I’ve been plowing through my watch lists on various streaming platforms, trying to get films that I’m interested in watched down to get their numbers under control. You know how it is, you go through and add things because they sound slightly interesting and you may want to get back to them and suddenly you have a list a hundred movies deep. Every now and again I do a little housecleaning and get rid of titles either by watching them or scratching my head at my initial choice for putting them on the list and then deleting. Here are three recent movies that I watched in the last week, all streaming on Shudder.
This one tells the story of a pair of brothers who have a ghosthunting reality TV show that is anything but real, totally fake, and completely bereft of ghosts. Oh, and it’s failing miserably. Given one last chance, the team is gifted a new, feisty producer, and a haunted location in Mexico. While the lead brother is a scammer extraordinaire, the younger brother actual does believe in ghosts and has constructed various implement to track and attack spectral entities. Before long, we find out that the house in Mexico really is haunted, and this ghost is a killer. Death ensues, as does lots of broad comedy bits.
This film wants to be a riff on Ghostbusters and I suppose it is. Sometimes it succeeds in being funny and there is the occasional charm to it, but mostly it feels like a light knockoff, with little substance. It’s fun and amusing but nothing about it stuck with me. I wasn’t bored and there were a few comedic bits that were pretty funny, but the majority of the gags all try too hard. This one exists in some weird place between Scary Movie and Ghostbusters. Slight but still fun, your mileage will vary.
Two Buckets out of Four
Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl (2016):
Teen girl Adele moves in with her sickly aunt and becomes a sort of caretaker. Her aunt refuses to leave her room and has very precise instructions as to her food and healthcare. Adele is withdrawn and shy, a girl who lives mostly in her head. She meets Beth, a local who pulls Adele out of herself and sweet, sweet lonely girl Adele falls in love. And from there, she unravels and things take an otherworldly turn. Or do they? Is it all in Adele’s head?
As you can read from the description, this film is a bit of a slow burn. There are some strange moments and a few jump scares, but mostly this movie is concerned with the crumbling psyche of Adele and how the outer world contributes to her undoing. Yes it does turn a bit supernatural towards the end, it seems, although an explanation of it all being in Adele’s head would be perfectly acceptable. The film never really tries to clarify these points, and that’s wholly fine. Mostly, this plays out a bit like House of the Devil: set in the 80’s, girl character listening to Walkman a lot, moody and slow and atmospheric and weird. The only way it does not compare favorably with House is in the ending. The impact here is more emotional and less horror. And there’s nothing wrong with that except we traveled a long distance to have such a slight outcome. This would have been stronger, I think, if it had been an hour-long anthology piece. But still, it’s good and moving and does just about everything right. I was never bored and the actors were terrific, as was the direction. Give it a chance, just don’t expect it to blow your socks off.
Two and a Half Buckets out of Four
Here we have another take on the infamous Lizzy Borden slayings. Chloe Sevigny plays Lizzy and Kristen Stewart plays maid/love interest Bridget. This one is a slow burn for sure, and your feelings about it might depend on how you feel about its pace, but if you stick around, it’s pretty damned terrific.
Lizzy is a strange girl who lives an isolated life inside of her family home. She is smart and beautiful but aloof. Her father is domineering, a real towering bastard of toxic masculinity. He tries to utterly control her life. Enter new maid Bridget, who forms an almost immediate bond with Lizzy, a bond that becomes intimate. She, too, is under the authoritarian thumb of the Daddy Borden, who favors her with midnight visits of the sexual kind. This guy is a real creep. Anyway, Lizzy and Bridget fall in love, get caught making out, and are immediately labelled abominations. Lizzy is to be sent away. Well, she won’t stand for that and pretty soon, it’s forty whacks for momma and forty-one for poppa.
Mostly this is a tense psychological drama but it does dip into the horror and the axing, when it happens, is pretty brutal, mostly because we care and empathize deeply with the characters involved. The movie does not flinch here and indeed, does not flinch in its overall portrayal of all the people involved. Is it truth? Who knows? But it’s riveting. All you have to do is submit to its slower pace and languid style. All the actors are terrific, especially Sevigny and Stewart, who really do bring a lot of chemistry to the proceedings. Personally, I think Sevigny should be in every damned movie made, she’s that good, and her cool, controlled portrayal of a woman pushed too far is Oscar worthy. How you may feel about this depends on how you look at historical dramas, as this one plays it fairly straight, until we get to the lesbianism and then the murders. But for me, it was really, really good.
Three Buckets out of Four