I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE & Justice in the Real World

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Directed & Written by Macon Blair.
Starring Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye, Christine Woods, & Robert Longstreet.
Film Science/XYZ Films
Not Rated. 93 minutes.
Crime/Drama/Thriller

★★★★1/2
img_0007Ever since seeing him in the fantastic indie Murder Party, Macon Blair draws me to his work. Just a couple years ago Jeremy Saulnier went ahead and gave him the spotlight in the story of amateur but passionate revenge, Blue Ruin, and last year Blair also turned up as a neo-Nazi with a heart still beating somewhere deep down in the immensely impressive Green Room.
A year after, Blair comes to us via Netflix with I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, starring Melanie Lynskey (who along with her role in “The Birthday Party” from anthology horror movie XX is experiencing a big surge in her great career) and Elijah Wood. Channelling energy no doubt gleaned from his time working in front of the camera for Saulnier, Blair writes and directs like he’s been doing it for ages. The pacing, the directing, his tense, darkly comic, and at many times his cathartic script all make for an inventive debut feature. Even better, the timing of this film is on the nose; when North America’s been gripped by a steady stream of hate billowing out of the aftermath from the 2016 U.S. elections. I don’t think Blair anticipated such relevance, and wanted to just make a solid crime-thriller. Despite authorial intent, his work feels perfectly at home in this world heading on from 2017, surely expressing the feelings of many Americans in the story’s reluctant yet driven to the brink protagonist.
img_0008Everyone is an asshole. And dildos.”
The opening moments are awesomely comic and dark, as well. From an old lady’s vulgar last words to an awkward parking lot encounter, a look of existential frustration on the face of our protagonist Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) as oblivious shoppers cut in front of her in the cashier line or don’t bother picking up items they knock off shelves, to dog shit left on her lawn and a random man in a bar ruining the latest book in a series she’s reading – Ruth’s introduction to the viewer is a concise explanation of the film’s title. Watching her life in these short, informative bursts during the opener is a proper visual thesis.
Blair’s story is at once familiar and totally unique in its own skin, as we see the age old tale of person pushed to the limits of what their humanity and pride can tolerate. Ruth refuses victimhood any longer. After suffering the myriad of small injustices offered by the world on a daily basis, she snaps when a truly shitty act of criminality forces her past the point of silence, towards reclaiming her life via vengeance. Only, as in real life, the film shows us how even well-intentioned revenge doesn’t always go as planned. Perhaps the greatest aspect of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is its dedication to reality, in that it refuses to deny the messiness of being human.
img_0009Ruth: “What are we doinghere, this world?”
Tony: “Trying to be good. Or be better.”
A large focus of the plot becomes the idea that, in today’s society (and for a long time), the focus lies more on what a victim must do to prevent being victimised, rather than preventing and punishing criminals properly. We see this particularly in the case of rape victims, which contemporary internet culture and social media has made even worse, as women who’ve been sexually assaulted and raped often hear what THEY should have done instead of society working on the men who commit such atrocities.
For instance, the police officer assigned to Ruth’s case all but refuses to take her seriously. All because she left her door open. This is just about the epitome of the idea that victims are treated like they’ve done something wrong. The cop keeps bringing up the fact she left the door open, so it negates her troubles; there are better things to do for cops than worrying about people who are asking for it. And that’s the bottom line, that the police, sometimes, would rather blame someone for what they did to supposedly bring on the crime than do work to find the criminals responsible. Because sure, she left the door open, that’s still not an invitation to be robbed – robbery is still illegal – exactly how a woman getting too drunk or wearing sexy clothes is NOT an invitation to assault or rape or anything else. Not sure if this is what Blair was getting at. Regardless, he gets to the heart of the issue with Ruth’s journey towards civilising her small pocket of the world. And further than that, how the police won’t help and make it harder for her to find justice, we see how many people in this crazy world are pushed to take matters into their own hands and find vigilante justice.
img_0010There’s so much, too much, to love. A scene involving an old man pawnbroker morphs from a hilariously sneaky scene into something more surreal, slightly horrifying, though entirely funny in a grim sense. Then there’s one bloody, climactic moment of pure violent madness before the last few scenes that works wonders. Continually, from plot events to bloody violence, the film sticks to the idea of real life. Events occur as in real life: spontaneous, weird, ugly, brutal. The plot heads in unexpected, dangerous directions, as Ruth winds up from where she’d ever anticipated at the beginning, reflected in the blood and cracked windpipes and stabbed stomachs Blair offers up on screen.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore has everything I expected. One of the most fun, and equally wild, film experiences I’ve had over the past year, definitely a contender for the films I love most at the end of 2017. Lynskey is pitch perfect in the lead, both innocent and strong in her own right, flanked by Elijah Wood in a role he owns; the others in the cast fill it out with class.
Blair does more than I could’ve imagined. I knew his debut would go over well because he’s got an old school sensibility about him as an actor; this translates to his directing with force. Every move of the story feels expertly paced, each scene directed and shot with precision. A crime-thriller that resonates with the modern state of America. Plus, yet another huge reason why Netflix deserves credit for letting directors – from TV shows to fictional and documentary features – take the reins of their vision and steer it how they see fit.

Advertisements

DON’T BREATHE or You’ll Choke on the Tension!

Don’t Breathe. 2016. Directed by Fede Alvarez. Screenplay by Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues.
Starring Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, & Emma Bercovici.
Screen Gems/Stage 6 Films/Ghost House Pictures.
Rated R. 88 minutes.
Crime/Horror/Thriller.

★★★★1/2
poster-dont-breatheFede Alvarez did a bang up job with the Evil Dead remake. Not only did he and co-writer Rodo Sayagues come on like a couple madmen upping the bloody horror, they also took the story and made it their own with a twist on the original. Coming into Don’t Breathe, I knew that with Alvarez at the helm and Sayagues in the seat again alongside him writing once more, chances are this film would be exciting.
And they did not disappoint. For most of the runtime this is a movie totally reliant, for good reason, on suspense. There’s an inarguable tension that Alvarez rarely, if ever, lets up. He gives us an ebb and flow of the suspense, a rise and then a fall; all to lull us in for the bigger jumps and surprises and jolts of pure adrenaline.
With three fantastic actors leading the way – Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, and Dylan Minnette – the story’s in proper hands. Added to that is the textured, gritty cinematography of Pedro Luque (The Silent House), capturing the Blind Man’s home in a spectacular spectrum of darkness and light, all shades of colours. There’s so much to enjoy, even when we’re taken down the rabbit hole of depravity after the secrets of the house are finally revealed.
dont-breathe1There’s something thrilling about beginning in media res, as it sets the stage to either reach that pinnacle of terror exactly as we see it, or take us on a winding road to explain it to us differently, to show us the truth and perhaps make things more intense than they once seemed. So the ominous opener of the Blind Man (Lang) hauling an unconscious Rocky (Levy) down the road in a dilapidated Detroit neighbourhood is a powerful way to start the film, as it brings up a lot of questions, ones that remain unanswered right to the last minute.
Nice character development in the beginning. Rocky isn’t just a female character, she doesn’t get tossed in and used as a generic part of the story. Some horror movies do the Final Girl trope, and not to say that doesn’t happen to a certain extent here. But before any of that happens we’re introduced to her life, the hell from which she wants to escape. It isn’t a case of young girl wants to run away and start a new life, it’s a case of young girl lives in near squalor with a horrible mother and her neo-Nazi boyfriend and she’s got to get her kid sister OUT.
What’s more is that I like the relationship between Rocky and Alex (Minnette). It gives the film a romantic sort of story, as Alex pines quietly for his good friend. And we get it without any of the forced romance, there’s no cheesy love story. Rather, Alvarez and Sayagues make it part of the characters and use it mostly as the basis for Alex’s character/his motivations. Truly a solid bit of writing in the screenplay. Too many movies fall prey to the supposed need for romantic intrigue and in the course of that ruin characters, drag out portions of story to unneeded lengths, among other mistakes. Don’t Breathe gets this angle right, part of why it’s one of the better written horrors in the last 6 or 7 years.
dont-breathe-2This next part might need a disclaimer. I’ll just say that I’m not trying to be insensitive, because I don’t meant to be, this is merely an opinion.
I’ve seen a few reviews stating they wished a blind actor were used for the part Lang plays. And I have a problem with that. This isn’t the same as a black character being whitewashed, an Asian character being replaced with a white woman, or anything racial. Logistically, could they have used an actual blind person to fill the role? Maybe. I’m not saying there’s no blind actors who couldn’t handle the part. What I’m saying is that this is a movie. There’s only so much time they can film, there’s only so many takes a crew can do, and at the end of the day I think that acting is called acting for a reason.
Lang does some of his best work as The Blind Man. Furthermore, Alvarez and Sayagues don’t write him as a cliche, trope-ified blind character in that they don’t make his sense of smell and hearing A MILLION TIMES BETTER, because while no doubt some who are blind come to use their other senses with a keen edge, being blind doesn’t make you into a superhero of some sort. Between the character as written and the way Lang portrays him, I’d hope that it comes off as genuine. Also, I applaud the fact the Blind Man is, in essence, the villain of the story. The filmmakers don’t pose as trying to put all sorts of pity on this man, instead this disabled veteran is the monster in the shadows, the big bad. And that’s a lot of fun. Able bodied people take for granted the fact we see ourselves in all lights represented through cinema. What I love here is that, for anyone disabled, they get to have the experience of being represented as the villain, and through fiction these types of scenarios and characters allow us to understand the humanity of everybody; the able bodied and the disabled alike can be heroes and heroines, villains, any kind of character. Something often times forgotten by writers.
dont-breathe-3The nature of Don’t Breathe‘s plot – robbing the home of a blind man – allows for easy suspense. The choice of shots, the tension as the would-be robbers move through his house, the dead quiet of many scenes which raises the heart rate; these put that suspense up on blast. Alvarez draws it all out as the Blind Man’s home unleashes upon us the horror held within its walls. Keeping a story basically in one location for a whole film isn’t always easy. He does so with a feel of true claustrophobia which never eases.
What a finale. The final 20-25 minutes circles around a depraved edge. The bulk of Lang’s lines come here, the delivery and the writing together are like a sledgehammer. Lang has a special, subtle way of being ferocious, which he uses to full advantage in these moments. For a minute or two you feel anything, even the most brutal possibility, is wholly possible. Accompanied by the eerie score from Roque Baños (Sexy BeastThe MachinistCell 211) these are dreadful scenes worthy of awe.
I can’t stress enough that Don’t Breathe is one of 2016’s best horror films, the consensus is astounding. There will always be detractors, of any movie, but especially horror – so many fickle fans. Many of whom love to hate movies other horror fans enjoy a ton, like they get a thrill from being a contrarian. There are certain undeniable things about films, particularly horror, that aren’t subjective, and Alvarez – by all honest accounts – gives us amazingly palpable suspense the likes of which don’t come around often enough. Let this movie sink its hooks in, I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

EVIL DEAD Gets Remade with Plenty Blood & Guts & Demonic Possession

Evil Dead. 2013. Written & Directed by Fede Alvarez; based on the screenplay by Sam Raimi.
Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, Phoenix Connolly, Jim McLarty, Stephen Butterworth, Karl Willetts, Randal Wilson, and Rupert Degas.
TriStar Pictures.
Rated 18A. 91 minutes.
Horror

★★★★
evil-dead-poster So, to start, I want to just say that I love the original Evil Dead. I don’t think the remake is better, not at all. However, I think that as far as remakes go this one does a pretty good job at updating things and changing perspective just enough so that it isn’t a carbon copy of the original from Sam Raimi.
Of course there are obvious similarities and there are things which feel identical, but Fede Alvarez has really brought a script that tweaks Raimi’s original to make it his own while simultaneously remaining a remake of the beloved horror classic.
While this Evil Dead is stripped of the comedic element Raimi infused the film with – or should I say the man, the one and only Bruce Campbell really executed that aspect – this incarnation has replaced the comedy with absolute fear.
Now, before we go any further – this is how I feel about being scared by a horror movie.
When I say that a horror creeps me out, that it’s disturbing or scary, unsettling, any of these descriptors, I don’t mean that I’m sitting there in the dark cowering, that I can’t sleep at night. I’ve not been that scared in a long, long time. But I’m still scared by things in horror films. For me, there’s disturbing and creepy things going on in Evil Dead and it doesn’t mean that I’m up all night, terrified to turn out the lights; just means I’m unsettled by certain elements.
So when I say that this film replaces that comedic essence of the original with an air of terror, don’t try and say that I don’t understand what is scary or what is not. We all have our things. This remake comes with a lot of heart, good performances, and a ton of big fat horror balls.
mola-monster-macabro-a-dual-review-of-the-evil-dead-2013-remake-002Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake begins with David (Shiloh Fernandez) meeting with his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) at a cabin in the woods. Their friends, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) are also there. Everyone’s gathered to help David’s sister Mia (Jane Levy) do a homemade rehab, like a willing intervention or the second half of one anyways; she is a recovering heroin addict. Unfortunately, for more than one reason this won’t be near as easy as they’d imagined it would be.
A smell keeps bothering Mia, as if something is dead. Eventually they discover a door in the floor, leading to a room full of strange artifacts, dead animals, and other weird things. One of which is Necronomicon.
In a terrible decision, Eric keeps picking at the book, determined to look inside and read things he’s found. He releases something from its vile and wicked pages. Soon enough, the things Mia does to try and get out of her rehabilitation become more and more violent, more heinous, as if she’s not only jonesing for heroin: she is possessed.
But the possession doesn’t stop there. It won’t stop. Not until they’ve all been deal with.
Evli-Dead-movie-photos-5I’m not exactly a huge fan of remakes. There are some I do enjoy – Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes, that’s one I’m a particular fan of, and even though some hate it I thought Rob Zombie did a fun and disturbing job with Halloween. However, a lot of the remakes we get are sad, glossy jobs, then again much of those are the Michael Bay produced trashjobs like the jeans commercial that was The Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel’s ass, the pitiful Friday the 13th reboot, as well as the downright shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But to my mind, I think that the Evil Dead remake does justice to the original. It isn’t better, though, I can’t say that it’s any less fun. To me, anyways.
Because the premise of the film is the same – people get possessed and terrorized by a host of demonic presences at a cabin in the woods. Still, Fede Alvarez changes things a little. Now we’ve got a new reason for these people being in the woods; not a massive game-changing move, but it’s enough in the script to make this his own, a remake yet fresh in a way. Evil Dead was awesome the first time around. This time, we get a bit of a different spin. Because even as things get creepy for the friends, before it all gets out of hand, there’s still an element in their minds which says “Mia is just tripping and getting crazy from withdrawals”. Of course, that changes, and then some! I just thought it was a good twist. Alvarez could’ve simply just updated things enough to feel like the 2010s, but he chose to bring something different and make the characters a little less similar to the first movie.
We get lots of awesome reminders to harken back to the original, I just feel that Alvarez did a nice job with adapting things and switching some stuff up. That’s what a remake should do. Yet people still want to trash it and say it’s garbage, yadda yadda. Whatever, man.
bigEvilDead33-evil-dead-redband-trailer-2Love how the little electric meat cutter is first seen slicing up some quite raw – pork, I think it is. Can’t be sure. Either way, I thought it was great when you can juxtapose how viciously the electric kitchen accessory comes into play later. Not that this is anything super innovative concerning horror movies, I just love when a film does that in an effective manner. Alvarez could’ve just used the thing as a gimmick, thrown it in there wildly, but instead he takes the time to set this up early on so that you either remember it and enjoy seeing it come back into the movie in such a brutish way, or you’re just surprised; that works, too. I like that Alvarez makes specific use of the tool early within 15-20 minutes, especially watching it cut through some meat. Later, as it does some real cutting, it’s that much better.
There are some great effects all around – the face slicing, that whole part, I really loved. Even when Eric tries to back away, he slips and cranks his back on the toilet seat. That was just perfect. I love when horror doesn’t try to be perfect with its choreography; in horrific, terrifying moments there would definitely be so much clumsiness and ineffective escape. This was a classic moment like that.

A favourite line of mine from the movie I thought was darkly comedic yet a good piece of writing – the script recognizes horror movie tropes and how characters often don’t question each other enough. David is trying to rationalize what has been happening, saying it could be a virus, to which Eric replies:
What kind of virus makes someone cut off their face with a piece of glass?
XGoQCqgOpcdgucLvhlIu0m75kl0I thought that Jane Levy was superb as Mia. From start to finish. There’s one scene particularly, the look in her eyes as she talks with her brother David – right after the forest has come alive and raped her – it is classic horror cinema acting, right there. If you say different, fine, but you’re blind. I liked Levy in the first season of Shameless, after which she was replaced/left. Here, I got to see her do some excellent work. Once she becomes Abomination Mia, it is really something.
What I love most about the Mia character is once the Abomination has hold of her, the make-up effects are beyond incredible. Excellent, gruesome stuff. Plus, the voice is creepy as all hell. I love when a film can go for great practical effects. Sure, there are pieces of CGI mixed in there no doubt, but so much is done practically with make-up special effects.
That part with the electric meat cutter is savage! I thought that was just pure gritty gore horror. So much in this movie, definitely once the last half hour starts to roll, is balls-to-the-wall gory horror fun. It is supremely nasty at times, in the best sense of the word when it comes to scary movies.
And I mean, the original Evil Dead was meant to be a wild horror. A bit of comedy mixed in, but mainly horror. That’s what we get here: in droves. It keeps coming and coming, over, over, until the last scene finishes. There’s a ton of blood, lots of pain and torture and death. It is what horror is all about, in the end. If people disagree, I understand. Well – I don’t. I’ll just agree to disagree.
485929_276672722465628_547675212_nI loved this remake. It’s one of those I’ll put on the list of remakes I truly enjoy because it deserves to be on there. For me, this is a 4 out of 5 star horror. I think a lot of diehard fans of the original are big time upset because Bruce Campbell isn’t Ash and Ash isn’t the big hero – instead we get a female hero, a recovering drug addict who overcomes the insanity of the demons pressing down on her, her friends, and that cabin out in the woods.
There are for sure a couple points I didn’t like, mainly those had to do with dialogue; some of it certainly could’ve been tweaked. Yet overall, I love the script because I thought Fede Alvarez did a wonderful bit of work adapting Sam Raimi’s original into something a little more today and a bit different. Because if a movie being remade simply goes for everything the original did – same story and effects and twists and characters – what is the point then? Why even do it? I’ve never understood shot-by-shot remakes, like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (even though I dig it simply because it’s an update with new actors while most hate it and I love Van Sant regardless). At the end of the day, it’s useless to remake something that way, even if it’s enjoyable; you’re not bringing anything new to the table. Even enjoying something like Van Sant’s exact duplicate of Alfred Hitchcock, I can’t say it’s a good movie because Hitchcock did it already, exactly the same.
So basically, Alvarez here with Evil Dead impressed me by not having to copy everything completely identical, even if so much of it is familiar and obviously derivative of the first. It doesn’t matter that it’s a remake because Alvarez has given it enough heart and effort to say that this is a worthy effort. One of my favourite remakes out there, and will continue to be, no matter what other reviews might try and have me believe. This is a lot of fun, a LOT of gore to the point of absolute savagery at times, and a solid central performance from Jane Levy.
Groovy.