“The broken are the more evolved.”

Three girls get kidnapped by Kraftwerk James McAvoy, who turns out to be one of many James McAvoys, collectively calling themselves The Horde. Light-haired Haley Lu Richardson (Columbus) wants to fight, dark-haired Jessica Sula (The Lovers) is freaking out, and Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch) had a hunter or survivalist father, stays cool and follows orders. Horde’s psychiatrist (Betty Buckley of Carrie, Frantic) seems to admire him, and knows more than she lets on. I had my doubts about watching a multiple-personality McAvoy thriller but M. Night knows how to put a movie together, and now that he’s lost The Visit handheld camera gimmick, this was a damned good time, with a hell of a surprise cameo at the end.

First off, happy SHOCKtober. I kicked off the season with the restored Phantasm at the Alamo. Surprisingly complicated mythology for a late-1970’s indie horror. I’ve covered the series before and will be watching again when blu-rays (and part five) come out. I want to say I noticed the Bad Robot 4K remastering job and that the movie’s new transfer was a revelation, but nah – I’ll probably have to compare a couple scenes to the old DVD to notice the difference.

In related news, I never understood the “happy holidays” War On Christmas controversy until I started seeing everyone refer to SHOCKtober with the bland name “31 days of horror”. Come on, people.


“It’s exploitative. I have cinematic standards”
“No one gives a crap about cinematic standards, okay? It’s not the 1800’s.”

His last few movies got some rough press coverage, so this is the first M. Night movie I’ve watched in a decade, since Lady in the Water (which I liked). And it’s… pretty good. Said to be a “found footage” movie, but that seems a misuse of the term. It’s a fake documentary “shot” by its teen actors – and edited by them too, since they survive the ordeal, so the footage hasn’t been “found” Blair Witch-style.

Mom Kathryn Hahn (Parks & Rec) hasn’t spoken to her parents in 15 years but they wanna meet their grandkids, so she sends her two preposterous teens – pretentious-vocabulary Becca and junior-rapper Tyler – to visit them alone. The twist that they’re not really the grandparents but mental patients who have murdered the real grandparents and stashed them in the basement occurred to me pretty early, so instead I pondered why they’re doing it.

A couple of good things: the first-person camera technique is obviously being controlled by a very good cameraman (or the kids have been well-trained to hit their framing marks). Documentary-vet DP Maryse Alberti also shot Velvet Goldmine, and despite what I’ve heard about M. Night’s Last Airbender 3D debacle, he wants his movies to look good, so we don’t get an indifferent-looking movie. And for most of the movie, the “horror” is explained away by the fake-grandparents as embarrassing troubles of old age. The secret in the barn is incontinent grandpa’s old diapers, and the bumpy scratchy noises in the night are caused by grandma’s sleep disorder. So it was heading in an interesting direction (aging is the true horror) but then no, they’re psycho killers. I thought the emotional epilogue about forgiveness worked better than the critics seemed to.

Adam Cook in Cinema Scope was feeling emotional as well:

[Post-twist] the film gains a new dimension, one that upon a second viewing reveals the film to be aching with pain, not just between our heroes with regards to their father, but between this mentally ill couple who, in their own demented way, are trying also to reconnect with their deceased children – who died by their hands. Mental illness has figured into most of Shyamalan’s films, and the separation between sane and insane is an uneasy one that complicates the film’s layers of trauma … Found-footage horror may seem an unlikely way to create a tender portrait of damaged people clinging to each other, but then again Shyamalan’s tales have always used unusual means to tell personal stories of hope that resonate deeply – that is if you can take the leaps of faith they require.

The “worst movie of 2006” label affixed to this is one of the most kneejerk backlashes I’ve seen. And people are attacking M. Night for his acting, but I think they meant to say his casting, putting himself in the martyred messiah role. Whatever.

Paul Giamatti is a superintendent with a tragic past who thinks he has no purpose in life. Bryce Dallas Howard (Ivy in The Village) is a fairy come to earth to do… something. Paul has to send her back to her homeland by keeping the evil grass wolf away long enough that the giant eagle can pick her up. To do this, he has to find some key people who live in the building. He gathers them all together, finds out he’s done it wrong, and gathers a different group instead. Meanwhile they throw a building party and a pessimistic film critic gets taken out by the wolf. Jeffrey Wright from Broken Flowers is in there as a crossword puzzler, and the kid from Heroes is his son. And Bryce tells M Night that he’ll write a book that will inspire a great leader to change the world.

Moving story about finding your purpose, about helping others find theirs, about hope for the future. A fairy tale. I loved it, especially towards the end. The eagle pickup shot from inside the pool is terrific. Amazing looking movie, bizarre/cool compositions confused me at first but turns out it was shot by Christopher Doyle so that explains everything. Katy thought it was okay, but lacked in execution in a few places, “some of the dialogue was terrible” and she “totally disagrees” with me for thinking it was awesome.