Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016)

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A live-in nurse (Ruth Wilson) goes to live-in the house of a decrepit, retired author (Paula Prentiss), whose main claim to fame was writing a novel about her conversations with the ghost of a girl who was murdered in the house many years ago (Lucy Boynton). The nurse slowly begins to realize that the novel might not actually be a novel and that there may be a ghost in the house.

So, apart from having a title like a fucking Pearl Jam song, this is a fairly solid idea for a haunted house movie. It's somewhat suspenseful, relying on a spooky atmosphere rather than blood and gore and things jumping out of cellars. It also builds suspense by announcing in the first ten minutes that the main character is 28 but will not turn 29, so we know right away that some shit it gonna go down. It definitely would have worked as a novel, as it had a very literary feel to it.

Unfortunately, nothing really happens for most of the movie. It tries to build suspense but the most intense thing that happens in the first hour is when the main character discovers some potentially harmful mold growing on the wall and has to argue with Bob Balaban about getting insurance to fix it. It starts to get creepy in the last twenty minutes and when we finally get to see the ghost it's pretty scary, but the rest of the movie is a painfully slow drag.

There's as much talking as one would expect of a movie called I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, with extensive, poorly written narration which is unnecessarily verbose and totally out of keeping with the vapid narrator.

The narration is not only obnoxious and meandering, it's also poorly utilized. There's a five minute scene of the main character talking to somebody on the telephone, explaining her backstory (something about jilted love which never, ever comes up again I might add) and highlighting Ruth Wilson's awful acting, which could have been done with narration.

It's shot "artfully", that is, there are a bunch of really weird angles and long shots of nothing, which comes off as annoying rather than artistic. It also makes the movie seem even more boring if possible.

And lets be honest, ghost movies are the least interesting of horror sub-genres. Other monsters and entities are inherently scary. Serial killers and slashers capture our attention by making us ponder how it is possible for a person to commit unspeakable acts of violence towards another person. Zombies and vampires are scary because they are relentless predators that will eat you to death. Giant animals terrify us because god damnit a spider should not be that fucking big.

Ghosts? Ghosts are just the disembodied remnants of often harmless dead people. There is nothing scary about that. Haunted house movies are even less scary because there is often not a very good reason why the person can't just leave the house. It takes a masterful hand to make them into something that we should find threatening. They have to do something to scare us, they can't just be there hanging around. Don't get me wrong, I am inexplicably terrified of ghosts - I worry about ghosts in my car, I worry about ghosts in my windows, I worry about ghosts in my damn toilet - but not because ghosts are actually scary. It's because well executed films and novels instilled in me a fear that ghosts will do something terrible to me.

This is not such a movie. The ghost really doesn't do anything except yank a phone out of the girls hand, and walk around. Yeah, she's got her feet on backwards and that's pretty creepy but, like, it's not that scary. And how does she kill the main character? By just appearing and scaring her to death. Seriously. What the fuck was that about? I mean, yeah, the character explains that she is easily scared but like at least give her a heart condition or something for foreshadowing. Don't have her just drop dead because she's scared. Fuck sakes.

I wouldn't recommend this movie to anybody except die hard direct-to-netflix haunted house fans, or maybe people doing an exhaustively researched project on Anthony Perkins.

Written and Directed by: Osgood Perkins.  Starring: Ruth Wilson, Paula Prentiss, Lucy Boynton, Bob Balaban.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Christmas Horror Story

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

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A Christmas-themed anthology horror film featuring four-ish stories which sort of intersect with one another. One story follows three high school students (Zoé De Grand Maison, Shannon Cook, and Alex Ozerov) filming a documentary about the basement of an old Catholic school where where two of their classmates were mysteriously murdered the Christmas before. Another story follows their friend (Amy Forsyth) whose family attracts the attention of the Krampus, a demon which punishes the wicked on Christmas Eve. The third story tells us of the police officer (Adrian Holmes) who found the bodies of the murdered high school kids the previous Christmas. He steals a Christmas tree from a private lot with his family and inadvertently brings home a violent forest spirit. The last story is about Santa Claus (George Buza) fighting off zombified elves at the North Pole. Meanwhile, the local radio DJ (William Shatner) gets hammered on egg nog and spins Christmas records.

Instead of the typical one story at a time format usually used in anthology movies, all four stories are going on at the same time which builds the mood at a steady, almost uniform pace rather than losing momentum between stories. The downfall of this format is that the "Kids in the Basement" story is weak and slow, which fucks up the pacing of the rest of the movie.

The "Santa vs. Elves" story seemed really underdeveloped, with big gaps in the narrative, but brought it back with a damn slick twist ending that made up for it. I'm not a fan of the twist ending, probably because of growing up with M Night Shyamalan movies, but this one was particularly clever and well executed, and accounted for all of the qualms I had with the story up until that point.

The story I thought was the strongest was the "Stolen Christmas Tree" story, both because it was the most disturbing, smoothly building claustrophobic tension, and because it utilized an unusual monster, the Changeling, which doesn't show up a whole lot in horror movies despite being one of the scariest ideas in english folklore.

There's also a strongly implied incestuous sleep-rape scene in that segment which, while gross, is weird and creepy and not something I've seen a whole lot in mainstream horror.

There's plenty of blood throughout the movie, including some brutal elf deaths in "Santa vs. Elves", although it could have used some more graphic imagery of people getting fucked up by Krampus in the "Krampusnacht" story.

There are a few startling moments throughout, although the movie, especially the "Kids in the Basement" story, relies predominantly on jump scares, the cheapest of thrills. The "Stolen Christmas Tree" story relies more on something gruesome and traumatic happening and is actually somewhat scary, further solidifying it as the strongest of the four stories.

I liked the aesthetic of the "Santa vs. Elves" story for the most part, and George Burza is a lot of fun as the Odin-esque Santa Claus. It's also the most brutal and violent story so there's that.

Also, William Shatner is delightful as the radio DJ who pops up from time to time to talk about Christmas and drink some more. He's like a crazy old grandpa and I'm pretty sure the liquor he was putting in his drink was not prop liquor. He gets crazier and more delightful throughout the movie and I don't feel that Shatner is necessarily a good enough actor to pull that off. Either way, he's a great touch.

The biggest issue with the movie was the entirety of the "Kids in the Basement" story. It's painfully slow, peppered with jump scares, and not even really Christmas themed. Like, there's a ghost in the basement, that ghost is probably there all the time, there's no reason it had to be Christmas.

Granted, the ghost was given a somewhat original reason for haunting the fuck out of some teens. Ghosts are usually just dead and pissed off and ready to haunt the fuck out of people for no good reason, so it's nice to see a ghost with a plan. The reason for the haunting was unbelievably stupid but, you know, it was original.

Even the way it was shot, it was set up as a found footage thing but then abandoned that gimmick halfway through and continued as a straight up third person ghost thing. There was no good reason for the movie initially being shot in the first person. Like, okay, the teens were in the basement in the first place to shoot a documentary. Back in my day, teens didn't need an excuse to go break into old, abandoned, haunted buildings, they just did it. Maybe it was to get high and laid, maybe it was just for the fuck of it. Fact is, teenagers do stupid, random shit, nobody knows why. I don't need some extraneous, half-assed set up that gets ignored after the first act to believe that some teenagers wanted to break into a basement.

So that story really drags the rest of the movie down quite a bit. The "Krampusnacht" story is only worth mentioning because it is unexceptional. It's not bad by any means. It's not great either. The Krampus looks cool but that's all I have to say about it, it's pretty forgettable all told, and serves as a neutral filler for the rest of the movie.

This movie is a fun venture for people who love Christmas and also love horror movies. I wouldn't call it a must-watch by any means, but it's entertaining and worth watching if you're looking for something new, especially if you've caught the Krampus fever which has been sweeping the nation.

Directed by: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan.  Written by: Jason Filiatrault, James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier.  Starring: William Shatner, Zoé De Grand Maison, Olunike Adeliyi, Amy Forsyth, George Buza, Shannon Cook, Adrian Holmes, Percy Hynes White, Debra McCabe, Alex Ozerov, Orion John, Rob Archer.

History of Horror Film Challenge

So one thing I'm doing this year is the History of Horror Film Challenge designed by Zack Long which can be found over here on letterboxd. I'm going to review most of the movies I watch for it on here so, yeah, be aware of that I guess. You can follow me on that site also if you want to get a little preview of what I'm going to be reviewing next on here. My picks for the challenge are as follows:

Silent Cinema: Haxan (1922)
Universal Monsters: Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956)
James Whale: The Old Dark House (1932)
Horror Comedy: Spider Baby (1967)
Val Lewton: The Leopard Man (1943)
Haunted House: The Entity (1982)
Pre-1980s Asian Horror: Kwaidan (1964)
50s Monsters: Kronos (1957)
Roger Corman: Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
Hammer Horror: To the Devil a Daughter (1976)
Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
Vampires: Vampire Circus (1972)
Terence Fisher: Island of Terror (1966)
Jose Mojica Marins: At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)
Giallo: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
George Romero: The Crazies (1973)
Zombies: Cemetery Man (1994)
Jesus Franco: Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (1972)
Backwoods Horror: Eaten Alive (1976)
Dario Argento: Tenebre (1982)
Cannibals: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Lucio Fulci: The Beyond (1981)
Creepy Kids: The Unborn (1991)
Wes Craven: Shocker (1989)
Nature Run Amok: Piranha (1978)
Killer Clowns: Carnival of Souls (1998)
Anthology: Body Bags (1993)
John Carpenter: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
Slashers: Prom Night (1980)
Satanic Panic: Burnt Offerings (1976)
Killer Dolls: Puppet Master (1989)
'80s Werewolves: The Company of Wolves (1984)
David Cronenberg: Videodrome (1983)
Body Horror: Teeth (2007)
Kid Friendly: Troll (1986)
Post War German Horror: Nekromantik (1987)
Serial Killers: American Psycho (2000)
Stuart Gordon: Dagon (2001)
Psychological Horror: Dead Ringers (1988)
Teen Slasher: My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Takashi Miike: Gozu (2003)
Post 1980 Monsters: The Blob (1988)
Post 1990 Asian Horror: Thirst (2009)
Eli Roth: Hostel (2005)
Torture Porn: Saw (2004)
New French Extremity: Martyrs (2008)
2000s Remakes: Last House on the Left (2009)
Ti West: The House of the Devil (2009)
Found Footage: The Last Broadcast (1998)
James Wan: The Conjuring (2013)
Arthouse: It Follows (2014)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blood Orgy of the She Devils

Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1972)

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A couple of college students (Tom Pace, Leslie McRae), one of whom is actually a forty year old guy, start hanging out with a witch (Lila Zaborin) who performs seemingly harmless seances and age regressions and communicates with demons. Concerned, they enlist the help of one of their professors (Victor Izay) with an interest in the paranormal to ... I dunno, figure out if she's a real witch I guess? Meanwhile, she makes extra money by selling her witchly powers to politicians as a long distance assassin.

Which actually sounds like a pretty cool idea for a movie, right? And as far as cinematic witches go, the one in this movie was pretty legit. Like, she was casting some hardcore spells rather than dancing around at the solstice and whatnot, so that was neat.

There were some educational segments randomly thrust into the middle of the movie about the history of witchcraft detailing some of the atrocities committed against women accused of practicing black magic, including stoning and burning at the stake. That was kind of interesting and would have made for a halfway decent movie on its own, although I have no idea what the point of was in this context given that the main witch in the movie was straight up worshiping Satan and killing people for funsies. Like, you know, they killed a lot of innocent people in really horrible ways which was unacceptable, but I guess in this case it's the right thing to do coz this woman is an actual witch who will curse your tits off?

Really, this movie felt like it was assembled from three different movies, each of which might have been decent in its own right, but haphazardly slapped together ended up being a fucking mess.

It lacked any kind of internal logic. For example, there's this part where the witch gets shot and killed and then turns into a cat and fucks around for a bit, and then turns back into a people and goes back about her business cursing the tits off the dude that shot her. What the fuck was that? Why go to all that trouble? WITCHCRAFT, that's why. Satan is a strange bedfellow.

The political assassination subplot felt like it was written by somebody who had no earthly idea why a person would hire a hitman. Not only is there no real explanation for what the target was doing that warranted assassination (the only condemning line is "it is of the utmost urgency that these matters we face be brought to the attention of the President of the United States". I shit you not, that is what got this guy killed), but buddy (Ray Myles) goes out of his way to hire a witch even though he doesn't believe in witchcraft, instead of hiring a hitman with a gun like a normal person. Then after the witch demonstrates that she can, in fact, use black magic to kill people, he just decides to not pay her and tries to have her killed. By a hitman. With a gun. Brav-fucking-o, bud. Furthermore, while this idea, if properly handled , could have been padded out into a whole movie, they chose instead to just wrap it up after half an hour because this movie is sloppy and incompetent.

The other plotline involving the professor of bullshit 70s mysticism trying to either expose the witch as a fraud or stop her from doing witch stuff has the opposite problem. Him and the "kids" fuck around flapping their gums about psychic phenomena for the whole movie until the last fifteen minutes when his heretofore unmentioned professor friends show up and start shooting lightning out of their hands or whatever the fuck was happening in that scene. And yes, I know that sounds cool as hell. It's not.

On a different topic, Lila Zaborin's performance as the witch started out as sort of fun and campy what with her, uh, theatrical overenunciation of every single word, but got more and more grating to the point where I was worried I was going to die of old age before she finished a sentence.

There's a scene midway through the movie where she's channeling her Native American spirit guide which is not only annoying but also embarrassingly racist. Now granted, this movie was made in the seventies when ancient Indian burial grounds and black guys dying first were legitimate horror tropes but this scene was extra cringey and tasteless.

Even the way the movie was shot was weird and arbitrary, like an Ed Wood movie. There's all these shots of people sitting in a room not doing anything, or pouring drinks, or starting their cars that added absolutely nothing.

The final kick in the nuts that this movie delivers is that there is no orgy (although there are a couple scenes of scantily clad babes dancing around to funky music, highlight of the whole movie right there), and very little blood, giving it the feeling of a Herschel Gordon Lewis movie with all the good stuff taken out. The whole movie is available for your viewing pleasure on youtube, although the only thing that it's good for is telling your dowdy conservative great-aunt "I watched Blood Orgy of the She-Devils last night on the interweb", and you could do that without watching the movie.

-6/10 Thumbs Up

Written and Directed by: Ted V. Mikels.  Starring: Lila Zaborin, Victor Izay, William Bagdad, Tom Pace, Leslie McRae, Ray Myles.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pandemic

Pandemic (2016)

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After a virus turns most of the global population into violent zombies, medical professionals are highly sought after in survivor compounds. One such doctor (Rachel Nichols) is sent with a scavenging team into the city to attempt to recover another doctor from another team along with a small group of survivors.

So, yeah, it's a zombie movie. It's also pretty much direct-to-Netflix, so my expectations were not terribly high. The set up where they introduced the state of the world and the different classes of zombies (ranging from class ones which are basically just people with colds, all the way to the "rare" class fives which are violent monsters) is pretty well done and sort of deviates from other zombie flicks which kind of just throw you into the fray. It's not necessarily a better way of doing things but in the stagnant pool of zombie cinema it's okay to do something different.

The main characters were sort of interesting as well. They were pretty generic - the woman trying to find her daughter, the man trying to find his wife, et cetera - but they behaved in a way I thought was believable and the acting was pretty good so I cared enough about their struggles that the moments of danger were pretty tense. The class five zombies were freaky looking too so that helped. There were a few nasty kills too which satisfied my gore-lust.

All that is run of the mill shit for a zombie movie though. What was genuinely interesting about this movie was that it went beyond the "everybody got killed and turned into a zombie and now we must survive" archetype and poked at the societal impact of a disease that wiped out a substantial chunk of the population and turned a fraction of people into bloodthirsty ghouls.

It's explained fairly early on that only certain people get to live in the relative safety of compounds, while the rest of the population is left to starve to death in the city. So most of the dangers that the main characters face are not, in fact, zombie related, but rather uninfected people doing what they have to to get food and so on. I know, that has a real "humans are the REAL monsters" vibe, but it's still more engaging than yet another "uh oh, zombies" movie. It gets to the point later in the movie where infected and uninfected are indistinguishable. All in all it's pretty fucking grim. Like 28 Days Later for people who've never seen 28 Days Later.

The movie was made fairly competently, apart from the audio which was terrible - it had that obnoxious quality of being way too quiet to hear the dialogue but also way too loud during the action bits to turn it up. The first fifteen minutes or so of the movie were well shot and aesthetically pleasing.

Unfortunately, this is also a POV movie, intentionally shot to look like a video game. Remember how in last week's review I said that doing first person shooter scenes in a movie is fucking tacky but excusable if the movie is based on a video game? This movie isn't. This is just a movie made by some dude who plays a lot of video games and thought "hey, what if I shot a movie in the first person, that's never been done before".

So in the interest of making a movie revolving around a stupid gimmick, they sacrificed clarity and made one more shaky, incomprehensible mess (see also: Clovervield, Diary of the Dead, Rec, Quarantine, and so on). The really frustrating thing about it was that it didn't even commit to the first person narrative. The movie jumps between first and third person indiscriminately, which completely defeats the purpose of making the fucking thing first person anyway. Seriously, though, why would anybody make a movie where the action scenes are shot in first person so it's impossible to tell what's going on, but large chunks of the other scenes aren't. Like what the fuck are you doing and why. I don't understand.

Anywho, this movie isn't terrible. It explores some less traveled territory but it doesn't break any new ground. If you're bored and cruising Netflix and not completely sick of zombie movies and/or POV movies, it will occupy ninety minutes of your time. It's definitely not worth going out of your way to see though.

4/10 Thumbs Up

Directed by: John Suits.  Written by: Dustin T. Benson.  Starring: Rachel Nichols, Alfie Allen, Missi Pyle, Mekhi Phifer, Danielle Rose Russell, Paul Guilfoyle.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Doom

Doom (2005)


Image Source
In the not too distant future, an ancient civilization is discovered on Mars and investigated by archaeologists. Something goes horribly wrong, a lot of people get killed, and a group of marines is sent in to neutralize the threat and secure the area a la Aliens.

I have never played any of the Doom games - my boyfriend tells me they're sort of like Duke Nukem - so I can't really attest to how accurate this movie is to the game series. I know that both the game and this movie include sci-fi elements and monsters and that's about it so this review is coming entirely from an outside space.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it actually defied my expectations here and there. Within the first fifteen minutes I figured it was going to be a riff on John Wyndham's The Last Lunarians at best, or John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars at worst, and it managed to do something different from either of those which is commendable. As well, I was surprised that the singular female character in the movie (Rosamund Pike) was the sister of one of the characters rather than a love interest. Finally, I didn't expect Dwayne Johnson's character to deviate from the stoic, gung-ho sergeant stereotype so that was another bonus.

I liked what they were trying to do with the look and feel of the movie - it had that grimy aesthetic of darker sci-fi, like not everything looked shiny and new and high tech, and some of the props, like the skeletons in the archaeology lab, were cool to look at. The monsters were not too bad although they weren't overly interesting to look at. They were sort of big and slimy and violent and not too different from other big, slimy, violent monsters. The technology in the movie was pretty standard, except they had this "nanowall" that was sometimes a solid wall but also sometimes a door which was cool and at one point provided an interesting way of trapping a monster. Ultimately though I feel like the art direction fell short in a lot of ways. It wasn't bad by any means but it wasn't especially exciting.

As well, I liked what they were trying to do with the overall sense of something weird and unnatural going on, but like with the art direction and monster design, they missed the mark a little bit. Partly because I had little to no emotional interest in the characters, partly because nothing that happened inside the research facility was that weird. A movie like this should have at least one scene that makes me extremely nervous and/or uncomfortable and this didn't do either.

There's a three or four minute scene in first-person shooter style which was tacky as hell but I liked it. If I hadn't know that this movie was based on a video game I would have found it really stupid, but I looked up Doom and according to Wikipedia it was like the very first first-person shooter game so that's a cute way of representing the original idea.

As I mentioned earlier, none of the characters were good enough to warrant an emotional investment, not that any of the characters were particularly important to the plot, but I literally gave no shits about whether people lived or died. There was exactly zero chemistry between Rosamund Pike and Karl Urban making their brother-sister relationship (estranged or otherwise) unbelievable, and even less chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and everybody else in this movie.

One thing I gotta hand to Johnson is that his acting seems to have improved over the years. This was early in his career, back when he was still being credited as The Rock and dinosaurs roamed the earth, and watching him cycle between two facial expressions - neutral and somewhat perturbed - is painful.
Neutral (Source)
Perturbed (Source)
The pacing is also not good. It's a good thirty minutes before anything even happens and then it's just a space zombie which seemed like a waste of half an hour of build-up. Then after that, there were these long ass scenes where nothing was going on, punctuated by half assed jump scares It didn't help that all of the parts of the facility in which almost the entire film was set looked the same so I had a really hard time figuring out where in the building the characters were and by extension what was going on.

The other thing that was weird was that it was almost as though the characters knew that the movie was totally out to lunch. Like there's this scene they're de-fibrillating one of the marines that got attacked by a monster, and the Rock interrupts to basically say "hey, what happened to the dead guy that was here earlier". The dead guy had disappeared in a previous scene which surprised the characters but they apparently didn't do anything about it. Then after buddy is pronounced dead, instead of addressing the problem of where the hell did that other dead guy go they start yelling at each other about one of the monsters that they killed and brought back to the lab. It's a weird scene and pretty much sums up how random and arbitrary the pacing is.

I also felt like the filmmakers were trying to say something about judgement and the battle between good and evil but it didn't come up until late in the movie and as such was not a very prominent theme.

Furthermore, I felt that the whole movie really got bogged down with too much military protocol stuff. It was like somebody watched Aliens and was like, yeah, that's great, but there's not nearly enough detail about how marines do things. Like, the thing that made Aliens a great movie was not that there were marines in it doing marine stuff. The only people who are really interested in military procedure are people who are in the military, and I'm sure they found this movie glaringly inaccurate.

The same rationale applies to the sciencey stuff. First of all, nobody cares, second of all people who do care (like me) don't appreciate the effort the writers went to to make the movie sciencey. Like the whole thing about how the martian race was super strong and super intelligent because they had twenty four sets of chromosomes instead of our piddley twenty three. You know what else has twenty four sets of chromosomes? Fucking potatoes.

Anyway, besides irritation over the chromosome thing, I didn't have any strong feelings about this movie. It wasn't good by any means, but it wasn't bad enough that it was fun to watch.

END

Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak.  Written by: David Callaham, Wesley Strick, based on the video game series developed by id Software.  Starring: Karl Urban, The Rock, Rosamund Pike, Razaaq Adoti.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

RIPD

R.I.P.D. (2013)

A Boston police officer (Ryan Reynolds) is killed in the line of duty by his partner (Kevin Bacon) over some pieces of gold they found at a crime scene. Upon dying, he is enlisted in the “R.I.P.D.”, which is exactly what you think it is, and becomes the partner of a crusty wild west law man (Jeff Bridges). Together, they return “deados”, that is, people who died and stayed on earth instead of going to the afterlife, to Hell. Basically, it’s Men In Black but with undead monsters instead of aliens.

I am a huge sucker for stories about dead people doing jobs – my favourite show ever is Dead Like Me – so I figured this movie would be right up my alley. And this movie does not disappoint insofar as it is a movie about dead people doing jobs. It disappoints in a lot of other areas, though.

I liked the idea that the afterlife is a big bureaucratic department, I haven’t seen that done to death yet. I also liked that they didn’t specifically mention Heaven and Hell (although they are implied) and that whoever is in charge of the afterlife is only given as the Department of Eternal Affairs, which is as cute and punny as the title of the movie.

The repartee between Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, and Jeff Bridges and Mary Louise Parker, and Jeff Bridges and everybody else in the movie is clever and mildly entertaining but didn’t really make the characters any more appealing or less boring. They were pretty much just cardboard cutout vehicles for the writers’ delightful banter.

The “deados” were sort of interesting – their whole deal is that if a soul stays on earth after it’s supposed to leave it rots and eventually turns into a monster which can only be seen when exposed to cumin (confirming my suspicions that there is something wrong with people who don’t like Indian food). The monsters they become reflect their character, so for example one guy who is a snitch ends up with a huge mouth, and Elvis is grotesquely obese.

That doesn’t change the fact that “deados” is a really stupid name for a thing. I would even go so far as to say it’s stupider than Dead Like Me’s “gravelings”, which is saying something. I get that calling them something cooler like, say, “deadites”, would draw an undeserved connection between this movie and Evil Dead but still, writers literally get paid to make shit up, they should at least be good at it.

Apart from the innovative view of the afterlife and the reasonably okay monsters, though, this movie is actually pretty boring. The non-banter dialogue is boring, the special effects are boring, even the music is boring which is something I never thought possible.

The characters are boring, Ryan Reynolds was a pretty stereotypical conflicted good guy, Jeff Bridges was everything you expect from the grouchy mentor, and Kevin Bacon was predictably evil, going so far as to do evil things just for the sake of doing evil things. Like, why would he kill his partner when he knew that the R.I.P.D. was a thing? Surely to god if he could wangle the gold out of the undead police’s evidence locker he could wangle it out of anywhere. The only character I found even remotely likeable was the chief of  ghost-police (Mary Louise Parker), because she was sassy and probably also because she didn’t have a lot of screen time.

The story is just Men In Black by way of Dead Like Me with some elements of Bladerunner and an ending that felt like somebody took all the fun out of Ghostbusters. It was like the filmmakers were just slapping scenes together from other movies – there’s even this thing where the characters say “relax body” before doing something a living person would not normally be able to do, much like the “there is no spoon” line in The Matrix.

Despite the fact that the writing does show a slight glimmer of intelligence, a lot of the humour is pretty stupid. For example, Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds don’t appear as their living selves to mortal eyes, instead humans see them as Marissa Miller, and James Hong, respectively. It’s kind of funny the first couple of times it comes up, I guess, but the joke (if it can really be called a joke) gets absolutely milked to death by the end of the movie.


The truly painful thing about this movie is that it’s a pretty good idea and has some potential, but completely, and knowingly squanders it.  There’s even a scene in which Jeff Bridges tells Mary Louise Parker “don’t be a cliché”, which is a piece of advice I really wish the makers of this movie had taken.

END

Directed by: Robert Schwentke.  Written by: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, based on the comic Rest In Peace Department by Peter M Lenkov.  Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Baker, Mary-Louise Parker, Stéphanie Szostak.