Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: SHIRLEY (Hulu)

SHIRLEY, now available on either Hulu or you can rent it, is my pick of the most boring “kill me please” film of 2020. Yet it won’t be on my worst of the year list because I can acknowledge that I understood and appreciated what the film was trying to do and Elizabeth Moss’s performance is extraordinary, yet it just didn’t work for me, wasn’t my cup of tea you could say. And I won’t ever ever watch it again…if I happen to be with you while having a movie marathon night and you suggest that we watch this I’ll shove popcorn forcefully down your throat until you cry uncle. I was that bored. I was that bored I was wishing it for it to be done so I could watch a depressing episode of 13 Reasons Why for Christ’s sakes. This will be a very short review because there isn’t much that happens in the film other than senility, adultery, jealously, rinse & repeat. Logan Lerman is completely wasted in a supporting role and I would’ve rather watched just an ordinary bio pic on the life of horror writer Shirley Jackson than a unique experimentation film about a very brief time in her life, which don’t be fooled by the title, the latter is exactly what this is. I don’t even know if this shit happened at all and I don’t have the stamina to actually do some research. To be rather jerk-ishly forward with you, I’ll probably forget the entire film in over the course of a month.

Becky, per Rotten Tomatoes, is about “Renowned horror writer Shirley Jackson is on the precipice of writing her masterpiece when the arrival of newlyweds upends her meticulous routine and heightens tensions in her already tempestuous relationship with her philandering husband. The middle-aged couple, prone to ruthless barbs and copious afternoon cocktails, begins to toy mercilessly with the na├»ve young couple at their door.” Shirley Jackson’s philandering husband is played by Michael Stulbarg, and he does a pretty good job as well. But the young couple played by Odessa Young and Logan Lerman are one dimensional joke of characters, you neither get to know them or care what they are going through. And the ‘toy mercilessly’ in the description makes it sound like this movie is a thriller, but it isn’t. The toying isn’t even that bad, just a rude word said here or there with a couple of weird lucid dreams. The film is very uneventful. The only times I perked up was when Elizabeth Moss was acting, but when the camera was away from her it was hard to pay attention to what was going on.

The movie acts like an experimental film, the camera all over the place with extreme close ups and some time extreme blurriness, and it just didn’t work for me. I get that it was trying to go outside the slow and easy steady cam, and bring some life into a small part in Shirley Jackson’s life, but to me it just ended up being boring store brand icing on a boring store brand cake. A lot of top profile critics are liking this film, and I can see why because of Elizabeth Moss. She is doing fantastic things this year of COVID-19, with this and the much, much better The Invisible Man already under her belt. She’s becoming the Kate Winslet of a new generation. But to me, just one performance not a great movie make. I’ve always said that, whether it be Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married…or Joaquin Phoenix in Joker. I’m not going to just like a movie based off a performance alone. It’s gotta more value in different areas, and unfortunately the story and pacing just made me want to stab my eyes out in boredom. This is actually based on a short novel, and looking at the reviews, not a lot of regular readers took to it, thought that the written form of this project was boring as well. So I feel good about ending my review with this, if you didn’t like the novel and thought it was boring, surely this ain’t going to do anything for you either.

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Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) (No spoilers)

When Universal’s Dark Universe failed with Tom Cruise’s reboot of The Mummy, I thought that was it in terms of us ever seeing new movies with those famous Universal monsters that came out a long, long time ago. A little bit after the cancellation of the Dark Universe however, Blumhouse productions revealed that it had tapped writer/director Leigh Whannell to oversee a reboot of The Invisible Man. The catch is, it was not to be affiliated with the Dark Universe whatsoever, was going to be its own thing, with no ties to any other films. That was promising to me, and the fact that it was going to be the creator of the Saw films next film after his high successful and fantastic Upgrade movie. I got leery though afterwards because Elizabeth Moss was tapped to star. I was thinking, “oh no, seriously, we are going to have an invisible woman now so that the film can be woke for all audiences?” Little did I realize how fucking wrong I was. Whannell successfully turned the invisible man from a mere insane murderous villain that was so because of side effects of his creation, into a terrifying son of a bitch monster villain. He crafts a story that uniquely ties in themes inspired from the #MeToo Movement involving domestic abuse, but those messages aren’t fucking shoved in your face every two seconds. It all blends together seamlessly, ultimately giving the viewer a hell of a terrifying ride, with a fantastic one woman show performance from Ms. Moss, and probably one of the most shocking moments in recent horror movie history, on par with the decapitation moment in Hereditary, that you’ll want to experience with a respectful audience in a packed theater, just so you can hear the loud gasps and then the shocked silence.

Another thing to keep in mind when going to see this at the theater, is that there have been a lot of complaints that the trailer to this movie reveals basically the whole thing. I can tell you that it does not at all, especially that fantastic shocking moment I just mentioned. Yes, it does reveal the crux of the story, that tells of a abused woman able to escape her psychotic boyfriend, learning that he has committed suicide, and then seemingly still stalking her where she thinks her ex has found a way to fake his death and become invisible. But it doesn’t reveal any of the juicy well earned jump scares. Or any of the couple of small twists, or the fantastic well conceived ending. The movie has a solid three act structure (beginning, middle, end) with absolutely no obligatory scenes setting up any universes or any potential sequels. In fact, I recently heard that Leigh Whannell had to tell Universal no when they wanted him to add a couple of scenes on to the beginning of the film before Elizabeth Moss’s character leaves her ex with a scene so tense that it will have you digging your nails into the armrest, leaning forward in your seat. They wanted to add scenes showing some of the abuse that Moss suffered at her boyfriends’ hands so that the context of her escape would seem more clear. Universal recently said that they are glad that Whannell said no and stuck to his guns, and I am too, having the movie start out with her escape was engaging, brilliant, and masterful, and adding scenes at before that would’ve ruined everything. OTHER STUDIOS, THIS JUST PROVES THAT YOU NEED TO STOP MEDDLING WITH DIRECTOR’S VISIONS, THEY KNOW WHAT THE FUCK THEY ARE DOING!!!

This film also has the best way of handling all the horror elements combined with the invisible special effects: using the less is more. Hollow Man, thankfully, this is not. Instead of there always being some kind of atmospheric interference showing us where the invisible person is (and how “dope” their special effects are”, such as rain or a heavy amount of dust, Lannell makes shit scary by just having the camera settle on an empty space. He does this for minutes at a time, making you dread that something could happen at any moment. And while he sometimes delivers on that dread, other times he gives you blue balls, which in this case, is a good thing. When he holds back and delivers a hard blow out of nowhere, you get less jump scares but they have more impact and are EARNED, none cheap. THAT is the way to do jump scare horror my friends. It is an incredible thing here. And whenever the Invisible Man is revealed, he is only done so in mere glimpses, the camera not wanting to show you where he is for that long. In Hollow Man, director Paul Verhoeven it seemed wanted to show Kevin Bacon in a green screen suit for every second that ticked on by, so you could praise the special effects, hear his voice, know his presence, “see his acting,” and as you know, that didn’t work out so well reception wise. There is only one or two words that the invisible man says the whole time here, and the actual human that plays the invisible man is probably seen as himself for a total of 5 to 7 minutes out of a 2 hour and 10 minute run time. The less is more works here so well, I couldn’t praise it anymore if I tried. Leigh Whannell, his third film as a director after Insidious 3 and Upgrade (if you haven’t seen Upgrade you are a moron), is really starting to hone in his craft here. We already know he’s a terrific writer, having done masterpieces such as Saw and Insidious, but as a director he flexes his muscles all he can here, and it shows and pays off in spades. I cannot wait until he directs again.

Elizabeth Moss is the frightened victim here, and while there are other actors in it such as Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Harriet as two friends and a sister that help her after she leaves her abusive ex, the movie really is a one woman show. Moss has to constantly act terrified and tortured to no one acting in front of her, and she is absolutely terrific. If the Academy Awards wants to start recognizing fantastic horror performances after their giant missteps with Lupita Nyong’o and Us last year, they could give her a nomination at the end of this year. She is that good. Her, combined with the fantastic camera work, the solid structured story, the fantastic invisible effects (the times where they do show it), several fantastic fright, and a truly “HOLY FUCK WTF” moment mid way through the film, easily makes me put it at the top of my 2020 favorite film list thus far. It’s a solid, solid, solid, solid, entertaining as fuck movie. It really makes me wish that they had asked Whannell to come back and do Spiral (aka Saw 9) that comes out in May as I know it would’ve been nothing short of masterful (I have a feeling it is still going to be pretty good though). Now that he signed a two year exclusive deal with Blumhouse after the box office success of The Invisible Man though, I know he is EXACTLY where he needs to be. If you have any reservations about seeing The Invisible Man, please don’t, don’t leave that seat in the theater empty, as I promise you’ll have a helluva good time. Hopefully I have made my praise as visible as it could possibly be.