The Things You Find on Netflix: The Serpent (dir by Tom Shankland and Hans Herbots)


Some shows require a bit of patience on the part of the viewer and that’s certainly the case with The Serpent, an uneven but ultimately rewarding 8-episode British miniseries that can currently be viewed on Netflix.

The Serpent tells the true story of Charles Sobhraj (played by Tahar Rahim), a career criminal who spent the 70s smuggling diamonds and killing hippies. Living in Bangkok, Sobhraj and his two associates — his French-Canadian lover, Marie-Andree LeClerc (Jenna Coleman) and his henchman, Ajay (Amesh Edireweera) — preyed on travelers who had come to Asia in search of adventure and sometimes enlightenment. Using the name Alain, Sobhraj would befriend his victims and then drug them. When they were violently ill, he would nurse them back to health. He would also steal their money, use their passports, and he ultimately killed a huge number of them. Sobhraj was a serial killer but, unlike other serial killers, he didn’t kill for pleasure as much as he just killed because it was a part of his business. Sobhraj was also frequently described as being charming and witty, a sort of real-life Bond villain. When he was captured, he would inevitably find a way to escape. When he had finished serving his sentences, he would go to the media and give self-promoting interviews. Indeed, his need for notoriety would ultimately be his downfall.

It’s an interesting tale but it’s also not an easy one to break down into a collection of easy story beats. Sobhraj committed so many crimes and victimized so many different people in so many different countries that it’s hard to know where to ever start with him. The Serpent focuses on the time Sobhraj spent in Bangkok and the efforts of a Dutch diplomat named Herman (Billy Howle) and his wife, Angela (Ellie Bamber), to prove Sobhraj’s guilt and to bring some justice to his countless victims. Working with Herman and Angela are a cynical Belgian named Paul Seimons (Tim McInnerny) and, ultimately, Sorbhaj’s French neighbors, Nadine (Mathilde Warnier) and Remi (Grégoire Isvarine). Throughout the film, we get to know not only Sobhraj’s gang and the people investigating him but also Sobhraj’s victims, the majority of whom were just happy to see a seemingly helpful and friendly face in an unknown land.

As I said, The Serpent requires some patience. The show makes heavy use of flashbacks, continually going back and forth from Sobhraj first meeting his associates and his victims and Herman and Angela investigating his crimes months later. Especially during the first two episodes, it’s difficult to keep track of what’s happening in the past and what’s happening in the show’s present. As the series progresses it becomes easier to follow the plot and the show’s flashback structure actually starts to pay off. You find yourself watching the same scene a second or a third (or even a fourth time) but this time, you have new information and what once seemed odd or obscure suddenly makes terrifying sense. The show’s third episode — which deals with a French tourist (Fabien Frankel, giving a harrowing performance) who finds himself practically a prisoner of Sobhraj and his associates — is especially powerful and suspenseful. It’s the type of thing that will make you wonder about every time a stranger has ever offered to help you out. At its best, The Serpent is a hell of a paranoia generator.

The show divides it’s attention between Sobhraj and Herman. That Herman becomes obsessed with capturing Sobhraj and understanding his crimes is not surprising. That often happens to amateur sleuths. (Michelle McNamara’s self-destructive obsession with the Golden State Killer comes to mind.) Unfortunately, as played by Billy Howle, Herman comes across as being slightly unhinged before he even starts investigating the murders and, as such, we’re kind of left wondering whether it’s his obsession that’s destroying his career or just his own self-righteous personality. As for Tahar Rahim, it took me a few episodes to really appreciate his performance. At first, Rahim’s performance seemed almost too restrained for a character who was charismatic enough to fool an untold number of victims into trusting him. But, as the series progressed, I came to see that Rahim was essentially playing Sobhraj as being an empty but attractive vessel, someone upon whom his eventual victims could project their desires. For those who wanted a lover, Sobhraj projected charm and sensuality. For those who wanted a friend, Sobhraj projected compassion. But, ultimately, it was all projection because there was nothing going on underneath the surface. Sobhraj knew how to manipulate humans but he didn’t know to actually be one.

For me, the series was pretty much stolen by Jenna Coleman, Ellie Bamber, and Mathilde Warnier. Coleman, especially, does a good job of playing Marie-Andree. It’s easy to just say that Marie-Andree was brainwashed by Sobhraj but Coleman suggests that Marie-Andree knew exactly who and what Sobhraj was but chose to pretend otherwise because the glamorous fantasy of their life was preferable to the drab reality of her life back in Quebec. Mathilde Warnier is the story’s often unacknowledged hero, as she repeatedly puts her life in danger to find and photograph evidence of Sobhraj’s crimes. She’s at the center of the majority of The Serpent‘s most suspenseful moments. Ellie Bamber, meanwhile, brings Angela to likable life despite the fact that the script often seems to be trying to sabotage her by giving her some of the show’s worst lines. (In real life, Angela played as active a role in investigating Sobhraj as her husband. In the show, though, Angela is often just portrayed as being wearily supportive even as she worries about Herman’s growing obsession.)

That said, the heart of the show is with Sobhraj’s victims, all of whom are portrayed with more compassion and respect than one typically expects from a true crime series. All of them, from the American girl looking for one night of fun before becoming a nun to the Danish tourists who make the mistake of trusting Sobhraj and Marie-Andree, are portrayed with compassion. Your heart breaks for them and also for what their deaths represent. All of them are too trusting. All of them are, in the beginning, too naïve. All of them are looking for something more than what they had in the boring safety of their old lives. In the end, their murders represent the death of innocence.

As I said, The Serpent requires some patience but it’s ultimately more than worth watching.

Film Review: Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (dir by Chris Smith)


In Operation Varsity Blues, Matthew Modine plays Rick Singer, the real-life “college admissions consultant” who was one of the many people involved in the 2019 College Admissions scandal.

Singer was the former basketball coach who helped the rich and famous get their children into the right Ivy League schools. As the film shows (and as you probably already know), he did this by faking test scores, faking athletic activities, and often arranging for money to exchange hands. The film not only features Modine and others actors acting out the actual conversations that Singer was taped as having with his wealthy clients, it also features interviews with a few of Singer’s acquaintances and with the various journalists who covered the scandal. It’s a documentary with dramatic recreations.

And that’s fine. Modine does a good enough job portraying Rick Singer, playing him as essentially being a sleazy salesman who knew exactly what to say to the parents who were desperate to get their child into a prestigious university. (The film reveals that Singer would often lie to his clients, brainwashing them into believing that there was no way their children would be able to get into USC or Harvard without his help.) Unfortunately, with his gray hair and, his nervous smile, Matthew Modine as Rick Singer bares an odd but definite resemblance to the great Eric Roberts and, as I watched Operation Varsity Blues, I found myself thinking about how great it would be to see a film in which Eric Roberts did play Rick Singer. (I mean, seriously, Singer just seems like a perfect Eric Roberts role.) That may sound like a petty complaint but it does get at a bigger issue. Operation Varsity Blues is 100 minutes long but, despite its slightly different narrative format, it still doesn’t tell us anything that we couldn’t have learned from all of the other documentaries and dramatic adaptations based on the college admissions scandal. Even with the reenactments and the chance to hear Singer’s own words, Operation Varsity Blues still doesn’t tell us anything new about the scandal or why it happened. If nothing else, Eric Roberts and his neurotic screen presence would have put a new spin on a now-familiar story,

To be honest, the hybrid, docudrama format actually works against the film. On the one hand, you’ve got the real people telling their story in talking head interviews. But every time you start to get into their stories, the film cuts away to a reenactment and the film goes from being a documentary to being a low-budget Matthew Modine film. The film would have worked better if it had chosen to be either a documentary or a drama. By trying to be both, the end result is a movie that often seems disjointed and leaves you still feeling as if you haven’t actually gotten the entire story.

Finally, Lori Loughlin and her husband are featured in the documentary, though only in news footage. At one point, it’s revealed that after their daughter was accepted to USC, her high school guidance counselor called the college to tell them that Olivia Jade was never on her school’s rowing team, regardless of what her application said. Apparently, Lori and her husband got very angry about the counselor doing this and you know what? They had every right to be pissed off. Why is a guidance counselor trying to keep one of his students from getting into a good college? I mean, how was it really any of his business to begin with? That’s something that I would have liked to have seen explored in a bit more detail. Instead, the film just hurries along to another reenactment of Rick Singer explaining how to cheat on the ACT. (I’m still amazed that people spent that much money to do something as easy as cheat on a standardized test. I mean, it’s not that difficult.)

Unfortunately, the entire film is like that. It raises some interesting points but it ultimately leaves you frustrated by its refusal to do anything more than scratch the surface.

Here’s The Trailer For The Mitchells vs. The Machines!


Amazingly enough, on the exact same day that I reviewed all three of the original Robocop films, Netflix has dropped a trailer for its upcoming animated film, The Mitchells vs. the Machines! This is a film about a family on a road trip who find themselves in the middle of the …. ROBOT APOCALYPSE!

Seriously, I’m hoping for more Robot Apocalypse films. I think the Zombie Apocalypse has been played out while there’s still plenty left to do with the Robot Apocalypse. I mean, I know that The Terminator franchise is all about a robot apocalypse but that’s just one franchise. There’s hundreds of zombie apocalypse films released every month so I think there’s definitely room for at least a few more films about people trying to survive being stalked by robots.

For that reason, I’m hoping that The Mitchells vs. The Machines is a big success!

This film drops on April 30th on Netflix! Here’s the trailer:

The Films of 2020: Roped (dir by Shaun Piccinino)


Ah, the rodeo.

Though they’re not quite as ever-present as people up north seem to assume, rodeos are still a pretty big deal down here in the Southwest.  Now, I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about the rodeo, largely due to the fact that I spent the early part of my life constantly moving from the city to the country to the city and then back to the country again.  The city girl side of me looks at the rodeo and says, “That’s a silly tradition that’s dangerous to both the animals and the participants and there’s no way that I would ever let any future child of mine have anything to do with it.”  However, the country girl side of me hears the words “rodeo,” and shouts, “Hell yeah!”  Seriously, there’s nothing more exciting than watching a handsome cowboy try to ride a bull without getting killed.

And believe me, rodeos can be dangerous.  There’s an episode of King of the Hill in which Hank and Peggy take Bobby to the rodeo and Peggy mentions that one of her relatives was sent home from Vietnam because he was having rodeo nightmares.  I could believe it.  Rodeos are not petting zoos, despite what some people may think.  Bulls and broncos can be dangerous when they’re angry and a rodeo clown can only provide so much protection.  In fact, there’s some towns that have actually considered baning the rodeo.

Roped takes place in one such town.  City councilman Robert Peterson (Casper Van Dien) doesn’t want the rodeo coming anywhere near his home.  He argues that the rodeo is unfair to animals and that it corrupts the youth.  It’s kind of like Footloose, except instead of banning dancing, the councilman wants to ban a rather foul-smelling carnival in which people are occasionally killed.

Of course, what the councilman doesn’t know is that his own teenage daughter, Tracy (played by Lorynn York) is falling in love with a rodeo cowboy!  Colton Burtenshaw (Josh Swickard) is a up-and-coming star on the rodeo circuit and it’s pretty much love at first sight as soon as he and Tracy meet.  Of course, this means that Tracy is going to have to defy her father and Colton’s going to have to prove that the rodeo isn’t as bad as everyone thinks that it is.  It’s time for laughs, tragedy, love, and sheep.  Yes, you read that right.

Anyway, you can probably guess everything that happens in Roped.  This is a low-budget movie that’s designed for the “I wish they still made movies like they used to do” crowd and, for what it is, it’s not that bad.  It’s hardly a great or even a memorable film but it gets the job done and it’ll appeal to people who have nostalgic memories of the rodeo.  There’s not an edgy moment to be found in the film but people looking for edgy movies probably won’t be watching Roped in the first place.  It’s a nice-looking film and Lorynn York and Josh Swickard make for a cute couple, in both the film and real life.  (York and Scwickard married shortly after making this movie.)  Plus — hey, Casper Van Dien’s in the movie!  Van Dien’s always fun to watch, especially when he’s playing a well-meaning but misguided authority figure.

As I wrap up this review, one final word about the rodeo: it’s pronounced “roe-dee-oh.”  Don’t come down here and say you want to see a “ro-day-oh.”  Those clowns can turn on you quickly.

Dracula (Netflix) Review By Case Wright


Happy Horrorthon fellow travelers. It’s been a awhile. I’ve been struggling with engineering classes and it’s been hard to set time aside for this essential part of my life. How does this relate to Dracula? Dracula at its core is an unrequited love story. It drips with sanguine hopes and failed dreams (pun intended). Really, we’ve all that relationship that we really wanted, but it was always doomed, doomed, doomed.

I got to enjoy this mini-series the best way possible: a live tweet with the TSL staff. Back to Dracula, this series was originally broadcast on the BBC. It took Dracula from the past to the present. I have read most of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s kinda boring, which is why the first episode was uneven in terms of excitement because it held close to the book, which was b o r i n g. Part I established Dracula at home. As in the book, he wanted to see the World, meet new and interesting people in England, and eat them.

To whet his appetite and get waaaaay younger, he decided to feast on a lawyer- Jonathan Harker. This Dracula gets all the memories and knowledge from the people he feeds on, which begs the question: Why travel anywhere? Just hang out at a train station and snack on people. Come on, Drac! I did like how the first episode set up the Courtly Love Interest – Agatha Van Helsing; she’s a Nun with ice water in her veins.

Sister Agatha (Van Helsing) gets a visitor at her convent – Jonathan Harker. He looks dead…well undead. He even has a fly crawl across his eyeball without him noticing. Flies buzzing and crawling about eyeballs is a big theme in this mini-series; you just have to get used to it.

Jonathan describes meeting the Count under the presumption of a land holding trans… sorry I dozed off there. The book was a lot like that too. It would have exciting moments and then BAM… Back to the real estate transactions! As Jonathan stays at the Count’s castle, the Count gets younger and he gets older. His lifeforce is drained away. In fact, all of his memories get drained away as well to the Count after one feeding ah ah ah and then two feedings ah ah ah.. Jonathan appears to succumb to the Count and feel nothing, but his resignation is all an act. DUN DUN DUN!

Jonathan is searching for a way out of the castle and it works….kinda. I mean he ends up at a convent and we learn that he’s undead and under the power of Dracula. This is gleaned from Sister Agatha who relentlessly interrogates …well everyone. I wish she were my best friend. She attracts a lot of monsters, but nobody’s perfect.

Unfortunately, Dracula can sense Jonathan and he has pursued him to the convent. This is where Dracula meets the true love of his life Sister Agatha. She’s fearless, smart, and scientific; the opposite of everyone else whom Dracula encounters. Agatha is a force of reason like Dracula is a force of nature. He represents feudalism and magic, she enlightenment and technocratic future. She is what he aspires to be, but cannot. She hopes that in solving the mystery of Dracula she will understand the mystical and develop her elusive affinity with God.

Of course, by getting close to understand Dracula, Agatha inadvertently allows Dracula to enter the convent and eat everyone, including……her and he does it by wearing a dead man’s face. That was awesome! Gotta see it again!

Two and three will post tomorrow!!!!

The Things You Find on Netflix: Rebecca (dir by Ben Wheatley)


Ben Wheatley’s new film, Rebecca, is the second cinematic adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic gothic romance.  It was first adapted by David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock in 1940.  That Rebecca was the only Hitchcock film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, though Hitchcock himself reportedly felt that Rebecca was more indicative of Selznick’s style than his own.

Ben Wheatley, as one might expect from the brilliant director of A Field in England, takes his own idiosyncratic approach to the material.  From the start, he gets two things right when he casts Lily James as the second Mrs. de Winter and Armie Hammer as the enigmatic Maxim de Winter.  James and Hammer are ideal for these roles because they’re both so achingly pretty that they seem like they belong on the cover of a gothic romance.  That’s especially true of Armie Hammer, who has never been that interesting of an actor but who still has the type of chiseled screen presence that makes him ideally suited for roles like the one that he plays here.  He’s tall, handsome, a bit dull, and undeniably upper class.  He’s an appealing slab of beef and that makes him perfect for the role of Maxim de Winter.

Directing in vibrant color and taking advantage of the fact that the films stars two of the best-looking people working in the movies today, Wheatley brings an erotic charge to the story that was missing from Hitchcock’s more sedate (and Production code-restricted) version of the story.  When Maxim and the woman who will became the second Mrs. de Winter embark on their whirlwind romance on the French Riviera, there might as well be a title card that announces, “Yeah, they’re fucking.”  There’s nothing subtle about it but, at the same time, it provides a definite contrast to the second part of the film, in which Maxim and Mrs. de Winter return to the grand but chilly mansion of Manderley and Maxim goes from being charming and sensual to being cold and withdrawn.

It’s also at Manderley that we meet Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who is obsessed with preserving the memory of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca.  Scott Thomas is perfect casting for Mrs. Danvers.  In fact, at first, she seems almost too perfect for the role.  She’s so imperious and passive aggressively hostile when we first meet her that I was worried that Scott Thomas wouldn’t be able to bring much more to the role beyond what she had already shown.  However, as the film progresses, Scott Thomas turns Danvers into a surprisingly vulnerable character, with the film suggesting that she’s as much of a victim of Rebecca’s toxic legacy as anyone else at Maderley.

Wheatley’s Rebecca is all about the journey of the second Mrs. de Winter and her transformation from being meek and somewhat mousey to being someone who refuses to be cast in anyone else’s shadow.  When Maxim says that Mrs. de Winter is no longer the innocent girl that he meet on the Riviera, Maxim is disappointed but Mrs. de Winter is not.  By the end of the film, the de Winters resemble none other than Henry and June Miller, searching the world for their place and casting seductive glances at the audience.

Visually, it’s a stunning film.  The colors are vibrant.  The sets are ornate.  The costumes are to die for.  That said, the film itself is never quite as engaging as it should be.  Despite the strength of the cast, the film still leaves the viewer feelings somewhat detached.  It’s all wonderfully produced by the film still feels more like an intellectual exercise than an emotional one.  Wheatley is a brilliant filmmaker but, when the second Mrs. de Winter announces that everything she’s been through is worth it because she’s found love, you don’t believe her and you don’t get the feeling that, deep down, Wheatley believes her either.  Instead, it’s hard not to feel that this version of Rebecca is a romance that doesn’t believe in love.  It’s interesting but it’s not particularly satisfying.

Horror(-ish) Film Review: Hubie Halloween (dir by Steven Brill)


“Oh my God!” I said as I looked at what was new on Netflix, “A Halloween movie starring the guy from Uncut Gems!?  THIS IS GOING TO BE INTENSE!”

Of course, as I’m sure you already guessed, Hubie Halloween might as well be taking place in a totally different universe from Uncut GemsUncut Gems was an intense drama that starred Adam Sandler as a man so self-destructive that he literally seems to spend the entire movie just daring death to reach out and take him.  Hubie Halloween, on the other hand, is fairly laid back comedy featuring Adam Sandler playing yet another well-meaning manchild.  The film features supporting performances from all the usual Happy Madison suspects, like Kevin James, Rob Schneider, Steve Buscemi, Tim Meadows, Ben Stiller, Maya Rudolph, Keenan Thompson, and Colin Quinn.  It’s sentimental and it’s about thirty minute too long and the humor is often juvenile but also frequently funny.

Adam Sandler plays Hubie, who lives in Salem, Massachusetts with his mother (June Squibb).  Hubie is the town eccentric, the type of guy who thinks that he’s protecting the entire town but who mostly just gets on everyone’s nerves.  A lot of people make fun of Hubie (who they call Pubie).  Pete Landolfa (Ray Liotta) may be mourning the recent death of his father but he still finds time to toss Hubie into an open grave.  Not even Father Dave (Michael Chiklis) has much sympathy for Hubie.  Hubie is the type of guy who goes down to the local school to give a speech on Halloween safety, just for the students (and teachers) to respond by throwing all of their food at him.

One of the few people who is nice to Hubie is his new neighbor, Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi).  However, Hubie suspects that Walter might be a werewolf and when people start to disappear over the course of Halloween, Hubie suspects that Walter’s responsible.  Meanwhile, the police (represented by a heavily bearded Kevin James) thinks that it might be Hubie, seeing as how everyone who has disappeared is also someone who has bullied him.

Then again, Richie Hartman (Rob Schneider) has just escaped from the local mental institution.  Could he possibly have something to do with the mysterious happenings in Salem!?

When Adam Sandler won his Indie Spirit Award for Uncut Gems, he infamously announced that, if he didn’t get an Oscar nomination, he would get back at the Academy by making the worst film of all time.  Well, Sandler was snubbed the Academy.  (Though Sandler deserved that nomination — and probably nominations for The Meyerowtiz Stories, Funny People, and Punch-Drunk Love as well — it’s pretty obvious that the Academy is never going to nominate the star of That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill.)  However, Hubie Halloween is certainly not the worst film ever made.  It’s actually a rather likable and sweet-natured comedy, one in which the humor is definitely juvenile but, in contrast to some of the other Happy Madison comedies, never really mean-spirited.  In many ways, it’s a perfect Netflix film.  It’s good enough to keep you entertained while, at the same time, you don’t necessarily have to really pay attention to every minute of the film to get it.  It’s the epitome of the type of film that you can watch while doing something else.

One of the main complaints that’s always lodged against Sandler is that he primarily just makes movies so that he can hang out with his friends and get paid for it.  There’s a certain amount of truth to that statement and that, more than anything, explains why Sandler’s filmography tends to be so frustratingly uneven.  The cast of Hubie Halloween looks like they had a lot of fun making it.  Fortunately, in this case, that sense of fun actually translates onto the screen.  Steve Buscemi, June Squibb, and particularly Ray Liotta all seem to be having a ball getting to parody their own dramatic images.

Admittedly, Hubie Halloween is not a film that sticks with you.  It won’t make you laugh as much as Happy Gilmore and it won’t leave you stunned like Uncut Gems.  But, for what it is, it’s just likable enough to be entertaining.

 

International Horror Film: The Paramedic (dir by Carles Torras)


Eh, who cares?

“Really, Lisa Marie?  That’s going to be your entire review of this film?  Three words?”

Listen, I’ve been wanting to use those three words for a while.  Do you think it’s easy to come up with 500 words about every stupid movie that you see, especially when it’s not exactly a movie that really holds your attention?  Considering the importance that entertainment plays in our lives and the fact that there actually are good and interesting films being made, dismissing a forgettable film with “Eh, who cares?” is not only justifiable but it’s also perhaps the most honest review that one can give.

“Haven’t you always said that every film deserves a review?”

I may believe that but I’ve never been stupid enough to paint myself into a corner by saying it.

“Well, why don’t you at least tell everyone what the movie is about?”

Goddammit.

“Lisa Marie….”

Okay, okay.  It’s a Spanish film about this paramedic named Angel Hernandez (Mario Casas).  He’s a jerk, a total believer in all of that machismo bullshit.  He spends all of his time talking about how smarter he is than everyone else and he has a girlfriend named Vane (Déborah François).  They’re trying to have a baby but Angel has a low sperm count.  Angel refuses to tell Vane this because, to him, that would make him less of a man.

“So, it’s a film about toxic masculinity.”

Eh.  Kinda.  Anyway, as a result of an accident, Angel is confined to a wheelchair.  He doesn’t take it well.  He expects Vane to wait on him hand-and-foot while he does stuff like spy on her and hack her laptop.  Eventually, Vane leaves him for Ricardo (Guillermo Pfening) so Angel starts stalking her and, after he discovers that Ricardo has gotten her pregnant, Angel kidnaps her and holds her prisoner in his apartment.  He gives her an engagement ring that he stole from a patient and starts talking about how they’re going to get married and how they’re going to raise the child.

“It sounds like a Lifetime movie.”

It is kind of but …. eh.  A Lifetime movie would be more fun.  This is just another boring movie where a loser kidnaps a woman and holds her prisoner in his apartment while killing anyone who comes close to discovering her.  You would think that the villain being in a wheelchair would at least add some sort of curiosity value to the film but it’s all so predictable that it’s hard to care.  Hence, my original review.

“Were the actors at least any good?”

I guess.  I’ll give Mario Casas all the credit in the world.  He did a good job of bringing a really loathsome character to life.  I mean, everyone has had to deal with someone like Angel Hernandez at some point in their life.  Anyone who has ever been told that they don’t really understand what they need or what they want will be able to relate to what Vane goes through.

“So, the film wasn’t all bad.”

No, it wasn’t all bad but at the same time, there was nothing particularly surprising about it either.  I was never surprised by anything that happened.  It’s just kind of there.  You watch it and you shrug and you say….

“….eh, who cares?”

You got it.

The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Girl on the Third Floor (dir by Travis Stevens)


The 2019 film, Girl on the Third Floor, tells the story of Dan Koch (Phil Brooks), a former criminal who says that he’s trying to turn his life around.  Phil is married to Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and they’ve not only got a baby on the way, they’ve also got a new house!  It’s a surprisingly big house and you have to kind of wonder why no one else has bought it.  Maybe it’s because there’s an Episcopalian church right across the street.  That definitely would have kept me from moving in.

Still, despite the presence of Anglicans in the neighborhood, Phil moves into the house.  He wants to get the house ready before his pregnant wife comes out to join him.  Helping Phil out are his dog Cooper and his best friend, Milo (Travis Delgado).  Ellie (Karen Woditsch), the rather judgmental pastor who lives in the church, also comes by and visits.

Of course, any old house is going to have its issues.  There’s the mysterious sludge that pours out of the walls.  There’s the mysterious marbles that keep rolling through the house.  There’s the mysterious bumps in the nights and the fact that Cooper seems to be weary of the new home.  Dogs can always pick up on evil.  Of course, along with being a bit of an idiot, Don is too busy banging his new neighbor, Sarah (Sarah Brooks), to notice.

Don, if you haven’t guessed, is a bit of a jerk.  Even though he swears that he feels guilty for cheating on his wife, he still does it.  When his friends mysteriously disappear while helping out around the house, Don doesn’t make much of an effort to find them.  When Don thinks that there’s a chance his wife might find out what’s been going on at the house, he goes to extreme methods to try to cover everything up.  Don thinks that he can control every situation but Sarah and the House both appear to be intent to prove him wrong.

Girl on the Third Floor is a deliberately-paced …. well, I guess you’d call it a haunted house story.  I was tempted to call it a ghost story but the film is frequently ambiguous as to whether or not the house is haunted by ghosts or by something far worse.  Eventually, we do learn a bit about the house’s past but Girl on the Third Floor is at its best when it leaves you wondering what exactly is going on.  Not all questions have to be answered, especially not in a horror movie.  In fact, the key to most successful horror tales is the knowledge that some questions will never be answered, no matter how effort we put in to  searching for a solution.

Phil Brooks, who wrestled under the name CM Punk, is well-cast as the frequently brutish Don.  Brooks convinces us that he does want to be a better person while also showing that he doesn’t really have the inner strength necessary to do so.  Trieste Kelly Dunn also does a good job as Don’s wife, who seems like she really does deserve better.  Not surprisingly, the film is stolen by Sarah Brooks as the mysterious neighbor.  Not only does she get to wear all the best clothes but she also gets all of the best lines and her confidence that Don will fail whatever test she puts before him is both chilling and understandable.

Despite being a little bit slow-paced (especially early on in the film), Girl on the Third Floor has enough atmosphere to hold one’s attention and the final third of the film is enjoyably surreal.  Girl on the Third Floor is currently on Netflix.  Watch it the next time you’re wondering whether or not to start a home improvement project.

 

Here’s The Trailer For The Trial Of The Chicago 7!


The Trial of Chicago 7 has been on the Oscar radars of several observers ever since this year began.  Not only does it have a big-name cast but some feel that, in telling the story of the trial of a group of protesters, the film is well-positioned to take advantage of the current political zeitgeist.

Or something like that.  To be honest, I just like using the word “zeitgeist.”

To be absolutely honest, the fact that Aaron Sorkin is involved in this just makes me cringe.  This is exactly the type of project that will probably bring out his worst instincts as both a writer and a director.  Will the film feature any prominent female characters and, if so, how much time will be devoted to them being put in their place by the witty men of Sorkin Land?  I guess we’ll have to watch to find out.

Anyway, here’s the trailer.  The film will be coming out on Netflix sometimes this year.