour YouTube explainer.

The reason this happens is because the players and the construction of its antagonists are nothing like they were in the original series.  Yes, it’s the case that you don’t need to know anything about the original series to watch this one but that’s because this series takes great pains to avoid ever referring to that series.  A is nothing like the A from the original series, and the girls and families are nothing like they were in the original series.  The only things they have in common are the names of the antagonist and the name of the series.

Aside from comments about them being able to swear and that the series is shorter — which I didn’t consider a benefit since it left them with little room to develop their various subplots — his big interest in the series is that it works, for him at least, as a modern streaming teen drama.  He compares it to the Gossip Girl remake thusly:

Where Gossip Girl largely failed to do anything but water down the campiness of the original series by purposely removing slut-shaming, catfights, and wicked little digs—you know, all of the things we watch these shows for—Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin goes all-in on its premium platform pleasures.

Original Sin understands that just because audiences enjoy watching teenagers be bad people doesn’t mean that they endorse those behaviors. The series wades into the muck of petty digs and gasp-inducing comebacks because it knows that those things are precisely why we’re here. We don’t want good core values and easily resolved fallouts, shows where the only plot progressions come from picking different characters out of a hat and throwing them into bed together. We want dialogue and drama that quite literally make us say, “OOP!”

So, of course, I was beyond thrilled to hear characters throwing casual slut-shaming and homophobia as if they were as common as “hello” and “goodbye.” It has been too long since I’ve heard a decent, lowdown dig like, “Nobody wants your pregnant, tragic ass here,” or, “No need to come out of the closet, rodent, we already know.” And that’s not even considering the exquisite blowup Karen has at a pizza parlor in the first episode. I won’t spoil it for you, but my jaw (finally!) literally dropped. Is it woke? No. Have a sense of humor!

Essentially, because it isn’t “woke” because it will actually utilize those sorts of things rather than drop and hide them like, presumably, Gossip Girl did.  This ignores the fact that it only does that so that it can rather heavy-handedly condemn them and assign most of those things to the character that we are supposed to hate, Karen.  So it isn’t “casual” at all.  It’s momentous.  It’s what drives the main characters to join together to humiliate Karen.

And while I’m not a fan of teen drama — one of the things I liked about the original series was that it used the suspense to keep the teen drama from being overwhelming — I think that this would be an inferior teen drama as well, mostly because the teen drama ends up being subordinated to the slasher aspect, and it having less episodes means that it can’t build that out as much.  If he liked the teen drama here, then he’d really like the original series which actually had the time to develop the relationships and issues that feed into teen drama, and had a premise that meant that the series wanted to do that to feed their issues and secrets into the suspense part.  And I’m sure he’d love the sorts of comments that Allison, Mona and even Hanna make at times.  But, yeah, if he was looking for teen drama and is thrilled by those more, er, perhaps “risque” statements then he would find things in this series that he liked more than I did.  I don’t see how that would make the series actually be good however.

The last review is from Bloody Disgusting, where Brandon Trush talked about the first five episodes and then later the last five episodes.  As you might guess from the name of the site, he’s really interested in the slasher aspects:

Despite this, I’m still hoping for another season. Aside from pacing issues in the back half, “Original Sin” remains one of the most successful slasher shows I’ve seen to date, and I was glued to my seat waiting to see how all of the pieces would fall into place by the end.

Now, I considered it an inferior slasher series as well, and Trush agrees with a lot of my comments, especially as per the finale:

The uneven pacing also spreads to the final reveal and climax of the season–within the 50 minutes of the finale, we learn that Chip had assaulted Imogen and Tabby, we discover that Angela has a twin brother all along named Archie, all of the liars’ parents are kidnapped by A, Milwood High is transformed into a fucked up torture chamber, Principal Clanton is revealed as the mastermind controlling A (which I’ll come back to shortly), Imogen gives birth to her baby, and A escapes. It’s exciting and answers a ton of questions, but it’s also a bit of whiplash. Whereas so much of the show carefully sets up complex conflicts and dynamics between all of the characters, the last stretch barrels through to the credits without fully developing all of the revelations.

And, to address the most important part of the finale, the reveal of Principal Clanton and his son Archie as the duo making up A: my reaction was lukewarm at first. I had put the pieces together in earlier episodes that A was likely a family member of Angela, but Clanton seemed to come a bit from left field. However, upon revisiting earlier episodes, a couple red flags pointing in his direction seemed more apparent: his interesting choice of the phrase “she [Karen] will be punished accordingly” in episode two, with her death later in the episode, and the fact that A’s lair seems to be in the school without anyone realizing it are two of the clues that seemed obvious in retrospect. It warmed me up to the reveal a bit more the longer I sat with it, but regardless, I’m sure many will find it polarizing.

In a way, it’s successful because it made me crave more. I’m attached to the cast of liars–they’ve all evolved and had high stakes in foiling A’s plans, and I’m curious to know how each of them will move forward from the events of the season. It’s an improvement from the original series as well, as it feels much more conclusive and cohesive instead of leaving the identity of A as a cliffhanger. My only reservation is that I’m not exactly how a smooth transition into another season of “Original Sin” can occur. It gives the impression that in the rush to tie up all loose ends, complete all character arcs, and fit all of the reveals into the last couple episodes, the story feels very complete as is. Imogen says it herself at the end of the finale: it feels over, over.

So, given these flaws, why is he so excited about it, so much so that he was eagerly checking to see if it was renewed?  While I hate to try to analyze the minds of people who disagree with me, I think that the main reason is less that it was an incredibly good slasher series but that it was actually a slasher series.  Assuming that he is a slasher fan, getting a slasher series has to be something that he really wanted to see.  He was, as they say, thrown a bone and it worked reasonably well for him, and in general there aren’t a lot of horror TV or streaming series — they are getting more popular, it seems to me, especially with streaming where you can do more — and even fewer slasher series (which makes the “one of the most successful slasher series to date” faint praise).  So as someone who like slasher series getting one would make him more pleasantly disposed towards it than it would be for me who isn’t particularly a slasher fan and who, as noted, felt that the slasher aspect lost the things that made the original series great.

It’s also a bit ironic that I found his review, because one of the things that I had decided to do was rewatch a slasher series that I thought did all of this better in “Scream Queens” to compare the two.  Now, since “Scream Queens” was a lighter and more humourous take on the idea and “Original Sin” more serious, what you’d expect is that “Scream Queens” would be more fun and “Original Sin” would be better with the plot and characters, but the reason I wanted to rewatch it was because I seem to recall “Scream Queens” doing the plot and characterizations better as well, which if true would be kinda damning to “Original Sin”.

So, those are the reviews.  There’s nothing in them to convince me that I missed something about how great this series is, so it’s time for me to talk about what I thought of it.  As a series in the “Pretty Little Liars” universe, it is nothing like it in any way and so I have no desire to rewatch it whenever I watch that series, nor am I interested in watching the next season — yes, it has been renewed — as a “Pretty Little Liars” series … because to me it isn’t one.  As a series in its own right, I don’t want to rewatch it or the next season either, because I didn’t care for how it did the slasher aspects or the teen drama aspects.  So based on that I would never watch the second season.  However, remember that I watch cheap horror movies to talk about on the blog, and the second season would fit into that as a series that I could watch as a modern horror movie to talk about how it works and, more likely given the first season, how it doesn’t work.  It would take me a week to get through in my normal watching time.  Sure, it’s probably better if I start with something that I’m not sure I’ll dislike, but it might indeed be something that I pick up just to watch as an example of modern and likely bad horror.  Given that, though, I have no interest in rewatching the first season and so would start from the second season itself to take it on its own merits … whatever those might be.