Movie Update – Dirty Pillows, Possession, Rave Combines, and …Barry.

I didn’t want to combine these four reviews into one post, but I really need to learn to write down a review immediately after watching a movie unless I’m sure it left a lasting impression on me. So, this post will be about Carrie (2013), The Possession (2012), The Collection (2012), and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013).

What’s similar about all of them? I… have no idea. None of them have Shia LeBeouf in them?

Ever since delving into The Returned, we’ve been looking for some good supernatural horror films to whet our appetites. I took to Reddit and looked to see what was recently released, decently reviewed, and recently available on Netflix Instant. Carrie was from Redbox, and the other two horror films were Netflix Instant. Sure, Cloudy isn’t at all a horror film, that one just finally appeared in our Redbox and I loved the first so much. It’s been a week of weird double-features.

We also tried watching Morgana (2012) because it looked like a decent cover and premise, but turned it off after ten minutes when I realized that I’ve watched better telenovelas in Spanish class in 8th grade. Sometimes that 2-star rating on Netflix really means 2 stars, but sometimes it hides some really great foreign films. That wasn’t one of them, as far as I could tell. But, moving on…

First off is Carrie (2013):

Standing alone, this movie actually quite good. Unfortunately for most people who will watch this, it’s a remake/readaptation of a classic, one of my favorite Stephen King stories and arguably one of his best movies, and has the responsibility (in the minds of viewers) of outdoing the amazing performances and iconic imagery from the original. This was an impossible endeavor. This will remain an impossible endeavor.

The only way to re-do Carrie was to make it more modern, respect the original, return to the novel and do what hasn’t been done yet. Carrie (2013) succeeds this way. First of all, I have been hard on Chloe Grace Moretz in the past, but I really shouldn’t be. For a young actress, she’s getting better in everything I see and I think she did a competent, believable job. The girl has had screen presence since she was 13 in Kick-Ass (2010). The jury is still out on her for me, but that’s okay. For the first time, Carrie was played by an actress of highschool age, 17. Sissy Spacek was 27 when the original Carrie (1976) came out. Emily Bergl was 24 when she played Rachel in The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999). And Angela Bettis was 29 when the tv-movie version of Carrie (2002) was shown.

Let’s be honest. No one can upstage Sissy Spacek’s ability to completely embody the pitiable, fragile, shaking, catatonic Carrie White in the original. No one can upstage Piper Laurie’s terrifying delivery, panicked, melodramatic and full of emotion. No director can replace the imagery of the original, from the humiliating shower scene, to the look on Carrie’s face at the prom, to Piper Laurie’s demise foreshadowed in the uncomfortable crufix, to the surprise ending that no one expected. You just can’t.

So, Carrie (2013) seemed to be aware of this, and just modernized it, doing some respect to the original by nearly recreating some scenes and actually toning down the reactions and craziness of Carrie and her mother to give them some improved realism. The addition of everpresent social media, the general indifference shown by some of the classmates, the more casual teachers— you have to admit that these are motifs of today that the original fails to accomplish for today’s audience, like it or not. While I didn’t particular like that Carrie thought for herself and was as independent as she was this time around, I did think it would come off as more realistic to a younger viewer who has that as an expectation.

I appreciate Julianne Moore’s more internalized version of Carrie’s mother, her self-harm and subtleties. She seems realistic, and scarier for that reason. More motherly, more uncomfortable. Like I said, there’s no outdoing Piper Laurie’s over-the-top performance, so this was a welcome variation. A believable, pitiable, and fantastic one.

The place where the movie actually fell apart for me while I was watching it was the part where Carrie actively spends time researching and practicing her telekinesis. I was thinking to myself, this isn’t Matilda. And then, at the prom, the most important scene of the movie, her rage felt a bit … wrong… crueler and less justified than the original movie. She felt too in control of everything that she was doing, and I’ve always liked the catatonic sloppiness of the original. Something about the original Carrie’s blind, channeled rage just sealed the deal, and this one just felt like she had too many ideas and was really reveling in it. It reminded me of The Rage: Carrie 2, where Rachel kills a bunch of people and then stalks around for ages doing individually bad things to each leftover person in true late-90s-horror fashion. But wait a second, I’m favoring the original movie again. This 2013 remake is actually more true to the book, down to the hail of stones that brings down the house at the end. She does revel in watching them die in creative ways. She laughs back at them as they die.

So, in the end I found myself missing the feeling of the original, but I actually think this movie was more successful in different ways, in the same way that the newer Willy Wonka movie was more true to the book than the classic original. There’s no beating the classic, but staying true to the literature is always welcome and sure to be polarizing. Some liberties were taken, and that’s okay. So, like the Evil Dead remake, I liked it, but don’t try to compare it to the original because you will be disappointed. A new beast for new generation.

The tacked-on ending with the cracking gravestone was just needless, though I think everyone was waiting for something to happen there and they felt obligated. But to end on a good note because I actually liked this movie, I was thrilled to see Judy Greer playing Ms. Desjardin, which made me think back to her portrayal as Fern in Jawbreaker (1999) and making the whole experience an interesting parallel.

The Possession (2012):

Out of all of the movies here, this one was the best. It’s pretty much a standard formula film about a little girl who is playing with some ancient, evil trinket and manages to get possessed, her parents get worried about her and bring in a rabbi, and they exorcize her with some twist endings. It just feels like a solid movie, the acting was great all around (even by the children), and there were hints of Japanese horror and Linda-Blair-in-the-Exorcist creepiness throughout. I dug it, though there were a few CGI effects that should’ve been done traditionally because they just felt a bit fake and took me out of the story for a moment. Otherwise, it made me anxious the whole time and I was believing everything that the characters were going through. A lot of cringey moments, and overall a good one with some nice new touches to the possession genre. I was also glad that it wasn’t the devil possessing the child this time around, just a malevolent demon.

The Collection (2012):

Nah. While this is far from the worst horror movie I’ve ever seen, it was a bit too gratuitous, implausible, and poorly-acted for me to give a recommendation. It had elements of a lot of other movies, from the “team goes into an inexcapable building full of traps set by a masochist serial killer and gradually gets picked off” tropes, to Leatherface-esque masked and super-powered villains, to the “escape from Buffalo Bill’s dark basement while something is flashing,” to Saw-like traps and torture scenes, and blood-splattered raves where a combine rips everyone to shreds.

It was just a bit gross and weird for gross-and-weird’s sake. That’s just not my thing. I mean, why did he release a bunch of tarantulas that crawled on our protagonist’s face while she was hiding? How completely random is that? Why is any of this happening? It was a lot of things being thrown at the audience, and I could almost hear the writer saying “and then wouldn’t it be cool if he… and then holy crap he could cut off his… wow, that would be so gnarly.” I know it’s a sequel, and I know that a lot of this was probably explained in the first movie, but… it just isn’t very good. I do think that if you like gory, messy, random torture-y gratuity in your horror films, you’ll probably like this. I may have thought this was good when I was a teenager, but I’m much more creeped out by thrillers with some root in reality these days. Like I said, this film may be for you, if you like blood-soaked craziness.

And then there’s the one that’s not like the others, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013):

How do I move on from horror movies and talk about this movie? Well, let me just say that while I really enjoyed this movie, it lacked a little bit of the polish and restraint that the first movie did. Also, I thought this was going to be called Cloudy With a Chance of Leftovers, but I must’ve been mistaken. The characters were a bit more wacky at all times, moved crazily at every chance, lacked a certain something from the humor of the first movie, and felt like a sequel… but that’s my only criticism.

If you liked the first movie, you will probably like this one. It’s a little bit slow and sorta-funny for the first half, but once everything gets to the island full of food animals, it’s pretty great. I love the creativity, the unrestrained use of color, and overall fun. The main thing it lacked was a lot of character depth and conflict, and it felt a bit like they had watched Up and thought it was a good idea to make the “hero turns out to be bad” storyline a focus, but were just going through the motions rather than allowing Flint to really lose all hope before he succeeded. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but it was light-touch about most things and was just enjoyable. And the food animals were ridiculous and playfully imaginative, including the cutest strawberry (Barry) you’ve ever seen. I enjoyed it and dig the franchise if they continue to make more.

So are we good? Yes? Good.

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