What I'm Watching: Invisible Man (2020)

So, a woman (Elisabeth Moss) who's apparently been given everything she wants, sabotages security systems and flees her husband's home in the night, releases his dog, dings his car. Then she acts like a prisoner in a "safe house" of a single black cop and his daughter, but never explains why. The husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, generic English prettyboy but has the stupid Millennial mullet, which means he's coded as villain) is so distraught he commits suicide, and the disrespectful wench can't even sit through his prepared statement at the will reading, only wants money money money.

To say I'm not sympathetic to the viewpoint character is a massive understatement. You need to show, not tell, to get any kind of sympathy.

Lifetime Movie Aside: There's a movie I saw, Enough (2002, Jennifer Lopez), a ripoff of Sleeping with the Enemy (1991, Julia Roberts) where it spends half the film showing her life with an abusive husband who makes her clean perfectly, turn can labels forward in a cupboard, behave perfectly, every petty thing, or he'll beat her; then she escapes, learns "krav maga" (but what it shows is just kickboxing/tai chi), and kicks his ass. It was as preposterous as any other Lifetime movie, but I didn't mind it because it shows, not tells.

Anyway, then she goes paranoid, starts seeing moving shadows, and footprints in sheets in an utterly dark room we can't see anything in either, finds things she lost, and starts committing crimes and claiming her dead, invisible husband did it.

She tries to get a new job, and stays at the safe house, despite having all the money money money from her dead husband's estate. None of her behavior makes sense for someone newly rich. Did the writer (Leigh Whannell, dude best known for the horrendous Saw movies) just forget they'd done that? If he wrote this as little snippets while drinking, it would explain a lot of the "plot". In fact, several of the "I won't hurt you, I'll hurt them!" bits are straight out of Saw.

Security Aside: This shouldn't be news to anyone in 2020, but lock your damned computer. On the Mac, you can do System Preferences, Desktop, Screen Saver, Start after 5 minutes (or whatever), then Security, General, Require Password 5 Seconds after screen saver. The  menu also has ^⌘Q Lock Screen now (formerly in Keychain Access); I don't know/care how Windows and Linux do it, but you can figure it out. Now nobody can get to your desktop and send emails pretending to be you. This is the most basic security procedure. She h4xx0r3d her husband's security at the start, and lip-polishes over the webcam (which on good computers can't be accessed without the green light), so clearly learning security matters… Then she doesn't do the most basic thing. And while I'm at hit, the dead husband had terrible choices for passwords and PINs, do not use important dates in your life! Memorize random number & word sequences!

If this was going to be a psychological study of PTSD, then pretending that the "bad guy" is actually doing it ruins that. If it's going to be an Invisible Man horror story, then never showing the invisible man doing anything until nearly the end ruins that. Either way, it's just 90 minutes of Elisabeth Moss whining. Egregiously so when she whines "You can have any girl! I'm just a suburban girl!"; Mz Moss is dressed down in hoodies and bad makeup here, and nearing 40 not as young as Peggy on Mad Men, but she's still cute, fit, in the top 1% of pretty girls. Can you imagine what kind of psychological damage this is inflicting on girls who aren't her? "Nobody will ever love you if you don't look better than Mz Moss" is the writer's message. FUCK THIS GUY.

Suit Applications Aside: Suppose the invisible super-suit did exist (which it does not, it's her delusion). Every military, espionage, and assassination organization in the world would want it. Who cares about one possibly crazy ex-wife, if you get the ultimate weapon? And what happens when you scale that up to tanks, planes, missiles? You think a cop is gonna let someone walk off with one?

When the brother-in-law offers to make charges go away, to protect his brother's kid, he's just doing his filial duty, it's not a trap. And poor Zeus the dog, he just wants both his people back, but they keep fighting.

The entire last third of the film is a delusional, hallucinating, psychotic widow killing family, friends, and anyone else getting in her way. It's tragic, but there's no invisible man.

★★☆☆☆

(Disclaimer: Movie tropes about insanity are not reality; I'm not characterizing actual mental illness this way.)

Haunted House

You are a bold and courageous person,
afraid of nothing.
High on the hilltop near your home
there stands a dilapidated old mansion.
Some say the place is haunted,
but you don't believe in such myths.
One dark and stormy night, a light appears
in the topmost window in the tower of the old house.
You decide to investigate.
And you never return.

Ah, the classics.

[Update a few minutes later: Wow, "The Chinese Water Torture" is incredibly racist. Also it's called "waterboarding" and it's not a single drop of water, but wow.]


What I'm Watching: The Outsider

Miniseries on HoboMax based on a Stephen King novel; I haven't read him regularly since Gerald's Game, which I hated, so I'm not familiar, but if this is representative at all, which movies often are not of King's books, I should get back on the train. It's tangentially related to the Mr Mercedes series which I haven't seen yet.

I do note, almost every shot is in darkness, lit with the minimal number of in-scene lights, and often tinted cyan/orange as usual. It looks like absolute shit. The sound's worse, half the characters, especially the cop, mumble and slur their words, so you can't really watch it without subtitles. Bar music is muffled and ump-ump-umping, with colored gels making the bad lighting worse. Once in a long while, they manage to get a shot in sunlight, outside, and astoundingly they manage to point a camera at it correctly, but mostly this is just incompetently shot and miked. I miss films being, you know, watchable? Put more than a couple little streaks of photons on film?

Also like 90% of the dudes look alike, heavy middle-aged honkie goons with short hair, short beards. I don't know if this is bad casting or intentional? Since it could be anyone? But it plays hell with my mediocre face recognition skills.

The pacing in most scenes is somewhere between glacial and nonexistent, it could've been half the number of episodes with no loss.

On balance, the story being told just barely overcomes the drawbacks, but it's the worst-filmed of King's series and movies that I've seen.

The series starts like every crime drama, an old man with a dog out for a walk in the woods finds a kid's body, abused and bitten(!). Killers, stop leaving your bodies there, you know you're gonna be found, and then a detective with a troubled personal life will get involved and catch you. Well, this one maybe wants it.

So the cliché detective (small-town sheriff) with a troubled personal life arrests the person who looks good for it, with a bunch of blatantly out-of-character eyewitnesses and camera recordings, before the case starts falling apart badly.

Next a new protagonist, P.I. Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo, of Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale), goes looking for an explanation. She's a Rain Man fictional autistic genius type, which makes her awkward to watch and utterly implausible as a person, but a good stand-in for a text adventure or RPG player character, willing to go anywhere, ask anything, assemble giant notebooks of clues until the problem is solved.

SPOILERS

















Right up front Holly brings up the stories of Doppelgangers, Fetch, etc., dark shadows of people who commit atrocities in their form, and whether they're myth or just explanations for schizophrenia, dissociative identity disorder, etc., but misses my favorite, the Navajo myth of the Skinwalker, a witch that takes the skin of an animal (or in really dark variants, a person) and assumes their form. I've been expecting that since the moment Terry was accused and obviously not playing the same person as the killer.

So far we have no motive for the skinwalker, but everything in it leads that direction: Claude gets copied at the titty bar. Terry got copied by the skinwalker at the nursing home. Heath got copied in New York. Maria got copied there. If you're a murderous skinwalker, NYC would seem to be the place to stay, nobody'd notice a few missing. Out in the boonies, anyone out of the ordinary is suspicious.

Aside, at one point in a back-story, a kid is scared by the movie Leprechaun (starring the inimitable Warwick Davis!), but the thing is, the leprechaun only kills those who steal his gold (or that he thinks did), so a kid might be squicked out by the gore, but shouldn't be afraid of leprechauns. +5 for reference, -10 for missing the point.

And that's relevant because later Holly's theory is that it's El Coco, here called "El Cuco", or basically the boogeyman. Which also makes no sense because none of the victims were bad kids, and universally we know that the boogeyman only takes away bad kids. If monsters under your bed were eating good kids, parents would rise up in anger & torches & pitchforks, but if they take bad kids, silent sigh of relief and "oh no my dirty-faced angel is gone oh well time to make another".

By episodes 4-5 it really starts to drag, there's no plot advancement except a few minutes of investigation here and there. A lot of repeated scenes of indistinguishable honkie dudes being crazy, the cop brooding, Holly being nerdy at random people who have no reason to hear her out.

E6 manages to get back on track, with Holly explaining everything she knows, making the last few episodes redundant, and new investigation into the monster's abilities.

Nope, E7-E8 are right back to moody nothing, a long car ride into nowhere, Ralph whining at his therapist but unable to even articulate the plot, Holly gets to be cool and stoic until she's not.

Finally, E9-10 have a confrontation, a slow but somewhat tense shootout, and something like final showdown. Even that's made dull, slow and methodical. And then excuses and lies to get the survivors out of trouble.

There's a little post-credits scene, don't just close it, but it doesn't do anything.

I really want to like this. Every element it's doing is clever, in competent filmmakers' hands it'd be great, it's just so incredibly badly told as a show, I can't.

★★½☆☆

What I'm Watching: Lovecraft Country

Based on a fixup "novel" of short stories by Matt Ruff about racism and the supernatural in the lives of a black family in 1950s New England. And then adapted by Jordan "Get Out! I'm Gonna Make Another Good Movie or Show Someday I Swear!" Peele.

Humn, an unpleasant observation. I've read Matt "Chubby White Dude" Ruff before, and wasn't pleased. His Sewer, Gas & Electric trilogy uses tropes of cyberpunk without understanding the ethos of "the street finds its own uses for things (mil/industrial tech)", he just puts power in the hands of a bureaucracy and megacorporations. And it's grossly, excessively racist while trying to… make fun of racism? I don't know what his point was, as I threw the book out halfway thru. In it all black people die of a plague so androids are made with black skin and racist caricature behaviors, to be slaves forever, because white people missed them so. Yes, I'm serious. When you're looking for a guy to translate around H.P. Lovecraft's product-of-his-time racism into more modern terms, Matt Ruff's not the guy I'd pick.

HoboMax is doing the annoying "just like old-timey television" shit of only releasing one ep a week, which I haven't had to deal with since killing cable and buying DVD boxes around 2000. So this just covers S1E1.

On with the show.

A black Korean war veteran Atticus (Jonathan Majors) who loves pulp literature, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) who edits the Green Book, down-on-her-luck friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett), go on a little road trip into "Lovecraft Country", weird New England from Salem up to Maine, looking for Tic's missing father. Who's an asshole, apparently.

They do need the Green Book, early on we see incredibly hostile racist places. I'm very far in time and culture from these, so maybe I'm off, but I've read period histories and a lot of crime & pulps… and they're exaggerating to an extreme level. I don't buy fat New Englanders racing out of nowhere in car chases with fire engines and gunfire, just because black people sat in a restaurant, without first escalating from threats and bats, to threat of lynching, and then going Mad Max. Inbred pyschotic states like Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, or Texas, sure, but not Pennsylvania. The Green Book used to recommend that black people always carry bail money if they went to Missouri, not "Don't go they'll KILL YOU!"

Matt Ruff. Jordan Peele.

The period is often confused, between Tic's dreams which waver all over time and space from WWII to aliens & saucers from '60s-70s UFO nuts, Cthulhu illustrations popularized in the '80s-'00s, and sets, cars, and costumes which are almost but not quite period '50s, a lot of it looks '60s. I'm not sure how much of that is intentionally making a timeless hostile place, some of it the difficulty of actually making period sets. The music is intentionally anachronistic, which has modern rap mixed in with period blues and jazz; I find that jarring and incompetent, regardless of what their intent was.

So after meeting all the Human monsters, we get 10 minutes with the "real" monsters. Who do great at killing no-name mooks, but are apparently utterly helpless against named characters. For a scene that's supposed to be a horrific chase… it was just goofy. Letitia's running scene, in particular, looked like one of those endless runner videogames, or Telltale Games' "story on rails with quick-time events" games, where you dodge a little left or right, jump now, hammer X to grab the thing. The pacing, the comically bad CGI cartoon look of the monsters, and the stoic/detached/whacked out on 'ludes attitude the actors all have, destroy any "horror" from these things.

I like Tic, he's a good adventurer hero, and his love of pulp SF which often has unpleasant attitudes with a "people are complicated" philosophy. Letitia's a little strident but bland. Uncle George is awfully naïve and passive for a civil rights organizer.

The plot so far has been very episodic and unconnected, a toddler's "and then this happened, then this, then this", and the cliffhanger of them knocking on a front door, wearing bloody rags, and not being shot for their hubris is out of nowhere.

I'm willing to put up with a lot if they actually get to some real horror, but so far it's very comical.

★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: October Faction

Adapted from an IDW comic. The comic is by spooky Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), with Damien Worms' art, which ranges from blatantly ripping off Charles Addams' "Addams Family" cartoons, to blatantly ripping off Ben Templesmith who formerly worked with Niles; and Ben's entire career is ripping off Bill Sienkiewicz. I've read one of it, wasn't at a time when I cared enough to keep following it, but it seemed fun. At some point I may get all the collected volumes, maybe for Halloween.

The show doesn't really match up. The comic's dark gothic look, skulls and shadows everywhere, lots of backlit outlines, is replaced with perky yuppies in suits, and their annoyingly precocious children. The house could be creepy and gloomy, it has weird locked rooms and summoning circles… but it's always brightly lit, and almost never the set. Instead they're out in the woods like a B-movie, or at a police station, or anywhere but home.

The premise suffers from translation, from a retired monster hunter protecting his family, to a pair of scheming, active agents getting a year of sabbatical which turns very active again.

The monster-killing agency, The Shop Presidio, is just as genocidal and shitty as the comic, but what works in comics, with aged heroes or rookie hillbilly cops holding off masses of armored soldiers and monsters, here turns into almost comedy as this square middle-aged couple—ooh, they're so hip they smoke an old joint found in their '72 Charger!—murder people with bad facial appliances (literally four toothpicks sticking out of some latex around the mouth for the "vampires", and glowing red eyes added with CGI, except they miss sometimes). The goon soldiers all have full armor, modern weapons, and always get killed by unarmored, often untrained good guys. The monsters are worse, many times stronger than Humans, magic powers, maybe centuries of practice killing Humans, and they always get beaten or killed by half-assed Human fighters. At one point, spoiler but meh, Deloris is cornered by five angry vampire bikers. Next scene she comes home with some cosmetic bruises and scratches.

I mock the excesses, but the adult story is OK. Fred (JC McKenzie, who's played boring lawyers or doctors for the last 30 years), Deloris (Tamara Taylor, previously in Altered Carbon), Gina (Nicola Correia-Damude, who's in a ton of fun B-movies & series), Alice (Maxim Roy, French-Canadian femme fatale, mostly in shitty Canadian dramas), and Moshe (Dayo Ade, haven't previously seen him) are all competent, the main story of the family finding out who they are and just how evil The Shop Presidio is, warlocks and vampires seeking revenge, and a father's incredibly stupid desperate attempt to save a son, is interesting.

But the B-plots suck. The Shop Presidio internal politics are far over the top, instant assassinations and Mengele-style tortures instead of, you know, anything subtle or intelligent. There's an entire ep of flashback to when Alice was happy, and for 30+ minutes nothing happens and then it's war porn and a big "I told you so". The final resolution of the main plot involves kids and old people beating up soldiers who have years of experience committing monster genocide, and silly people stepping out of cover to monologue each other to death. If only it were that easy.

Casting diversity is definitely an improvement, there's a range of ethnicities and a token bigot in the first ep to point it out. IDW and Netflix made a big deal on launch about the comic being gay-friendly. Well, I guess. The annoying son is gay (but the actor Gabriel Darku, one of the filth from the terrible ReBoot reboot, is straight, because gay actors don't get to play gay characters), and his teen romance shit, regardless of orientation, goes on forever, but so does the annoying daughter with her catty, dumpy friend, and the girl clique straight out of Heathers or 90210 who are oppressing them. The children are entitled, pompous, loathesome, whiny, and useless. Which means when it comes time for them to be endangered or have to make choices, I DO NOT CARE. The awful kids drove this down from a passable show sympathetic to the monsters, to "UGH, the kids are on screen again, skip skip skip".

I'm glad Netflix killed this after a season, instead of dragging it out.

I kinda wanted to watch Fred possess the monster/robot/whatever in the basement, which seems to be what the ending shot was.

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Friday the 13th (2009)

A little palate cleanser before I watch something serious, and it's leaving HoboMax tomorrow. I make sure to check the "Leaving Soon" tab near the end of every month; Hobo doesn't pay for these films in perpetuity, and really stacked the deck on launch. In a few months they may be down to nothing.

Dumb Millennials who act like high schoolers go camping/looking for a weed farm to rob, up near the site of Camp Crystal Lake… OMINOUS MUSIC. Two couples and a stoner, standard crew.

Zero star power or acting talent in this one. Ben Feldman, the douchebag lawyer in Silicon Valley. America Olivo, who's a stripper, opera singer, "professional" soap opera extra. Jared Padalecki, Sam from Supernatural and other male model shows, is great at looking confused or afraid, which are his only two emotional states. Derek Mears who plays him this time, is a long-running giant movie thug, and does a fine job physically; role doesn't require acting, and he couldn't deliver it if it did.

Typical idiots separating, fucking (all you see is some bouncing tits), being picked off, not particularly good kills, often just cutting to black. Except maybe what happens in the cabin, which sets up the final act of the film.

Record scratch. Pause.

So, here's the thing. Friday the 13th (1980) came out when I was a Boy Scout camp-going little Mark (you learn your survival skills where you can; but these days don't give BSA your money or attention, it's a shitty organization). Over the next few years they all came out on Beta and VHS, and of course we all saw them much too young. It is just a fact to me that there are undead psycho killers at all campsites, that's what makes camping exciting (just wait for season 2 of Yuru Camp vs Jason!). I've watched most of these, despite them all being trash except the first three and Jason X. A timeline:

  • 1957: Jason drowns at Camp Crystal Lake.
  • 1980: Friday the 13th: Jason's mom murders the counsellors (who mostly weren't even born when it happened!)
  • 1981: Friday the 13th Part II: Jason rises from the dead.
  • 1982: Friday the 13th Part III: Jason finds his face.
  • … A bunch of shitty sequels, psychic weirdos, death after death.
  • 1993: Jason Goes To Hell: Jason is blown up by the FBI, possesses a body. So there's definitely no more original Jason.
  • 2010: Jason X (2002): Despite this, Jason is captured by the military and cryogenically frozen. 400 years later he'll be in space and on another planet, but that's not important right now.
  • 2009: Friday the 13th (2009): Jason returns again. How? What Jason can possibly be here? OK, maybe this happens just before Jason X, but there's still no original body! I want answers, and this film isn't gonna give them to me.
  • 2011: The Cabin in the Woods: The world ends. "Okay, I'm drawing a line in the fucking sand, here. Do not read the Latin."

Spin on.

24 minutes in, and we're on team 2. Biker Loner looking for his sister (from first segment) is a good walk-on protagonist. Couple blow-dried douchebag bros, weird Chinese-American stoner, black guy who is stereotypically not stereotypical, three bimbos.

Loner finds a few scary locals/psychopomps to talk to. Cop is just a dumb obstructionist, but Cujo lady's good, and stoner hillbilly with woodchipper is fantastic. Really sells the "you don't wanna come round these parts" tone, and keep an eye on that woodchipper.

We haven't been able to clearly see Jason until now, but he finally finds both his burlap sack and then his real face again. Weird that he's been here all this time without them.

Finally after almost an hour of this, there's a new behavior. Something I've never seen Jason do before, and it's completely weird: He keeps a prisoner in his shrine/base, and… not communication, but there's a few moments where Jason and another character interact without killing, which is bizarre.

But back to formula, team 2 gets picked off, not generally interesting. In a big two-story McMansion by the lake, so it's the most generic set possible. A couple of them you kinda root for, but it's pointless. The only question is which of the Final Girls or Loner will survive? Orpheus and harem enter the Underworld. The entire end is shot in the dark and fake rain, so you can't see anything even when they're outside.

Really stupid denouement on a pier, which makes no sense that they'd go there.

★★☆☆☆ — Mostly just boring. I had more fun writing that timeline than I did watching anything in this.

What I'm Watching: Bordertown, Freaks

  • Bordertown: The best of the grim Scandinavian crime dramas. Kari Sorjonen (the Finnish title is just his name), is a borderline autistic, Sherlock Holmes with a memory palace technique, and partner Lena, a Russian ex-FSB cop/thug/defector. There's a wife and a kid, and Lena has a daughter, sometimes, and there are a few too many household drama stories early on, but it mostly lowers that to a background level later.

But most of the series is Kari pursuing really crafty serial killers, including a repeat nemesis, supergenius high school chemistry teacher, not named Walter or Moriarty but oughta be.

Emotionally the show could not be more Finnish. Everyone is stoic and awkward, frosty to their friends, completely closed off to anyone else, until they have a giant emotional meltdown and kill each other. Secrets and actual intentions are rarely revealed and when they are, everyone's glum but takes it. The distance between Kari's emotional flatness and everyone else's emotional bunkers isn't far.

Finland has a harsh and beautiful wilderness, and the cities are the grimmest of industrial shitholes, and then the interiors are mostly sterile black and white unadorned furniture, like Jony Ive set designed it; when you see a warm set it's just jarring. The cinematography and music are great; I'm unamused at the pretense the daughter sings the title song, tho, and in this last season she got way too much screen time doing so. Apparently the actress is a wannabe Miley Cyrus.

I read subtitles fast, and can usually rely on being able to pick up some spoken words, but Finnish is annoying; English lets me pick up enough Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedish to recognize many words, my bad French lets me get a lot of Flemish and Belgian, and so on… but Finnish sounds like gibberish, and these people talk fast; I usually complain about slow-talkers, but here it's a little stressful. So good thing this is on Netflix where rewinding for a complex scene is easy. It'd be unwatchable on 'zon's terrible video player.

S3 switches from overlapping almost-season-long stories to more episodic 2-parters, but there is a continuing story.

Picking on some of the non-plot elements aside, this is just a perfect crime drama, watch it.

★★★★½

  • Freaks (2018): It's Firestarter; this Charlie ^W Chloe is a different kind of little girl freak, but the "psychic powers make your eyes bleed" thing, the father, the low-rent treachery, the government murderers are straight out of Stephen King. The Shop ^W ADF is funded like post-9/11 counterterrorism, not a CIA hobby project.

I'm both amused and horrified by a trick used to get the ADF to kill innocent people, the writer's not original but able to embellish well.

Once you realize the scope of Chloe's, and her family's, and the missing mommy's powers, the question of "is this overreaction" changes to "what would you do for species survival"; altho Dallas probably had it coming. Little Chloe also learns to kill like a teenage boy playing Call of Duty, way faster than a supposed 7-year-old (actress was 9) should. No way she should see this movie or the evil shit her character does.

★★★★☆ — despite the near-plagiarism, this is well done.

What I'm Watching: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

  • Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964): Both UFO cultists and cops agree, heat wave in winter and meteor showers are weird. A cop is assigned to bodyguard a princess from a small island under civil war. Said princess is contacted by an alien voice and told to jump from the plane, and she never even got her drink! Scientists hike into the mountains to investigate a meteor landing.

I must say, Japan's wilderness looks fantastic. The cinematography on this one, in color!, is head and shoulders above previous films. Even when they go into matte paintings and sets, it looks good. They do interesting cuts, like using a subway car as a wipe. It's almost hard to believe this is Honda Ishiro still, not doing locked-down cameras and super simple cuts or wipes; earlier he was more a director of people and cool events, not using the camera well. Even the rear projections are now fairly close to seamless.

Naoko the journalist and the Princess are both cute as hell. Naoko's cop brother is kind of a doofus, and utterly extraneous to the plot. The bodyguard cop has no personality except brooding and shooting (not very well, he never kills anyone with at least 30 shots), and there's no love between him and the Princess in the first half; all he has is a picture, and she's not herself. Has Honda learned cinematography, but forgotten about romance as the main driver of Human-scale plots?! What a terrible bargain.

The Mothra twins appear on TV, and summon a vision of the Mothra larva. This is a Japan that just lives with the regular existence of giant monsters and magic on TV, I don't see how anyone can mock UFO cultists or prophets from Venus in that world.

"Stay out of Mount Aso, Rodan will emerge!" "Shut up prophet! … OH NO IT'S RODAN AAAIEEE!" Incredibly predictable scene, but perfect "fools die of their folly" scene. Rodan's costume & flying puppet are much improved over the first movie, but it's a little odd being more of a Pteranodon/Roc hybrid now.

"Don't get on the ship!" And at least the important characters pay attention, but the poor sailors are going to meet… well, who else would be in the ocean? Big G's moving eyes look really weird. The suit's otherwise fine, but definitely reaching the end of this first design.

Fools stand far too close to Ghidorah's… egg? Meteor? Spaceship? But someone must witness the birth of a death god. The Princess tells the protagonists the Earth is doomed, and sells it for once. We start to get a real kaiju cosmology here, with planets preyed on or defended by monsters.

Finally we have all the world's monsters assembled, rampaging begins.

The assassins chasing the Princess thru the entire film have been unstoppable, but not very competent, and kind of a waste of time. The plot as it is would happen without them.

Possibly too much of the monster scenes are them arguing with Mothra, rather than fighting, there's only a few minutes of King Ghidorah vs the three defending kaiju. There is a bit of destruction in Tokyo, but mostly it's a beloved peasant village or wilderness at the foot of Mt Fuji. Mothra's very slow and annoying power, Godzilla throwing rocks, Rodan standing around waving its wings, are enough to drive off the dragon. FOR NOW.

★★★½☆ - Needs about 15 minutes less Human time, replaced with monster fighting time.

This is a major influence on my favorite kaiju movie, GMK: Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah Giant Monster All-Out Attack, but there Godzilla and Ghidorah switch places, and the subplots are wiped away so it's just reporter, crazy old man as "prophet", and monsters. And on the latest Hollywood Godzilla King of the Monsters, but there everything is 100x larger than life.

What I'm Watching: Us

  • Us: Another Jordan Peele Twilight Zone flick. Text crawl claims that there's thousands of miles of tunnels of mysterious purpose under America. With the implication that it's full of monsters. So Dungeons & Dragons is real?! Good to know, Jordan. Then there's 20+ minutes of utter boredom back in 1986, when normally I would rate the '80s as the least boring part, very briefly a scene with some tension and the little girl Addy.

20 years later (and it feels like it), the plot starts. Addy's very gentrified, possession-oriented black family settles into their Santa Cruz beach vacation house, get a boat, meet their honkie friend "Josh" and his blonde family at the beach. Nice and idyllic. And then out of nowhere, we get told more of the little girl's scene, and the monsters show up.

Addy gets tied up and terrorized a lot, Dad is utterly useless, but the kids are fairly impressive little survivors.

As a slasher flick, there really aren't enough victims, and it doesn't sustain the tension, it keeps releasing to long "oh that's over" scenes. The killers are more pathetic than terrifying.

SPOILER TIMES



















There's a lot of weird visuals, which are poorly to never explained. The remake of Hands Across America (a USA For Africa charity event, you may know the song "We Are the World") makes no sense, how did non-verbal shadows work this out? Police or soldiers will just destroy them once it's sunlight. Do politicians have their own shadows, and how would scissor-wielding maniacs get past the Secret Service? The final scenes show helicopters flying over woods, presumably where the Shadows Across America line goes? Why aren't they firing or dropping bombs on these known mass murderers?

Addy has a final descent into the mythic underworld by escalator (her knowing the way down telegraphed her origin, but it has problems, too), where she finds bunnies running loose (but no explanation how the killers raised them down there, or where all the supplies come from), and a long nonsense explanation about cloning and souls.

The duel/dance is passable, but Addy never cooperates with Red's dance, which would've made this fight more interesting. I think especially of Jet Li's The One, where he fights himself, but each has mastered a distinct martial arts style, so the fight's visually amazing. This is… it reminds me of Marvel movies, where there's amazing fight choreography but the actors aren't all up to performing it, so you get a martial artist fighting a drunken bozo.

The final revelation about Addy doesn't make a lot of sense. Addy's awful vulnerable and emotional for a soulless murder machine like the others. Red's croaky voice is from being strangled, fine, but why didn't she ever come up to the surface before? How did she organize a worldwide cult of the shadows to come up at the same time, when they don't talk, or really seem aware?

Obviously I'm pretty tolerant of implausible premises in movies, given my love of kaiju and fantasy, but this one falls apart internally worse than most.

★★★½☆ Good try, Jordan, better than your awful Twilight Zones, but not another "Get Out". Jordan Peele is the new M. Night Shyamalan.

The concept's been around a while: Mirror people, dopplegangers, or faerie changelings, ultimately going back to pre-historic myths. My favorite's in the Nightbane RPG by Palladium Books, where the Nightland (always dark, mirror image Earth) is populated by dopplegangers of Earth people, just waiting for a chance to use a mirror as a portal and kill and replace you (Nightbane also borrows heavily from Clive Barker's Cabal, Great and Secret Show, and Hellbound Heart). I really should dig the books up and run Nightbane again.