Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…
Director Joe Dante hasn’t done a lot of movies in the past decade, so I was intrigued when he came out with a new one a few years ago that was being branded as a similar family-oriented scary movie to the film that really launched Dante’s career: Gremlins. The Hole is about a family who movie into a new house, whereupon the two brothers discover a trapdoor in the basement that covers a seemingly bottomless pit. After opening the trapdoor, strange and spooky things start happening, and the girl next door gets involved as well. The Hole isn’t a great movie, but it’s not a bad movie either. The opening half hour, when the nature of the hole and what dwells in it are still shrouded in mystery, has a number of solid suspenseful moments that prove Dante still knows his stuff. As the movie goes on, explanations start being given and all the spooky stuff has lights shone on it, and the whole thing goes off the rails. I had hoped for more from this film, but I probably would have really enjoyed it had I been around 7 or 8 years old. Joe Dante deserves better than this, but watching The Hole was enough to reassure me that he can still deliver the goods if he’s given the right material. Oh, and character actor and Joe Dante staple Dick Miller has a cameo! It was nice to see him again.
2.5 out of 5
This is a documentary which charts the rise of the “Mortified” movement of spoken word performance, where the performers are just regular people who read excerpts from their childhood diaries and journals. It’s a simple premise, and the film only passingly touches upon the psychology behind the appeal of sharing your embarrassing thoughts from when you were younger, on stage in front of a big crowd of strangers. But that’s not the point – the meat of Mortified Nation is just getting to see people take part in Mortified, and man, it is hilarious, wonderful, reassuring and moving. I won’t spoil any of the joy by mentioning specific performers, but I will say that there isn’t a dud in the whole thing. Even the saddest stories have happy endings, and I came away from the movie feeling heartened to know that everyone goes through similar struggles in their youth. I also immediately wanted to start my own Mortified chapter. You probably will too. If I have any complaints about this movie, it’s that it wasn’t longer.
4 out of 5
I’ve enjoyed just about everything cult director Vincenzo Natali has made, but I know that I’m not in a majority. I even enjoyed Splice, which many people thought was stupid and devolved into a crummy monster movie by the end, but I digress. Natali’s latest film is Haunter, which didn’t get a theatrical release, and watching it I could instantly see why. It is clearly a low-budget film built around a single location, and because it plays around with the ghost movie genre a lot, it would probably end up annoying mainstream audiences with its ideas. Indeed, at a glance, Haunter could easily be mistaken for being a cliche ghost movie in line with something like The Others, where (spoilers) the main characters are ghosts who don’t know they’re dead. Thankfully Natali dispenses with that idea right away, and the film becomes something much more interesting, raising questions about the nature of the purgatory that the characters seem to be trapped within. Clever scripting, good camerawork, and character actor Stephen McHattie all elevate Haunter above your typical straight-to-video ghost movie fare. Also, a strong female protagonist and the fact that this film passes the Bechdel test are also testaments to its quality. It may not be the small-scale horror gem that Natali’s film Cube was, but if you want a different spin on a ghost film, I recommend checking out Haunter.
3 out of 5
See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!