The Gift (2015)

Joel Edgerton is a great actor but in this it’s hard to remember he’s acting. His character is so stone cold evil. It’s rare I’ve ever seen a character as bad as he.

The Gift (2015)

 

Cast

Jason Bateman as Simon
Rebecca Hall as Robyn
Joel Edgerton as Gordo

Directed by

Joel Edgerton

Written by

Joel Edgerton

Mystery, Thriller
Rated R for language
1h 48min

The gift isn’t much of a gift at all. The gift to me was when I discovered Joel Edgerton is not only Gordo, the creepy stalker in the film, but also the writer/director of the piece. Wow! He certainly does a great job. Most directors might gravitate toward a role in their film that is endearing to the audience, Gordo couldn’t be any further from that sort of character. Things that go bump in the night can usually be explained away. If you were in Simon and Robyn’s case, you might find out your explanations are incorrect months or years later. So what were those creepy bumps for Simon and Robyn? Edgerton’s script shows they are part of a larger, much darker, horrific beyond an R rated gift. You’ll be surprised at the twist.

Robyn and Simon have just moved in to a posh 60’s retro home and are settling in as a married couple. They receive numerous visits from Gordo who says he knew Simon in High School. We get the feeling their relationship was more ominous in nature than it appears to Robyn, who Gordo starts to form a platonic relationship with. Through a course of events, the film becomes a typical stalker thriller but eventually sets itself apart as a very clever, well written, and telling “human nature” account of who everybody “really” is (not just Gordo).

I really liked “The Gift” because I enjoy psychology. As the tale unravels we actually see perspectives we aren’t meant to see. The obvious hero is far from it and the villain, while never a hero, becomes someone we can empathize with, though never fully. I thought the cast was amazing and the story really stays with you because of their performances. Jason Bateman does a great job in this thriller whereas he usually plays comedy parts. He can do a variety of roles. It’s a perfect thriller but I thought it did take too long developing the story. I think it’s over 2/3 of the way through before the typical stalker thriller stuff ends and you get into the genius of the film. For that reason it lost a star with me. Watch this creepy fun movie, I recommend it.

The Conjuring 2

From scares like a creepy toy that plays “The Crooked Man” to a phantom nun with yellow eyes, the Conjuring 2 will please horror fans many times over. Furthermore, I hope a third sequel gets made soon!

From scares like a creepy toy that plays “The Crooked Man” to a phantom nun with yellow eyes, the Conjuring 2 will please horror fans many times over. Furthermore, I hope a third sequel gets made soon!

 

The Conjuring 2
Cast

Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe

Directed by

James Wan

Written by

Carey Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson

Other Info

Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Rated R
2h 14min

Like its predecessor, this movie features a story about the Warrens. In real-life, Ed Warren was a WWII Naval officer who, after the war, became a self-taught demonologist alongside his wife Lorraine who is a self-described clairvoyant among other titles. They are highly documented investigators of the paranormal. Ed is the only non-ordained demonologist, or one who performs exorcisms, recognized by the catholic church. They have published many of their famous investigations and claim to have done tens of thousands of them. In the film, Patrick Wilson plays Ed and Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine. The movie is based on their experience with The Enfield Poltergeist.

Director James Wan is well known for scaring moviegoers. His Saw and Insidious franchises have netted hefty sums from the wallets of people looking for that thing they’ve never seen before. He’s a master craftsman of the horror genre. There isn’t nearly as much blood and gore in The Conjuring 2 as you will find in Saw movies. Still, there are well crafted scares throughout. A spinning toy that sings “The Crooked Man” is part of one scare that has stayed with me.

Vera Farmiga does an excellent job as Lorraine Warren. You can see in her eyes and movement she has such a profound love and respect for her husband. When he picks up the guitar at one point to bring some peace and music to the haunted place, she is just as captivated with him as the daughters are. It’s interesting how Ed in many ways is the hero of The Conjuring 2. When I saw the first film, I didn’t know he was a real person. Knowing a little about Ed Warren’s history helped me appreciate him immensely in the second film. There is a lot of info on the internet and the Warrens even have their own website that is still up today. Ed has passed on but Lorraine is still with us. She speaks about her paranormal experiences at various events. This film concerns the possession of a young girl and how her family saves her with the help of the Warrens.

conjuring1

There is no doubt there will be another sequel since there are other stories about the Warrens that remain to be told. I think the first two in the franchise are both very scary horror movies with interesting real-life foundations. Because I was shocked and thrilled, The Conjuring 2 loses no stars from me. I highly recommend it to horror fans.

Below is a real treat, an interview with the Hayes Brothers, the writers of the 2 Conjuring films.

Following (1998)

Long before Christopher Nolan directed the Dark Knight, he created a sleepy noir film called Following. He definitely has a lot of us following him now and it all started with this first visionary film of his. This is streaming now on Metflix.

Following (1998)
R | 1h 9min | Crime, Mystery, Thriller | 5 November 1999 (UK)

A young writer who follows strangers for material meets a thief who takes him under his wing.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell

Plot
This is a film with a very odd beginnng. A man is questioned as to why he follows people and he responds that it is a fixation. He isn’t out to hurt anyone, he just follows people. If that isn’t creepy enough, he does get into stealing and harming people when a criminal he is following decides to teach him his ways. What ensues after that is the meat of this movie.

My Thoughts
The actors are all excellent. I found it more interesting to learn about why he follows people than to see the details of breaking and entering. I think it’s a universal fear that someone would go through our private things when we’re out of the house. The dialog in this film is engaging and draws you in. The characters feel real and you can see how the director went on to be so successful. It is slow however and takes a long time in between “happenings.” For that reason I’d say you could miss it and be okay but fans of the noir genre and of Christopher Nolan will find it delightful as a sort of novelty. I recommend it for those types.

6/10

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

“It’s just our family now. We can do whatever we want.”

10 Cloverfield is another point of view of the same situation. A woman is in a terrible car crash and wakes up in the bunker of a doomsday prepper. She thinks escape is what she wants but she has yet to find out what is actually going on outside. Minor plot spoilers ahead.

Cast
John Goodman

as Howard

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

as Michelle

John Gallagher Jr.

as Emmett

Directed by
Dan Trachtenberg
Written by
Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Other Info

Thriller, Drama, Horror, Mystery
Rated PG-13
1h 43min

The imprisonment of someone against their will and without cause is a horrid crime. John Goodman plays Howard, the captor. Michelle is the captive and she does an amazing job acting in this film. We relate with her in her plight. Like the recent film “Room” we feel as if we are in the room with her. But I want to let you know that while a confinement theme seemed boring to me at first, there is much more going on in this thriller.

Emmett is another hapless inhabitant of Howard’s shelter. It’s underground and solid. Howard sought refuge with Howard when the disaster started happening. We aren’t told what that disaster is until later in the film. This is a mystery and half the fun is figuring out what the next part of the story is at every turn.

There’s a lot of talk on the internet about whether this is a sequel to “Cloverfield” (2008). I’ve come to my conclusions and I’ll leave it at that. I will say that I don’t think I would have enjoyed this movie as much if I knew the answer to that question so I recommend going in innocent. After you see it, you can look it up to your hearts content. Without giving you an answer, I’ll say these are two completely different movie in theme, style, and genre.

My favorite part of this movie is the character of Michelle. She makes the movie great. Second is John Goodman. If you can get over your menta block of seeing him as Dan Connor, you’ll see a serious, solid, scary, intuitive performance from him. He’s no happy-go-lucky. I enjoyed this thriller beginning to end, for all the reasons I’ve mention, it gets full 5 stars from me. I highly recommend it.