Intense drama tells the story of angry mother, Mildred Hayes (an amazing Frances McDormand), who sees, what she believes, to be a lack of effort on her local sheriff’s (Woody Harrelson) part in catching the man who raped and murdered her daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton). In response, she puts up three billboards on the outskirts of her small town calling the police force out on their failings. This not only sets the town against her, as they sympathize with a sheriff dying of cancer, but also puts her, and those affiliated, in the cross hairs of his ignorant and hateful second in command, Dixon (Sam Rockwell).
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this is a powerful film, that not only illustrates what anger and hatred causes folks to do, but the consequences of those actions. The film is not really about Angela’s murder, but the effect it has had on her family and the town they live in, mostly on the rage coming from mother Mildred. The film also delivers some surprising transformations as the effects of all this anger and hatred changes people, some for the better, others for worse. McDonagh gets some fantastic performances out of his cast, especially McDormand and Rockwell and his script gives some intense dialogue and material for the cast to work from. Maybe the film isn’t perfect, one wonders if this town arrests anyone for anything at times, but it is a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Also stars Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving and Abbie Cornish.
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The 1982 Poltergeist is a classic and even if it comes off as a bit cheesy, over three decades later, it’s still a roller coaster ride of fun. Gil Kenan’s remake, on the other hand, is a completely by-the-numbers, generic haunted house flick that reminds one more of the awful The Apparition than the Spielberg produced, Tobe Hooper directed fright flick.
Story is basically the same, with couple Eric and Amy Bowen (Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt) moving with their three children, teen Kendra (Saxon Sharbino), young Griffin (Kyle Catlett) and little Madison (Kennedi Clements), into a housing development…built over a former cemetery, of course…and soon starting to experiencing paranormal activity. The activity seems to be targeting the two youngest, with Maddie in particular being the focus. Soon the little girl is abducted into a spirit realm and a paranormal crew, headed by famous TV ghost hunter Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), arrive to try and save Maddie and rid the house of it’s angry specters.
Completely unnecessary remake is unimaginatively written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed flatly by Gil Kenan, who brings nothing new or special to the tale. There are a few scant effective moments, but that is only when the film deviates slightly or tries to add a new wrinkle, like sending a toy drone, equipped with a camera, into the spirit realm. The film rarely tries anything new, though and basically follows the original story and very blandly at that. Kenan brings none of the fun that he gave his animated Monster House and writer Lindsay-Abaire rarely strays from the path set by the original movie. The flick also gives us very little to be scared of and doesn’t even try to match the original’s bombastic funhouse atmosphere. This flick is actually far more grounded and thus far less interesting and most of the time, it’s outright dull. The characters are all bland and not particularly endearing, like the slightly eccentric Freeling family were in the 1982 original. They also seem to accept the supernatural explanations far too easily to add any tension. If you are going to remake a classic like Poltergeist…and you really shouldn’t…then at least go somewhere new with it and really shake things up. People give Rob Zombie a lot of flack for his Halloween remake, but at least he tried to go in a different direction with it. This is a mediocre at best retread with none of the energy and life that was given the original film by those behind the camera. The look of the film and it’s lack of any real vitality evoked the recent and epically terrible, The Apparition far morethan the beloved 1982 classic.
Despite the presence of vets like Rockwell and Harris the cast are also very bland and wooden. Rockwell seems like he is basically on a paycheck job and gives us none of the vitality he usually brings. Anyone could have played the part. Rosemarie DeWitt is equally bland and brings none of the fire Jobeth Williams had in the original. Sharbino is pretty, but a typical bratty teenager and Kennedi Clements is cute as Maddie, but just nowhere near as sympathetic or memorable as Heather O’Rourke. Only Young Kyle Catlett gives his role a little vibrance as Griffin, as does Jared Harris as the TV paranormal expert…but still, Zelda Rubenstein he’s is not.
Simply put, this is a boring and very generic remake whose few effective scenes come only when the film finally tries something new or deviates from the original story…mostly in the last act. Even then, it is only slight and the new elements are minimal. It’s not quite a scene for scene remake, but almost and none of it has the over-the-top energy or fun of the classic original. There are also no real scares either, including the new version of the infamous clown doll and if you can’t make a clown doll scary, than what exactly is the point? Watch the original.
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Clownhouse is a late 80s horror written and directed by controversial director Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers) and appears to have gone direct to home media back in the day. This is my first time seeing it and I wasn’t overly impressed. This is also the film where Salva was charged with sexual abuse of his young star, Nathan Forrest Winters, which makes it a bit uncomfortable to watch, too…for all the wrong reasons.
The story is of three brothers, oldest Randy (Sam Rockwell) who is a bit of a jerk, Geoffrey (Brian McHugh) who is the practical one, and youngest and most sensitive, Casey (Nathan Forrest Winters), who has a strong fear of clowns. Of course, the circus comes to town and Casey reluctantly goes with his siblings. Unknown to the three brothers, though, a trio of inmates has escaped the local asylum and after the show, kill and take the identities of the circus’ three clowns. Now Casey’s worst nightmares come true as the inmates discover the three boys home alone and lay siege to their house. Can Casey overcome his fear of clowns and survive the night?
All controversy aside, this is actually a dull movie. Director/writer Salva gives the film a leaden pace and despite a story ripe for horror fun, rarely makes good use of the premise. Aside from Casey’s fear, there really is no reason to have it’s three psychos dressed like clowns. It may be the only thing that gives them personality and menace because, they never speak, their actions are random and they are not very good at the whole stalk and kill thing. The kids outwit them constantly. Salva tries to make a serious Halloween-like horror out of this, but gives us none of the suspense or chills, unless clowns really spook you. They do make effective horror villains, but otherwise, I never had a fear of them, personally. The three young actors all perform with a monotone delivery, with Rockwell especially giving no indication of becoming one of the most versatile actors around. The characters aren’t especially endearing either, so we really aren’t that emotionally invested as the three psychos lay siege to the house. The characters also do dumb things such as stay in the house, once the creeps are inside, when they have multiple chances to leave and make a run for it. Casey actually calls the police, but emphasizes that the intruders are clowns and thus his call is dismissed by the cops who know of his fear. Just tell them there are three men trying to enter the house and leave their mode of dress for the police to discover. It’s just dumb and doesn’t help a film already devoid of the scares and suspense needed to make it work. Aside from the fact that Salva does have a decent visual style, there is none of the tension, atmosphere or intensity of his Jeepers Creepersand as far as the slasher basics, very little body count or gore.
Some consider this a cult classic, I find it fairly forgettable. If it wasn’t for Salva’s indiscretion with one of his young cast members, there really wouldn’t be much to say at all about this flick. The film totally drops the ball on it’s clown theme and doesn’t really deliver any of the horror goods, aside from some nice visual shots. There may be some 80s nostalgia, but otherwise, there is very little atmosphere and Salva gets very little intensity out of his cast performance-wise. Even his clown dressed villains are stale and evoke little fear or threat. And when you can’t make clowns scary, there is definitely a problem.