Zombies & Sharks Takes On Mermaids, Madness, Holiday Horrors, Slashers, Ultra-Gore & Shyamalan’s Superheroes!
Hey Comicon-ers! I’m ML Miller and this is “Zombies & Sharks” a weekly column focusing on all things horror!
Every week, I’ll be offering up in-depth views on the good, the bad, and the futt-bugly in horror from the past, present, and future, high to low to no budget, and from domestic to international and beyond. I’ll also be interviewing some of the biggest and best names in horror from time to time. If it’s horror, I’ll check it out and report back to you about it right here!
So, sit back, pull the covers up to your nose, ignore that strange noise coming from the closet, and enjoy the fresh batch of horror I have on tap for you today!
Today’s Tricks & Treats!
THE HARROWING (2017)
ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING (2018)
BLUE MY MIND (2017)
THE RANGER (2018)
YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (2018)
And finally…Justin Mosley’s S13!
Available On Demand and digital download from Film Mode Entertainment!
THE HARROWING (2017)
Directed by Jon Keeyes
Written by Jon Keeyes
Starring Matthew Tompkins, Arnold Vosloo, Michael Ironside, Arianne Martin, Damon Carney, Hayden Tweedie, Erin Marie Garrett, John Walpole, Morgana Shaw, Michael Crabtree,
Susana Gibb, James Cable, Tom Zembrod, Brandi Price, Stephanie Rhodes, Gwendolynn Murphy, Chuck Huber, Billy Blair, Jason Riley Hoss, Todd Crowell, Steven Markel, John D. Hickman, Tommy Walker Kennedy, Russell Rakestraw, Paul Holmes, M. Serrano, Marisol Vera
THE HARROWING is a low budget descent into madness tale. It’s a story we’ve seen before and like most descents into madness, the effectiveness is all in the subtlety of the journey. Somehow, along the way, we must see and believe the slow chipping away of sanity. One wide leap, and the whole house of cards topples. THE HARROWING does this all pretty well.
After a botched drug bust resulting in the death of a detective, his partner Ryan Calhoun (Matthew Tompkins) becomes obsessed with tracking down those responsible. But Ryan doubts his own eyes as he witnessed what looks to be some kind of demonic ritual and presence at the moment of his partner’s death. With reality crumbling around him, Ryan goes undercover in a mental hospital to track down the key to the culprits. But the longer Ryan is in the hospital, the more he begins doubting his own reality. Is Ryan nuts or is there a demonic component to these crimes?
This one is definitely going to evoke memories of JACOB’S LADDER, where the line between Hell and reality blurs for the main protagonist. This line is leapt over and over again quite well due to some nice edits, some fantastic demon effects, and a surprisingly emotional performance by tough guy actor Matthew Thompkins. All of this makes for a low budget trip down a gory and pretty scary rabbit hole. I found the film to be refreshing that this type of strong direction and story (from writer/director Jon Keeyes) would come from such a small budgeter, which usually cuts corners in every department. In THE HARROWING, story and direction is not compromised.
I liked THE HARROWING. It isn’t a big movie but having seen a ton of horror films that stumble along the way due to either budget, lack of talent, or lack of imagination, it is inspiring to see a film hurdle those struggles and make a film that moves along at a believable and entertaining trip into madness. Those who don’t mind the low budget stuff are going to be surprised with THE HARROWING.
Available On Demand, digital download, and on DVD from Unearthed Films!
Directed by Adrian Corona
Written by Adrian Corona
Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon, Manuel Domínguez, Anne Voitsekhova
Find out more about this film here
Unearthed Films have risen to the forefront of fringe and extreme horror in recent years. With their AMERICAN GUINEA PIG films such as SONG OF SOLOMON and their other films like RED KROKODIL and LILITH’S HELL, they have taken viewers to the limits of sanity with taboo themes, ultragore, and megaviolence. They are not films for the weak of stomach or disposition, yet they retain a level of filmmaking skill that stronger constitution possessing horror fans will admire. While I can’t guarantee that I am going to like every Unearthed Film, I do know that everyone was made with genuine and original horror as its intent. And that, earns my respect.
DIS is Unearthed Entertainment’s latest film. It’s a surreal descent into madness, peppered with tales of the mandrake (a hallucinogenic and narcotic plant said to have mystical powers and whose roots often take the shape of a small person or homunculus). Bill Oberst Jr. (aka the hardest working man in horror, one of my faves, and a damn fine actor) plays an ex-soldier who ventures out into the forest to end his life. Instead he keeps seeing a cloaked and masked lady and seems to stumble headfirst into his own personal hell.
If you can get through the first five minutes of DIS, I’m pretty sure you can get through the rest. Beginning with a woman, bound and assaulted by a masked figure who seems determined to attain different fluids from the woman, the film proves right off the bat to be some pretty hardcore stuff. The film has massive amounts of nudity, disfigurement, blood, gore, rape, and torture. It was an extremely rough film to sit through due to all of this going on. At the same time, writer/director Adrian Corona is not doing this just for shock value. He seems to be displaying these horrific images and actions to make a metaphoric point. Do I get this point? Not completely, but I think it does have something to do with the horrors of war and how actions under battle never really leave a person, even when safely home. Or maybe I missed the point all together. DIS is a film open to interpretation if you can stomach it.
Oberst is, as always, fascinating to watch. While not being your typical leading man, he offers up a nuanced and fragile performance. He still retains the nobility of a soldier, but also carries a heavy burden as seen in his woeful eyes. This is a tortured man whose torment seems never-ending in the world of DIS. Corona has made an often beautiful and often grotesque knockout punch of a film. It is filled with moments of surreal discomfort and if you aren’t offended by something you see here, there is definitely something wrong with you. This is not a film for everyone. It’s for a specific type of horror fan in search for intense gore along with provocative imagery. Still, it is an enthralling fantasy horror film, despite of all of that. Watch at your own risk.
Available on DVD, On Demand, and digital download!
ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING (2018)
Directed by David Ian McKendry & Rebekah McKendry
Written by David Ian McKendry & Rebekah McKendry
Starring Constance Wu, Jonathan Kite, Jocelin Donahue, Ashley Clements, Mark Kelly, Graham Skipper, Matt Long, Amanda Fuller, Catherine Parker, Morgan Peter Brown, Michelle DeFraites, Stephanie Drake, Peter Cilella, Makeda Declet, Megan Duffy, Brea Grant, Matt Mercer, Diva Zappa, Lauren Lakis, Ian Gregory, Maria Olsen, Alexander Ward, John Humphrey, Edward Hong, Herve Clermont, Chase Williamson, Josh Drennen, Larry Zerner, Jesse Merlin, Diane Sellers, Archie Hahn, Connie Ventress, Shane Carpenter, Tiffany Elle, Craig Lee Thomas
Find out more about this film here
FANGORIA editor Rebekah McKendry and David Ian McKendry have teamed up to deliver an anthology of horrific holiday proportions in ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING. As with most anthologies, there are some chapters that are hits and misses, but I was impressed with more than I was disappointed. Still, I think you’ll find something you’ll like in this stocking stuffer of an anthology. I’ll go through each of the segments below.
The first segment, “The Stockings Were Hung,” is inspired as it focuses on something we all have endured at one time or another, the office holiday party. Putting a SAW-like twist on the festivities, an unknown voice on the phone forces the party-goers to open gifts full of deadly items and use them on one another. This one has some fun twists and some great character work from Jocelin Donahue (who has been getting a lot of work lately with SUMMER CAMP, HOLIDAYS, and even the new Aflac ads!), Matt Mercer (CONTRACTED) and Chase Williamson (JOHN DIES AT THE END). Relying heavily on comedy and shock value, this one is a solid way to begin.
By far, “Dash Away All,” is the strongest of the entire film. Focusing on a late shopper who accidentally locks his keys in his car. This leads to an encounter with a pair of women who seemingly live in a van on the side of the parking lot and a curse of demonic proportions. Out of all of the stories, this one feels like the one that could be lengthened into a feature film. This one has a concept that is bigger than the story that it tells, much like the “Amateur Night” (“I like you…) segment in V/H/S which then spawned the underappreciated film SiREN or the ALL HALLOW’S EVE anthology spawning TERRIFIER. Here, there is a whole mythology at play that suggests a much bigger picture and I hope someone sees the potential here and makes a feature. This one is a well told tale with genuine scares. The best of the bunch.
“All Through the House” was probably one of my least favorite of the group. It is based on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, with a Scrooge-like dude being shown the error of his ways. This one felt as if it just didn’t derivate away from the original tale enough, resulting in a dud of an entry. Still, a chance to see the fantastic actress Amanda Fuller (RED WHITE & BLUE) is always a treat.
“Arose Such a Clatter” is another predictable dud. A man hits a deer on a snowy road and is visited later in the night by another with murderous intent. While this one tries to be a break in the tension-style light hearter, it again feels too easy and really doesn’t offer up much in terms of creativity.
The last segment is an ambitious and bawdy romp called “In A Twinkling.” Though some twisted editing and cheap computer effects, I found myself strangely enamored with this segment about otherworldly visitors spending Christmas Eve with a pair of friends. Peter Brown and Constance Wu stand out here as surprisingly funny and endearing as the friends who have to endure dinner and gift opening from aliens who don’t necessarily understand the concept. This segment is unpredictable, fun, and ends one a really sweet note.
Graham Skipper (BEYOND THE GATES) and Ashley Clements star in the wraparound segments as a couple on an awkward Christmas Eve date. The other segments are presented first as some kind of simplistic dinner theater (presented by the awesome Maria Olsen from STARRY EYES) before going into the story themselves, and while their reaction to the stories don’t do the film any favors (mainly because they scoff at every segment), the slowly unfolding story in between stories with Skipper and Clements is mysterious enough to keep your interest and tie the whole thing together. The only problem is that the story really goes nowhere with a non-ending that answers none of the questions.
So, I liked about 50% of ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING. The good is very, very good. But then there also seems to be some underdeveloped filler material in between those promising tales. It’s fun to see so many of today’s young horror stars in one place and there’s enough here to entertain and spark my interest in what McKendry and McKendry have in store for us next.
Available On Demand and digital download from Uncork’d Entertainment!
BLUE MY MIND (2017)
Directed by Lisa Brühlmann
Written by Lisa Brühlmann, Dominik Locher
Starring Luna Wedler, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller, Georg Scharegg, Lou Haltinner, Yael Meier, David Oberholzer, Una Rusca, Timon Kiefer, Benjamin Dangel, Martin Rapold, Rachel Braunschweig, Dominik Locher, Michael Schweizer Anliker, Ruth Schwegler, Nicola Perot
Find out more about this film here
Mixing the coming of age drama THIRTEEN with body horror might not inspire the greatest of confidence, but some great performances and some fantastic effects make BLUE MY MIND entertaining, if not predictably so. That’s my non-SPOILER-y portion of the review. The rest has major SPOILERS, so if you want to go in blind and be surprised, take this vague positive recommendation and scroll on. SPOILERS ahead!
Luna Wedler plays 15-year old Mia, new in town and eager to fit in. She is tough enough to stand up to bullies, but genuinely wants to find a group to fit in with. Though they attempt to make her the butt of jokes, a group of mean girls end up being the group she attaches to and for the first portion of this film, we are witness to Mia becoming friends with this group and finding a place to fit in, despite the fact that she is at an age where nothing is cool, especially when it comes to her nosy parents. Just when Mia thinks she is starting to fit in, her body begins changing. But this is not your typical puberty growing pains. She is getting a hankering for raw fish, her toes are bonding together, and her legs are taking on a scaly complexion. Yep, it seems Mia is turning into a mermaid.
Despite the fact that a large portion of BLUE MY MIND is a coming of age drama focusing on a teenager, the film handles the material in a serious and adult way. Wedler portrayed Mia in a nuanced and sophisticated way, specifically in the heartbreaking scenes between her and her mother. She is still a young girl, but does the typical push and pull teenage angst, needing her parent’s help and then pulling away when they show concern. I found myself feeling horrible for everyone in this situation and I guess that means that filmmaker Lisa Brühlmann is doing a great job of telling this tale. I was hooked, even before Mia sprouts her first scale.
The slow transformation into the mermaid is handled in an especially horrific manner. With the first half hour or so, the film successfully gets you immersed into Mia’s flawed life. We know how important it is for her to fit in and just as it happens, her body starts betraying her. The film is full of metaphor with Mia’s transformation into a fish-lady representing all sorts of pubescent angst and body dysmorphia. But with some fantastically detailed and gruesome effects, Mia’s transformation is definitely going to get under your own skin while watching. From first scale to full transformation, this detailed, surreal, and downright monstrous change is dome to perfection.
I knew what I was getting into with BLUE MY MIND even though there is no indication of mermaid stuff in the title. If you go into this film blind (which I know is too late after reading this email), I can image some people will be blown away if they are of an open mind or completely put off by the twist about the mermaid transformation. The character and story are so convincing that this is simply a coming of age tale that I found myself surprisingly invested even before things began happening. But I can see that investment backfiring for those who don’t know that fantastical elements here. Despite the great effects and character work, this is a pretty standard coming of age/transformation story. Once flipper one appears, even though Mia doesn’t want to accept it, I’m pretty sure everyone knows she’s going to be a mermaid soon. It’s Mia’s stubbornness and reluctance to accept this transformation and the lengths she goes to cover it up that is fascinating to watch.
So while this is a story we’ve all seen before, the tale is well-told, making BLUE MY MIND a film you won’t want to toss back after discovering.
New on DVD/BluRay, On Demand, & digital download from Glass Eye Pix!
THE RANGER (2018)
Directed by Jenn Wexler
Written by Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Starring Chloe Levine, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeté Laurence, Larry Fessenden, Nicholas Tucci, Jeremy Holm as the Ranger!
Find out more about this film here
There’s a whole lot to love about Jenn Wexler’s THE RANGER. It’s got a genuine punk rock feel, not a Hollywood sanitized version of the lifestyle. It’s got some truly gnarly kills along with some great moments of tension and terror. And it’s got a young, talented cast that is bound to go places. It’s not the perfect slasher, but it does a whole hell of a lot correctly.
THE TRANSFIGURATION’s Chloe Levine (and if you haven’t seen that film, you’re truly missing out) stars as Chelsea, a sensible member of a group of punk idiots who commit a crime in the city and decide to flee to the forest until the heat goes down. Chelsea happens to have been willed a cabin in the woods where she spent many a summer with her Uncle Pete (Larry Fessenden, who contractually must appear in all horror films from rising horror filmmakers) learning how to survive in the wilderness. A childhood trauma has lead Chelsea down a troubled path, but she does seem to have a good head on her shoulders. And she is going to have to work hard to keep it as an overzealous park ranger (played by the Patrick Winterburn-esque Jeremy Holm) decides that those who enter his woods and break his strict rules must pay with their lives. Having just dropped acid, Chelsea and friends must maneuver through the woods and avoid the psychotic ranger to save their lives.
First the good. This film has a vibrant, no shits given attitude that I feel goes hand in hand with anyone who might love horror. It’s got a great punk soundtrack, and much like Jeremy Saulnier’s GREEN ROOM, offers up an authentic look at the punk rock lifestyle and attitude. While we are used to seeing the typical cross-section of stereotypes in these slasher in the woods scenarios, it’s refreshing to see this corner of adolescence represented in such a genuine way. Leading the charge is the amazing Chloe Levine who, as I’ve said before, looks and acts like a young Charlize Theron. Her vibrancy leaps from the screen and there is no doubt, this is an actress that will soar. She proves more than tough enough to carry the lead in this film, which seems to have put her through the emotional and physical wringer.
I also loved the attention to gore and carnage this film delivers and Wexler does a great job of capturing the action that happens a plenty. Again, there’s thought into these kills and action one doesn’t often find in modern slashers.
My only real criticism of THE RANGER is that Holm is not very scary as the titular character. The main problem is that he talks and something about his delivery, along with a somewhat annoying tendency to mention the rule broken and its number categorizing it makes it feel more like parody than a straight up slasher. I preferred the earlier scenes that focused on building tension, where the killer is less vocal and reliant more on his physicality. It makes for a much more intimidating villain. Here, the Ranger himself quips punily, like an unscarred Freddy Krueger, making him less of a threat (especially with the aforementioned resemblance to Patrick Winterburn).
That said, THE RANGER is a rock-solid debut for writer/director Jenn Wexler. She is an exciting new voice for the genre and hopefully, she has much more scares in store for us. The attitude, the action, and acting make THE RANGER one to look out for.
YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER (2018)
Directed by Brett Simmons
Written by Covis Berzoyne, Brett Simmons, Thomas P. Vitale
Starring Fran Kranz, Alyson Hannigan, Brittany S. Hall, Jenna Harvey, Bryan Price, Patrick R. Walker, Jack Murillo, Sara Catherine Bellamy, Savannah DesOrmeaux, Carol Jean Wells, Peter Jaymes Jr., Olivia Jaye Brown, Jesse Gallegos, Clara Chong, Isaiah LaBorde, Keith David
Find out more about this film here
Going meta is a dangerous thing to do in horror. The genre requires one to suspend disbelief quite a bit in order to believe in slashers that withstand all kinds of bodily harm, otherworldly menaces, and dark monstrosities from the dankest corners of one’s psyche. Horror fans also have to put up with a lot of criticism leveled towards their favorite genre. It’s often seen as a lowest common denominator type of entertainment, and not as valid as more socially acceptable genres. For this reason, they tend to be somewhat defensive when someone swirls the microscope onto horror tropes because, more times than not, these views on the genre are laughing at the genre rather than with it. I feel the former applies to the SCREAM films, which sort of poked fun at the films it was meta-ing (makin’ up words is cool!), while films like CABIN IN THE WOODS, the recent THE FINAL GIRLS, and the subject of today’s review, YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER, are sharing the love and the laughter with all of its fans.
As YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER opens, we see Franz Kranz’s Sam frantically sprinting away from some kind of threat in the woods. We are quickly caught up when Sam dials his best friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan) and explains that he is in a camp in the woods and a whole lot of camp counsellors have been killed. As the conversation goes on, both Sam and Chuck attempt to put the night together as Sam is having blackouts and his memory is a bit fuzzy, especially regarding his dead counselor friends and how they came to be perished. But the more details revealed, the more the culprit of the murders seems to be Sam himself. Is Sam the killer or is there something more insidious going on?
What I love about YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER is that it feels like it is sitting right next to you enjoying the show as it unfolds. It’s proudly a bloody slasher film and never really makes fun of the genre as much as it identifies the tropes, yet still makes these tropes interesting to watch. While this horror comedy favors the comedy side, there are some moments of real tension, backed up by some pretty intense and splooshy gore spattered here there and everywhere. Never does this film feel as if it is disrespecting the slasher genre. The threat is real, and the people involved are conscious of the horrifying situation they are in, but do not deflate the tension by quipping the whole time or making fun of what should be a pretty horrific situation. It doesn’t feel like the filmmakers feel as if they are better than the genre they are dissecting and examining here, which makes it all the more fun to watch.
Franz Kranz is a talented comedic actor, but also has shown some chops with more serious roles such as his work on DOLL HOUSE (which I feel was a gem of a series full of talented actors and fantastic moments). Here he conveys the desperation of his situation, all the while never forgetting to add in some physicality to his performance to make it slapstick at times. There are moments here that feel as if Kranz is channeling Bruce Campbell from EVIL DEAD 2, and he does so straddling both the comedic and horrific aspects of the story. The film rests on Kranz’s shoulders and he carries the film with ease, understanding the level of comedy needed to lighten the situation, as well as the level of understanding that there are dire consequences at stake here. It’s a more nuanced role than one would expect, but Kranz juggles this duality easily.
Most horror comedies are either more horror or more comedy. It’s very rare that you find that even blend. YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER felt like one of those even blends to me. The gore and high stakes make the whole thing work on a horror level. Still, this is a damn funny movie and I found myself do-si-doing, both laughing and gasping in even increments. I don’t know when the last time I did that. Maybe CABIN IN THE WOODS or last year’s gorefest TONIGHT SHE COMES. Still, YOU MIGHT BE THE KILLER is a special treat that I think horror fans will devour proudly. Be sure to check this one out, slasher-freaks!
In theaters now!
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Luke Kirby, Adam David Thompson, M. Night Shyamalan, Serge Didenko, Russell Posner, Rosemary Howard, Bryan McElroy, Owen Vitullo, William Turner, Johnny Hiram Jamison, Colin Becker, Tim Duquette, Nathan Nauroth
Find out more about this film here
M. Night Shyamalan is sort of on a roll lately. I actually liked his last two efforts SPLIT and THE VISIT and while I think there is a lot to like about his newest film GLASS, I do think that the qualities that made Shyamalan a name in the industry are still within the filmmaker’s capabilities. In their place is a typical, safe, and crowd friendly style that lacks the bite we once experienced from the filmmaker’s output.
GLASS is the third film in the UNBREAKABLE Universe formed when the end of SPLIT delivered a cameo revealing that the multiple personality cursed Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) existed in the same world as reluctant hero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) the star of UNBREAKABLE. The final moments of that film promised a matchup between Dunn and Crumb and the opening segments of GLASS bring us just that as Crumb (who has many personalities, but commits heinous abductions, murders, and god knows what else as an alter known as the Beast) has abducted four cheerleaders and threatens that the Beast is soon to emerge and devour them and Dunn roams the streets of Philly trying to track down the psycho before he kills again. The two find each other rather quickly and in the midst of a battle between the two, they are captured by the police and brought to an institution under the watch of psychologist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) who has an interest in a growing phenomenon of people believing they are superheroes. Not so coincidentally, the institution is the same place where the villain of UNBREAKABLE resides, Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass! With all three of these so-called superheroes imprisoned in the same facility, it’s just a matter of time before they clash.
While UNBREAKABLE and SPLIT were two movies that one can watch on their own and by enjoyed as complete films, GLASS, unfortunately does not have that quality. Enough is explained in sometimes tedious chunks of exposition to catch people up, but I simply do not think that anyone who hasn’t seen UNBREAKABLE and SPLIT are going to really get the full effect of why the bashing of these three characters together is such a big thing. Seen on its own, I don’t know if this film has what it takes as a standalone good movie. That said, it does work as a fine sequel and I think Shyamalan gives us quite a bit of scenes with everyone to enjoy the characters he’s created in previous films.
That is, except for Elijah Price/Mr. Glass. It’s weird that the film is entitled GLASS, but the focus is mainly on James McAvoy’s Kevin Crumb character. Samuel L. Jackson gets the short end of the stick here as he is catatonic and doesn’t even have a line until an hour into the film. Jackson had much more screen time in UNBREAKABLE and I think his character was much stronger there. In this one, he has the same motivation—the identification and public declaration that superheroes exist, a goal that runs counter to Dr. Staple’s goal to disprove this phenomenon is nothing but delusion. So, while the intellectual conflict is between Glass and Staple, it by far takes a backseat to the physical conflict between David and Kevin (and even between Kevin and his own multiple personalities). This is just a far more interesting conflict, or at least it seems like the conflict Shyamalan is most interested in delving into. Jackson is able to deliver a few really great moments, making me wish more of the film were dedicated to him.
Instead the spotlight rests firmly on James McAvoy. And deservedly so. Again, as with SPLIT, McAvoy delivers a fantastic performance switching from one personality to another convincingly when the transformation would have been laughable with an actor of lesser caliber. Sure, the changes happen at a rapid rate and I think the more we see these switches, the less effective they are, but props where props are deserved, McAvoy once again proves he is an extremely talented actor. But I think the main reason why McAvoy takes center stage is the same reason why the film is doing so well at the box office with audiences and less with critics. It’s the same reason why AQUAMAN did so well. You can intellectualize things as much as possible as far as the difference between critics and audiences, but the real reason is that if you have a fit character with his shirt off in the film, you’re going to get women to go see it. I hate to look at things so simplistically, but I think the reason why both of those films have done well is because the guys want to see the superheroes and the gals (and some guys) don’t mind tagging along to see Mamoa and McAvoy’s pecs and abs. Call it a sexist statement, but I think it’s an accurate measure of the success of these two films. At the heart of GLASS’ ad campaign is multiple shots of a shirtless and flexing McAvoy and that’s going to get butts in seats.
Bruce Willis is actually much more animated in this film than he has in his last three films, seemingly trying harder than usual to give a performance that doesn’t feel as if he’s being fed his lines. In GLASS, he rekindles that leading man fire he had in the eighties and nineties. Despite the greying and balding hair, he’s more vibrant and active in GLASS and shows the star still might have a few great action films left in him. His David Dunn is the blunt instrument, again manipulated by Glass, but does so pretty well.
The main problem with GLASS is that in order for Shyamalan to make the comeback he has achieved, it seems he has sacrificed the style that got him noticed in the first place. Gone are the long segments of silence. Gone are the resonant scenes of powerful imagery, left to echo in the mind as the lens refuses to pan away. Gone are the patient edits and long takes that made UNBREAKABLE such an effective thriller in the first place. With GLASS the narrative is swift. The pacing brisk. The moments we get to spend focusing on the face and what is happening behind it are fleeting and that makes this film less impactful all the way through. I really feel that this was a conscious decision by Shyamalan to change his style in order to make a more popular and digestible type of film. Modern audiences simply don’t have the patience to sit through the slo-mo progression as seen in UNBREAKABLE. But that doesn’t mean a filmmaker should bow down and simply make a film to fit the ADHD audience. I kept watching this film and thinking about what it would have been like had it come right after UNBREAKABLE, with the patience, the balls to experiment with pacing, the guts to deliver an unconventional story that Shyamalan once had. I think the filmmaker is extremely talented, but GLASS does not feel like an M. Night Shyamalan film. It feels like some other director trying to ape his style, use his characters, and even continue his story, but directed by someone who paid too close attention to a board room telling him how to make a modern popular movie. I don’t blame him for wanting to do this, but I think the overall effectiveness of the film is hurt in favor of Shyamalan delivering a film that would go over well with the popcorn crowd.
There are twists. No decent Shyamalan film would exist without them. THE SIXTH SENSE had one. UNBREAKABLE and THE VILLAGE had one. All of the rest of Shyamalan’s films in the nineties and oughts had one (in those the twist was that you thought you were going to be seeing a good movie—and he gotcha, didn’t he!). The twist, or twists in GLASS aren’t as powerful as his earlier endeavors. They just don’t resonate on the same level. In GLASS the twist has to do within the story and less about tricking the audience. I think that is a better and less gimmicky way of having the twist, but again, these twists won’t hit you on a gut level as the first few did back in the day.
All in all, Shyamalan delivered a decent film pitting three well thought out characters against each other. The best moments of these three characters are in other films, but it still is fun to see them clash. While UNBREAKABLE is an important film (I feel it’s a film that set the stage for the superhero craze we are in the midst of now in cinema), but I don’t think GLASS is going to stack up next to it as equal in power. Maybe the film came too late and these superhero slugfests are getting tedious. Maybe it came too early and as UNBREAKABLE ushered in a new age of superhero films, GLASS could have closed the door had it arrived some time later (say, after AVENGERS: END GAME is released). As is, it’s entertaining enough. Still, I would love to see M. Night the groundbreaking filmmaker come back because this popcorn version of the director pales in comparison.
And finally…here’s a fun scifi horror short reminiscent of ALIENS and THE THING. It’s directed by Justin Mosley and presented on the Dark Letter platform (give it a subscribe if you like what you see). This is a nicely paced and suspense laden short. Check out S13! Enojy!
Well, that’s it for this week’s Zombies & Sharks. There’s a lot to seek out and some to steer clear from. Be sure to let me know what you think below in the comments and please share the love across the internets.
M. L. Miller does not profess to be an expert in horror, but he has seen a ton of horror films in his time. You can check out an archive of his horror reviews as well as news about his various comic book projects such as Black Mask’s GRAVETRANCERS and PIROUETTE on his website, MLMILLERWRITES.com. Follow him on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.