Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mom and Dad (2017)

Mom and Dad plays like a zombie movie if the undead were swapped for psychotic parents. Seriously stylish, from the beautiful retro opening credits to the expert use of music (satisfyingly Carpenter-like in places) to the rich cinematography, but also rapid and unforgiving in plot (you've got to respect a film that starts by showing a mother leaving her baby in the path of an oncoming train) this packs a hell of a lot of fun into its not even 90mins.

Which, when you realise it was written and directed by Brian Taylor, the writer/director of the Crank franchise, makes perfect sense!

We meet a white middle class household. Mom, dad, big sister and little brother. They're the kind of people who have those motivational/aspiration script-y signs everywhere in their home. The scene looks kind of perfect but quickly we see that, of course, things aren't that way.

Mom (Selma Blair) does a typical white woman "I'm an ally!" move of apologising to her Chinese housekeeper for something she deems offensive said at breakfast, but in the process offends the woman more. Dad (Nicholas Cage) seems close to his son, but at work turns the photo of his kids face down to jack off at his desk before taking a nap and ignoring a call from his wife. He's obsessed with his youth and all the opportunities he missed out on to have the life he does now.

No one is particularly likeable. But that's okay.

One of the best aspects of Mom and Dad is that we see the story unfold from both perspectives in the central family. As things start to go batshit the kids fight to stay alive, but more interestingly, we're shown what mom and dad are doing, too. It's chilling and hilarious how rational all the adults are about trapping and murdering their own children. Everything else about them is the same apart from this sudden, insatiable, specific urge to kill and it's highly entertaining to watch!

This was an excellent find after some false starts one evening. For sure worth checking out if you're in the mood for something blackly comic. Mom and Dad is fast, funny, mean, and streaming on Hulu at time of writing.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is on Tubi right now! Tubi comes through again!

After a serial killer leaves a cache of tapes to be discovered by New York murder investigators, we're shown "choice cuts" of the decades of footage; from the disturbing to the horrific, to the downright weird, while context and background are given on those featured.

Ya girl got some spoilers

We watched this on the brink of my being home alone for a couple of nights, and I'm REALLY pleased I didn't save it for then. And not because of the strange balloon stuff.

At this point, this film had become somewhat infamous to me, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What I got was a fictitious crime documentary that's often downright uncomfortable to watch. One scene in particular I couldn't get out of my head for a couple of days. Many aspects - including, obviously, the fact that it's found footage - contribute to this feeling very grounded in reality. 

Full of bleak moments and clips of terror and torture, this story is successfully very, very creepy. A thread that runs through it is one particular female victim (Stacy Chbosky as Cheryl Dempsey) and her abduction, imprisonment and forced complicity through physical and mental torture. 

Her interview and the information we're subsequently told about Cheryl is shattering. Hell, her entire story is shattering. This is probably the film's strongest aspect as it gives a heart to the story - even if it ultimately dissects that heart in front of our eyes.

I don't know what you want me to say...
− Cheryl Dempsey

As someone who deals with intrusive thoughts about home invasion (and yet watches horror movies and listens to true crime podcasts almost non-stop 👋🏻) the thought that his guy just moved on, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer style, and set up shop elsewhere is terrifying. The audience witnesses him begin, escalate, shatter countless lives through murder, torture and the justice system itself - then simply disappear. The only reason the police ever found the tapes was because he wanted them to.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes was shot in a staggering fifteen days, and was written (along with his brother Drew) and directed by John Erick Dowdle (As Above, So Below, Quarantine, Devil). He is also married to Stacy Chbosky. It must have been incredibly intense to direct her in some of these scenes.

If you like your scares stark, this is worth checking out. Not for those seeking buckets of blood; it's understated and implied a lot of the time, views often obscured or distorted so that we're forced to fill in the blanks. Nasty and unforgiving, if you're prone to movies sticking with you, this one just might.