Horror Film Review: Knock Knock (dir by Eli Roth)


 

Knock Knock starts out as a satire of vapid male fantasies before then becoming a vapid male fantasy.  It then transforms itself into a satire of vapid torture porn before then becoming vapid torture porn.  And, in the end, your main response will probably be, “Eh, who cares?”

Keanu Reeves plays Evan, an architect who has a nice house, a nice family, and a nice dog.  He also has an injured shoulder, which leads to him staying home while his wife and children spend the weekend at the beach.  Evan is looking forward to having the house to himself, especially when it starts to rain.  I mean, who wants to be at the beach in the middle of storm, right?  That night, Evan is relaxing in his home when he hears someone at the door.

Knock knock.

Two young women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Anna de Armas), are standing on his front porch, soaked.  They tell him that they’re looking for the address of a party and that their phone has gotten wet and could they please come inside for just a few minutes and get online and find the correct address?  Evan agrees.  Genesis and Bel enter the house.  They tell him that they’re models.  They tell him about their girlfriends.  They talk about their sex lives and Evan responds with a goofy smile.  They ask if they can take off all their clothes and toss them in a dryer.  Evan agrees.  “Uh, I’ve got some robes,” Evan says and it’s a funny line because Keanu Reeves sounds sincerely bewildered when he says it.

Anyway, you can tell where this leading.  It starts with a threesome and then it ends with the house getting destroyed and people getting buried alive and, to be honest, it gets a little bit boring after a while.  Perhaps if Evan was truly a loathsome character, as opposed to just an awkward Keanu Reeves, there would be some sort of joy in watching Genesis and Bel taunt him while destroying his home and destroying his wife’s artwork but instead it just amount to a bunch of repetitive taunting.  Despite all of their talk about how Evan represents the 1% and how quickly Evan was willing to cheat on his wife and potentially destroy his family, Genesis and Bel don’t come across as being revolutionaries or avenging angels.  Instead, they just seem to be overcaffeinated with no real reason for doing what they’re doing beyond the fact that there wouldn’t be a movie otherwise.

Keanu Reeves gives a strange performance in this film.  At the start of the film, he actually seems like he’s perfectly cast.  When Genesis and Bel first show up at his door, there’s some genuine wit to found in his confused reaction to the two girls.  But then, as the film progresses, Reeves has to start pretending to be desperate and that’s never really been his strong suit.  Perhaps because he’s trying to keep up with the hyper performances of Lorenza Izzo and Anna de Armas, Reeves starts to shout every single line and it just becomes rather humorous before then becoming rather dull.  “STOP IT!  I COULD GO DEAF!”  he shouts when the girls force him to listen to loud music.  Later, when he curses the girls, he sounds like a cartoon character talking about how much he hates Bugs Bunny.  I like Keanu Reeves but he’s just not a very good shouter.

I’ve defended Eli Roth in the past and I imagine that I’ll do so again in the future but it’s best to keep the door closed on Knock Knock.

Guilty Pleasure No. 37: Death Wish (dir by Eli Roth)


Is it finally safe to honestly review Death Wish?

You may remember that this film, a remake of the 70s vigilante classic, came out last March and critics literally went insane attacking it.  That it got negative reviews wasn’t necessarily a shock because the movie was directed by Eli Roth and he’s never been a favorite of mainstream critics.  Still, it was hard not to be taken aback but just how enraged the majority of the critics appeared to be.  Seriously, from the reviews, you would have thought that Death Wish was not just a bad movie but a crime against nature.

Of course, a lot of that was due to the timing of the film’s release.  The film was released less than a month after the shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  At the time the film first came out, the country was in the midst of a daily diet of anti-second amendment rallies and David Hogg.  Many critics accused Death Wish of being a commercial for the NRA.  Others branded the film as being right-wing propaganda.  In fact, the criticism was so harsh that it was hard not to feel that the critics were essentially taking Death Wish far more seriously than it took itself.

If anything, Death Wish is a big, glossy, and rather silly movie.  Bruce Willis stars as Dr. Paul Kersey.  Paul is a peace-loving man.  We know this because he refuses to get into a fight with a belligerent parent at a soccer game.  He’s also an emergency room doctor, the type who pronounces a policeman dead and then rushes off to try to save the life of whoever shot him.  No one in the movie suspects that Paul would ever become a vigilante but we know that there’s no way he can’t eventually end up walking the streets with a loaded gun because he’s played by Bruce Willis.  When Paul backs down from the fight at the soccer game, Willis delivers his dialogue with so much self-loathing that we just know that, once Paul gets back home, he’s going to lock himself in the basement and start yelling at the walls, Stepfather-style.

Eventually, criminals break into Paul’s house and shoot both his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and his daughter (Camila Morrone).  His wife dies.  His daughter ends up in a coma.  Paul spends a day or two in shock and then he promptly gets a gun and starts shooting criminals.  Eventually, this brings him into conflict with the same criminals who attacked his family!  Meanwhile, two detectives (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise) look at all the dead bodies piling up around them and just shrug it off.  At one crime scene, Norris is happy to grab a slice of pizza.

And really, that’s it.  It sounds simple because it is simple.  There is absolutely no narrative complexity to be found in Death Wish, which is why, in its own cheerfully crude way, the film totally works.  In real life, of course, vigilante justice is not the solution and the death penalty is often unfairly applied but, from the moment the opening titles splash across the screen, Death Wish makes clear that it has no interest in real-life and, throughout its brisk running time, it literally seems to be ridiculing anyone in the audience who might be worried about the moral ramifications of a citizen gunning down a drug dealer.

Death Wish is a big extravagant comic book.  It takes Paul one scene to go from being a meek doctor to being an expert marksman and, when Paul dispatches one criminal by dropping a car on him, Roth lays on the gore so thick that he almost seems to be daring us to take his film seriously.  By that same token, Paul kills a lot of people but at least they’re all really, really bad.  In fact, the criminals are so evil that you can’t help but suspect that Roth is poking a little bit of fun at the conventions of the vigilante genre.  Even the fact that Willis wanders through the entire film with the same grim expression on his face feels like an inside joke between the director and his audience.

The critics were right when they called Death Wish a fantasy but they were wrong to frame that as somehow being a flaw.  It’s a cartoonishly violent and deeply silly film and yet, at the same time it’s impossible not to cheer a little when Paul reveals that he’s been hiding a machine gun under his coffee table.  It’s an effective film.  Eli Roth delivers exactly what you would expect from a film about Bruce Willis killing criminals in Chicago.  It may not be a great film but it works.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean

Weekly Trailer Round-Up: Beautiful Boy, Mile 22, Juliet Naked, The Equalizer 2, The House With A Clock In Its Walls, King of Thieves, Assassination Nation, Mandy


Lisa already wrote about the new trailers for The Predator and Zoe.  Here are some of the other trailers that were released last week.

First up, there’s Beautiful Boy.  Based on the memoirs of both David Sheff and his son, Nic, this movie is based on the true story of David’s struggle to understand and deal with his son’s drug addiction.  It stars Oscar nominees Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, and Amy Ryan.  It will be released on October 12th by Amazon Studios, who are hoping that they’ll have the same success with this film that they had with Manchester By The Sea.

And now, to quote the poet Python, for something completely different.  Mile 22 is the latest action film from star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  Mile 22 is due to be released on August 17th.

Also due to be released on August 17th is Juliet, Naked.  This Nick Hornby adaptation is about a rock star (Ethan Hawke) and the couple (Rose Byrne and Chris O’Dowd) who are obsessed with his music.  We can expect this one to inspire many comparisons to High Fidelity.

On July 20th, Denzel Washington returns as retired CIA assassin Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2.  In the sequel, he’s investigating the death of a friend from the first film.

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is the latest fantasy film to be based on a children’s book.  It looks like a change of pace for director Eli Roth, if not star Jack Black, and is set to be released on September 21st.

Also based on a young adult novel is The Hate U Give.  Amanda Stenberg plays Starr, a young African-American woman who finds herself at the center of protest and controversy after she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend.  The Hate U Give will be released on October 19th.

King of Thieves is the latest film from The Theory of Everything‘s director, James Marsh.  Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, and Ray Winstone are over-the-hill thieves.  (Didn’t Caine already do this in Going In Style?)  This British film does not yet have an American release date.

In Assassination Nation, the citizens of suburbia become outraged and violent when a data hack leads to all of their darkest secrets being exposed.  (This would never have happened if they had just taken part in the Annual Purge like they were supposed to.)  Assassination Nation will be released on September 21st.

Finally, in Mandy, Nicolas Cage plays a man who seeks revenge on the cultists and demons that killed the woman he loved.  Mandy will be released on September 14th.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: Clown (dir by Jon Watts)


Clown, a gory horror film, sucks.

I can’t say that I was particularly surprised to discover that it sucked but still, I was hoping that it would be better than it turned out to be.  That’s largely because the film itself has a fairly compelling backstory.  In 2010, director Jon Watts and his co-writer, Christopher D. Ford, uploaded a fake trailer for Clown to YouTube, in which they stated that the film would be produced by Eli Roth.  Roth saw the trailer and was so impressed that he actually did decide to produce the film.

Filming began in 2010 and the film spent a while playing the festival circuit, where it got the type of vaguely respectable reviews that are usually given to low-budget horror films made by amateur filmmakers that no one is ever expecting to hear from again.  In 2012, Dimension Films and FilmNation Entertainment acquired the rights to distribute Clown.  What followed was an agonizing wait as Clown was basically released in almost every other country in the world. except for the USA.  In fact, it wouldn’t be until 2016 that Clown would get an American release.  During that time, Jon Watts received deserved acclaim for directing Cop Car and he was hired by Marvel to direct Spider-Man: Homecoming.

As an admirer of Watts’s subsequent films, I was really interested in seeing Clown.  So, yesterday afternoon, I sat down and I watched Clown on Netflix.

Clown is the story of a stupid guy named Kent McCoy (Andy Powers) who tries to save his son’s birthday party by dressing up like a clown.  What Kent doesn’t know is that the clown makeup is cursed and that, by putting it on, he’s now allowed himself to be possessed by a demon that feeds on children!  What a dumbass!  Kent tries to wash the makeup off his face but it won’t come off.  He tries to take off his rainbow wig, just to discover that it’s now permanently attached to scalp.  His wife uses a screw driver to try to pop off the red nose but, instead, she just rips his real nose to pieces.  (The family dog eats the red nose and promptly becomes possessed.)  Kent keeps telling everyone that he’s been possessed by a demon but no one believes him.  Everyone just thinks that he’s a weirdo in clown makeup.

It sounds more interesting than it is.  For all the promise in the idea of a possessed clown, Clown doesn’t do much with it.  Clown is 90 minutes long but it only has enough plot for 30 minutes.  The remaining hour is basically made up of characters repeating what we already know.  We watch as Kent learns that the clown makeup is cursed.  Then, we have to follow his wife as she does her own research and discovers that the clown makeup is cursed.  Then, Peter Stomare shows up and starts explaining to everyone that the clown makeup is cursed.  By this point, I was yelling at the screen, “I KNOW THIS ALREADY!”

Throughout the film, there are hints of the Jon Watts’s talent but, for the most part, they remain merely that.  There’s an effective scene that takes place in a jungle gym at Chuck-E-Cheese’s and occasionally, there will be a line of dialogue or a movement of the camera that actually lives up to the plot’s subversive potential.  However, especially when compared to Cop Car and Spider-Man, Clown is an abysmally paced film.  It’s also terribly acted with Andy Powers neither sympathetic nor compelling as the possessed man in clown makeup.  Not even a reliable character actor like Peter Stomare can bring much to the material.

The general rule of most horror films is that, no matter what the threat, dogs and children usually survive.  The film not only breaks that rule but it breaks it multiple times.  In fact, there’s so much blood spilled in the film that I actually found myself getting depressed watching it.  Lacking both a satiric edge and any real interest in subverting the horror genre, Clown instead comes across as being unnecessarily mean-spirited.  It’s just not much fun to watch.

When it comes to killer clowns, stick with Pennywise.

Here’s The 2nd Trailer For Eli Roth’s Death Wish!


Judging from the majority of the comments on YouTube, a lot of people do not seem to understand that Eli Roth’s upcoming Death Wish is a remake of an earlier film.  And the few who do realize it seem to be under the impression that it’s either a remake of one of the Punisher films or a rip-off of The Foreigner.

I mean, seriously, that’s kinda pathetic.  There’s no excuse not to know your film history.

Anyway, here’s the 2nd trailer for Death Wish!  It doesn’t really look that good but hopefully, it’ll still be better than The Brave One!

Here’s The Trailer for Eli Roth’s Death Wish!


We all know that Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the nation.  What is not so clear is what to do about it.

Now, some would argue that perhaps a good first step would be for Chicago voters to stop electing douchebags like Rahm Emanuel, reject the city’s political machine, and actually make the sacrifices necessary for actual reform while taking an honest look at the effects of systemic racism, police corruption, and the bloated municipal government.

You could do all that or you could just give Bruce Willis a gun and send him out on a murder spree.  Guess which solution Death Wish goes for?

This film, from Eli Roth, will be released on November 22nd.  I imagine our resident Charles Bronson experts, Gary Loggins and Jedadiah Leland, will have a lot to say about it.

Music Video of the Day: Thank You, Judge by BlueBOB (2001, dir. David Lynch)


What a mess it is trying to narrow down David Lynch music videos. If it isn’t undocumented, then it’s mis-credited to Lynch.

BlueBOB was a group composed of John Neff and David Lynch. The video has Naomi Watts, David Lynch, and John Neff in it. It also has Eli Roth. On that note, I’m not dignifying this with anymore than that. I will just include the remake of Cabin Fever if it were made by Dingo Pictures that Phelan Porteous and Allison Pregler put together for April Fools’ Day.

Jon Watts Is Famous Now So, Of Course, Here’s The Trailer For Clown!


Director Jon Watts is having quite a career right now!  Last year, Cop Car was released to considerable acclaim and, as a result, he was hired to direct the upcoming MCU blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming!

Here in America, Cop Car was pretty much sold as being Watts’s first film.  However, that wasn’t really the case.  Before Watts directed Cop Car, he made a movie called Clown.  Clown was executive produced by Eli Roth and, though it did play in Europe in 2014, it was never released in the U.S.

Until now!

Now that Watts is about the become the next big thing, Dimension Films is going to give Clown a limited release in June.

Apparently, Clown is about a man who dresses up like a clown for his son’s birthday party and then discovers that he can’t take off the big red nose.  The clown makeup is apparently demonic and it ends up possessing him.

And apparently, it’s not a comedy.

Anyway, here’s the trailer!  Again, while watching this preview, consider that Clown is apparently not supposed to be a comedy…

Lisa’s Editorial Corner: Thank You


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Hi, everyone!  It’s Thanksgiving!  Well, actually, it’s the final hours of Thanksgiving.  In fact, it’s 10:03 as I start this and it’s totally possible that I won’t be ready to post it until midnight so, by the time you read this, Thanksgiving will probably be over and you’ll be in a Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/None of the Above type of mood.  Well, no matter…

So, every year, I make out a list of what I’m thankful for and I post it on this site.  Today, as I relaxed at my uncle’s house and I listened to all my cousins talking about football, I realized that I wasn’t really quite sure what I was specifically going to mention.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s a lot that I am thankful for.  I’m thankful to be alive.  I’m thankful that I have people in my life who love me and I’m thankful that there are people who I love.  I’m thankful that my sprained foot is much, much better.  I’m thankful that it rained today so I would have an excuse not to lay out in the sun and pretend like I’m actually capable of getting a tan.  Seriously, I’m a redhead.  We don’t tan, we just burn.

And, because this is an entertainment-related site, this would be a good time to mention that I’m thankful that 2015 has been a pretty good year for film.  Mad Max, Ex Machina, Sicario, 88, Inside Out…I’m not even beginning to scratch the surface of how many good films have been released this year.  As for the bad films — well, The Fantastic Four, Ted 2, and Vacation were all terrible but you know what?  None of them did a bit of good at the box office so at least the movie going public is not adding insult to injury.

It’s been a good year and, as a lover of the Oscars, I’m especially excited by the fact that there is no clear front runner.  Oscar season is going to be exciting!  Sure, it would appear that The Martian and Spotlight appear to be early favorites but neither has dominated.  Seriously, this is going to be fun.

So, there’s a lot that I am thankful for but you know what I’m really thankful for?  I’m thankful that I have thoughts to share and I am even more thankful that are people out there who are actually interested in learning them.  There is nothing more wonderful than the freedom to say whatever the Hell you want.  That, along with so many other things, is what I’m thankful for in 2015.

So, instead of coming up with a big list and trying to show off how witty I am, I’m just going to use this holiday to say “Thank you.”  Thank you to all of the writers and reviewers at the Shattered Lens.  Thank you to Arleigh Sandoc for asking me, 5 years ago, if I would be interested in contributing to an entertainment blog that he had just started.  Thank you to all of the writers who were here before me and thank you to everyone who joined after me.  Thank you for keeping this site alive.  Thank you for keeping this site interesting.  Thank you for keeping things lively.  Thank you to all of you.  Thank you for everything.

Even more importantly, thank you to all of our readers.  They you to everyone who subscribes to this site.  Thank you to everyone who has ever left a comment.  Thank you to everyone who has ever clicked the like button.  Whether you’re a regular reader or if you just found us through a google search, thank you!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Whether today was Thanksgiving or just another Thursday, I hope it was a wonderful one for you!

All my love — Lisa.

P.S. Wow, it’s 10:26 and I’m already ready to post.  Happy Thanksgiving!

P.P.S. By the way, since it’s Thanksgiving, here’s the NSFW trailer for Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving.  Hurry up and get this movie done, Eli!

P.P.P.S. Finally, since it is Thanksgiving, why not read my review of the classic killer turkey film, Blood Freak?

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Horror Film Review: The Green Inferno (dir by Eli Roth)


The_Green_Inferno_poster

AGCK!

Seriously, it’s hard for me to think of any recent film that has made me cringe as much as Eli Roth’s cannibal epic, The Green Inferno.  A film about a bunch of Occupy activists who end up getting eaten by a native tribe in the jungles of Peru, The Green Inferno does not shy away from showing us all the icky cannibal action.  Eyes are scooped out of heads.  Heads are removed from bodies.  Flesh is ripped off of a bones.  Blood flows everywhere and …. well, let’s just say that I didn’t have much of an appetite after watching The Green Inferno.

And, to be honest, I have no idea whether or not the gore effects were realistic or not.  It always amuses me when some of my fellow film bloggers say, “That’s not what the inside of a human body really looks like.”  Like we would know!  Listen, I have no idea what it’s like to cook a human body and I never will.  It may have been realistic or it may not have been.  It doesn’t matter.  All I know is that, in a very visceral and frightening way, the effects worked.  They made me look away from the screen.  They inspired me to say, “Agck!” and I imagine that’s the exact response that Roth was going for.

If The Green Inferno was a box office success, I imagine that thousands of people would leave the movie and promptly google, “Can you get cannibals high by stuffing a baggie of marijuana in a dead body?”  (The Green Inferno certainly argues that you can but it also suggests that, once a cannibal tribe gets the munchies, bad things will happen as a result.)

However, I doubt that The Green Inferno is going to be a box office success, at least not during its theatrical run.  The film was originally made in 2013 and it’s taken two years for it to finally get a theatrical release and it’s pretty much being dumped into theaters with little fanfare.  Not surprisingly, it’s currently getting slammed by most mainstream critics and it’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t review films online waking up and spontaneously saying, “I want to see that movie about people being eaten alive!”  (Myself, I had no great desire to see it but I felt somewhat obligated, considering that I’m a self-described grindhouse fan and horror lover.)  Jeff and I saw The Green Inferno on Tuesday, at the Cinemark 14 in Denton, Texas.  The theater was nearly deserted.

And, in many ways, it is a difficult film to recommend, though that’s exactly what I’m doing.  It’s not an easy film to watch but it does what it does well.  Back in the day, many grindhouse films were advertised as being “a film that goes all the way” and, for better or worse, The Green Inferno goes all the way.  At a time when so many horror films are either watered down or just the usual found footage rehash, The Green Inferno is a film that actually made me squirm in my seat.  It’s a film that delivered exactly what it promised and that does count for something.  The Green Inferno is being advertised as being nightmare fuel and that’s exactly what it is.

(SPOILER ALERT!  READ NO FURTHER IF YOU’RE GOING TO WHINE ABOUT SPOILERS AS A RESULT!)

There’s an interesting and unexpected political subtext to The Green Inferno and, I would argue, that political subtext is exactly why so many online critics are having such a violently negative reaction to the film.  The Americans who end up getting eaten by the cannibals are all Occupy-style political activists.  The reason that they are in Peru is to protest a company that is chopping down the rain forests.  When they do their protest, they all wear masks (which makes the Occupy comparison obvious) and they use social media to make sure that the whole world is watching.  It’s only later, once the surviving activists are all locked away in a cage and waiting to be eaten, that they learn that their leader, the arrogant Alejandro, was actually working for a rival logging company.  And now, they’re desperately waiting for that rival company to show up, tear down the rain forest, and save their lives.

And, oh my God — some reviewers (mostly the ones that write at sites like the A.V. Club)  are so upset about this!  But, honestly, those reviewers are missing the point.  The Green Inferno is not attacking the politics of the activists.  Instead, the film is attacking the shallowness of the activists themselves.  Almost all of them are caucasian, all of them come from privileged backgrounds, and all of them are so high on their own self-righteousness that they don’t even realize that they’re being manipulated by the same system they claim to be destroying.  And, just like the college students who spent a few months doing the Occupy thing and then went on to get a job on Wall Street, they ultimately expect the system to protect them even as they play revolutionary.  At the end of the film, hundreds of new white, privileged protestors are wearing t-shirts decorated (Che-style) with Alejandro’s face.  It’s a deeply cynical vision of political activism but, in many ways, it’s far more realistic than a lot of people want to admit and it makes The Green Inferno a bit more interesting than your typical gore film.

(Add to that, there are thousands of movies about heroic political activists so what’s wrong with having one film where they all get eaten in the Amazon rain forest?  Seriously, it’s not the end of the world…)

Admittedly, the film does make a huge mistake.  It features a mid-credits scene which sets up a sequel.  (And a sequel was announced way back in 2013 but has apparently been abandoned.)  That mid-credits scene — which feels more appropriate for a Marvel film — is totally unnecessary.  There’s no need for a sequel.  The Green Inferno accomplishes exactly what it set out to do.