Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE RENTAL

Finally, a slow burn horror/thriller film that is decently developed during that down time in the first act. Then, when the shit hits the fan in acts two and three, the shit really, really hits the fan. Some will argue that THE RENTAL is a little too conventional for Dave Franco’s theatrical length directorial debut (he also co-wrote this). I would argue that not only is that okay when the rest of your film is downright entertaining as hell, but it should be completely ignored when you prove that you have a promising eye behind the camera. Dave Franco, he’s honestly not that great of an actor. He’s very limited when in front of the camera, but that is just my opinion of course. However, with this first big-ish feature, kind of like Ben Affleck’s first film, Gone Baby Gone, he shows that maybe he should do what Ben Affleck couldn’t: quit his day job. His future is bright and I hope he takes more roles behind the camera from now on (and none in front of them). Whether that happens remains to be seen but I have a good feeling about it. Granted, there are some flaws in the woodwork, such as the real villain isn’t ‘revealed’ until too late in the feature, all of the characters (except maybe Alison Brie’s and some aspects of Jeremy Allen White’s) are very, very unlikable, and some of the suspense could’ve been slowed down instead of rushed at times. Overall though, the hell of a good time I had with this movie is worth the price of rental (pun intended) alone.

Per IMDB, The Rental stars Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, and Jeremy Allen White and is described as: “Two couples rent a vacation home for what should be a celebratory weekend get-away.” That log line is perfect. It teases with the words, ‘what should be’ and just leaves it at that. I need to get into some of the details of the story just a tad more for my review, mainly so I can give my critique acting wise.I promise to still not reveal much. Jeremy Allen White is Dan Steven’s character’s brother in this, he’s considered the “black sheep” of his family, and his girlfriend is someone that Dan Steven’s character closely works with. Any other reveals would ruin everything. Everybody acting wise, does a great job here, especially Dan Stevens, even though that most of the things these characters wind up doing throughout this film make them completely un-sympathetic to the audience, unlikable and they all look really fucking dumb. Two exceptions to my train of thought. First off, the only reason why Alison Brie’s character may come off as unlikable is due to the fact that she makes some really dumb fucking decisions in this movie and isn’t shown doing much else. Her character has a decent personality, but she really isn’t given much of a back story for the audience to invest any likable feelings at all toward her. I have a feeling that a few more scenes of her, a well written background, and an actual narrative arc could’ve made her the only character we sympathize with, which would strengthened the impact of some of the shit that goes down.

Secondly, Jeremy Allen White at least doesn’t play the typical “black sheep of the family” movie trope. He knows he fucks up and he’s actually generally sorry for what he’s done, even though he keeps on keepin’ on fuckin’ up. But with The Rental, you don’t really stay for the likability of the characters or some of the cliched dialogue, you stay for the last hour of pure…shit fan hittin’…madness. And that’s maybe why it could be argued that these characters are supposed to be unlikable, because you can’t wait for the bad shit to keep happening to them. For these clueless people renting this cliff side cabin/home, they keep making the dumbest fucking decisions possible, and with each passing minute you can’t wait for the next fuck up, which is only maybe 1 to 2 minutes after the last. That’s why some of the movies’ payoffs from the slow set ups in the first act are so juicy. You want to, but you just can’t look away from the bloody mayhem that follows. I just wish that the movie had set up the ‘villain’ a tad bit earlier, it felt like his reveal was almost too little too late. Not quite though for me here. Also, while Franco has an eye for the camera, the cinematography in this is excellent the shots are framed perfectly, there were a couple of moments that need more…oomph, shall we say. More tension that leaded into more pay off jump scares. I know his intentions were pure in that the movie is supposed to be more traumatic and creepy than it is a loud, big noise, unearned jump scares galore, teenage bullshit horror film, but some of the “gotcha!” pay offs needed just a tad bit more build up and they would’ve been masterful. However, for the first time in a long time, The Rental is a rental I’d rent more than once.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: THE BEACH HOUSE (Shudder)

So THE BEACH HOUSE is the first Shudder Original Film that has been making waves across all social media as actually being quite a decent little horror flick. Not only for the streaming service but as a film in general. So what do I do? My cheap ass signs up for the 7 day free trial, downloads the app, then cancels the membership immediately so it doesn’t charge me $5 a month when I forget about it in a week, watch only this film, and then delete the app and get it out of my life until the next buzzed about film comes out. Then I’ll just use a different e-mail to sign up. It’s in the 70 something percent range in Rotten Tomatoes so I thought people could’ve been right, then again, the horror film Relic released last week to rave reviews, and I didn’t care much for it. So what about The Beach House? I’ll answer that question with a question. Is it just me, or is everybody kind of tired of pandemic ‘horror’ films right now due to the situation we are in? If not, I certainly am. While the film is very adequately made, a half way decent slow burn, and makes good use of practical effects for once, when the end credits rolled, an “eh” escaped from my lips. While it is better than this past weekend’s Relic, I think I just am not into ‘pandemic like’ films right now, especially horror ones. Will it stay that way once this is all over? Right now, my gut tells me yes.

And that feeling is honestly being a little unfair to this movie. It was made long before COVID-19. It’s decent. And I’m going to go ahead and give it a recommendation to you, my zany readers, because it is more ambitious than the other shit I saw offered on Shudder as I scrolled around its library. And the practical effects, in the big pay off second half of the film, were very well done. Also this film has some gorgeous cinematography and shots. But kind of like, fuck, maybe almost exactly like Color Out Of Space, I didn’t really care for the characters and their plight, the dialogue, there was not enough that was explained, it didn’t have a clear set of rules, and the slow burn was a little too…well…”slow burn-y”? I definitely will not recommend that you watch this while eating or have just eaten. And I definitely will not recommend this to you if you in any way, shap, or form are either A. Squemish (especially right now with COVID-19) or B. Just tired of the pandemic so much that anything remotely even possibly relating to it will dig up bad memories for you. Other than that, if this description from IMDB peaks your interest, I will tell you to go ahead and give it a gander: “A romantic getaway for two troubled college sweethearts turns into a struggle for survival when unexpected guests – and the surrounding environment – exhibit signs of a mysterious infection.”Although I didn’t care for the characters, the actors were halfway decent, especially the lead girl, played by Liana Liberato. This would be director Jeffrey A. Brown’s first big break, as he’s directed only two other short films and has been a part of Location Management in big films like Spider-Man 3. He proves he has learned a lot being a part of the miscellaneous crew in a ton of other stuff as well. He definitely has an eye behind the camera.

But his screenplay writing, again, just like the duo that wrote Relic, needs a bit of work. On the other hand, maybe he wrote based off of budget, and if given a bigger budget before writing down the road, could do more unique things. Shit doesn’t finally start to go down until a little before half way through the film, and by then the ‘slow burn’ felt kind of tiresome, especially when the 45 minute set up didn’t have much in the way of character development to get you to care for anyone. And the pay offs were okay but not of the caliber that they needed to be. They needed more information and a grounded set of ‘virus’ narrative rules to function. If I were to watch this movie again it would only be for technical analysis and merit. And it isn’t like I don’t care for David Cronenberg-esque body horror, John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my favorite films of all time, I just think right now isn’t the best time for me…or any one for that matter to be watching a film like this. Even though the body horror is nice and subtle, and it is only used when needed in its tight 87 minute run time. It doesn’t over do it. It’s a solid and noble effort, but just watching a film of that stature is not in my best interest based on how grumpy I have been since March of 2020. Fuck, even though I love the films Outbreak and Contagion, the only thing I can think about if I were to watch them right now is how badly I would want to throw something very, very hard at my television screen.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: RELIC

Now before any of you go up in arms about my review for the new horror movie RELIC, which went straight to drive in theaters and video on demand this past weekend, let me express to you a couple of things. Yes, I know, I’ve seen that the movie is in the 90 percentile range with critics for this movie, but take a look at the low audience score in the 40 percentile range. I am not a huge fan when horror is weird and all artsy fartsy for the sake of being weird and all artsy fartsy. It’s got to have that AND have a point, for example Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar quickly come to mind. And while Relic does have a point, it is a horror movie metaphor showing how dementia & Alzheimer’s rots not just the mind but the body as well, it didn’t quite get it’s point across because none of the set ups earlier in the film had any sort of pay offs. It’s just weird to be weird. I don’t like that. That’s probably why films of this caliber aren’t my cup of tea. I didn’t like the critically acclaimed The VVITCH or It Comes At Night either. It was all just artsy fartsy without earning any of the themes or motifs buried beneath the surface of the story. It was very frustrating as I really wanted to like this film and I was really digging the visuals and atmosphere the film had set up. It’s sort of a haunted house movie, but with a twist. But when the end credits hit, the one two part question that always comes to mind, “would I ever watch this again or recommend it?” I already knew that my answer was a concrete no.

Also, I was very bored, I paused the movie a bunch of times to do other things around the house because I just couldn’t get into it. What was supposed to be a 90 minute film took me approximately 120 minutes to watch. This is the equivalent of looking at your watch or taking a quick peak at your cell phone clock in the theater. Per IMDB, it describes Relic as such: “A daughter, mother and grandmother are haunted by a manifestation of dementia/Alzheimer’s that consumes their family’s home.” That short sentence describes the film to a tee. At the beginning of the film the grandmother is missing, the daughter and granddaughter are worried, then the grandmother randomly shows up again, without any explanation of where she was, and that’s when the horror and weird shit starts to happen. The acting in this film, along with the visuals and atmosphere, is the last pro I can give this film. It’s a three woman show essentially, and Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote and Robyn Nevin all do a fantastic job in their perspective roles. Again, the real problem here is the screenplay and not giving the audience any pay offs to the set ups presented earlier in the film. They never show where the grandmother ended up going to where she was missing. Well they kind of do and they kind of don’t. They present two ways, but neither were made clear. That could’ve been an interesting pay off. That and many other instances go untouched or unexplained. I advocate the audience trying to figure things out on their own, but there wasn’t enough hints given. Those could end up being nails in the coffin for interest in a film.

This is director Natalie Erika James’s first big directing gig. She has directed several short films and has worked on horror/thriller projects with bigger named people, such as The Invisible Man and Upgrade’s Leigh Whannell. Her direction is great here, again, the problem is with her script, which she co-wrote with Christian White, who is also getting their bigger break here. They both need to work on their story skills, their structure, and making sure set ups have pay offs. They got the shots down, and if they can conjure up a solid script, then I can confidently say I can’t wait to see that movie. But Relic definitely isn’t it. It does show promise and potential, but is ultimately a disappointment, especially that it debuted with strong critic reviews. And it’s not that I’m a casual movie goer, anybody that knows me knows I am definitely not that. I get what it was trying to do. It just simply wasn’t in my wheelhouse of interest, but was for others. And that’s okay. Not everybody is going to like a particular movie. I’m sure there are people out there that didn’t care for Get Out or Parasite. There is probably someone out there that can convince me that 2019’s Joker is a masterpiece (doubt it though). It happens. Tastes are different. Relic gets the horror right, but not the intelligence for me.

Zach’s Zany TV Binge Watchin’ Reviews: STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (major spoilers)

It’s my birthday, and lately I’ve been getting a lot of notifications on messenger asking me about my in depth thoughts for STRANGER THINGS SEASON 3 (other than my short little tiny paragraph of my summation earlier this week), so here is an in depth review! A present from me to you…on my own fuckin’ birthday. Jk, jk, I love writing these things. But be warned, I’m just going to start running my mouth, and since a lot of people have finished the entire short 8 episode season by now, there’s no telling what I’ll start spouting out, so major spoiler warning from here on out. The third season of Stranger Things is a vast, vast, vast improvement on the very kind of….I don’t know….just there second season which felt like just a retread of Season 1 (even though I still liked it). It doesn’t however beat the glorious first season, and there are reasons for that, which I’ll get to in a bit. But needless to say, I really really really enjoyed Season 3, I just wished that it didn’t have any minor problems where it could’ve completely blown the first season out of the water.

I loved the whole Starcourt Mall, The Meat Monster, Scoops Ahoy, the Russian Commie Thread, Alexei, Billy being possessed, all the new elements that were brought to the table. When Will started getting goosebumps at the back of his neck again when they snuck into see Day of the Dead I was rolling my eyes, hoping that they weren’t going to do him possessed thing all over again a la season 2. Thankfully he just has a ‘sense’ now since he was in the Upside Down for so long and is not the actual entity. Making Billy that entity (who was already established as an asshole last season) and then having a minor little arc of redemption felt a little refreshing. The whole thing is like a giant 8 hour summer, retro horror/thriller, fun for the whole family movie where the first 2 episodes are all set up and the last 6 are fast paced pay offs. The only problem with this is that the whole thing feels a little rushed (although I’d rather it be rushed than strung out into 13 episodes with a bunch of needless filler) and that character development is sacrificed for plot the majority of the time. Let me explain.

Remember the scene in the last episode where Dustin is trying to get that number from his girlfriend Suzie (the joke is that she might not be real), this mathmatical number that will unlock the place where Hopper and Joyce need to get into to turn those keys and close the gate the Russians kept trying to keep open, probably hoping to weaponize the creatures and attack America? Where Dustin had to prove his loyalty to Suzie before she would give him this number by singing with her the theme song to The NeverEnding Story? Made you get all goosebumpy and all memberberry inside right? THAT SCENE IS A GOD DAMN JOKE AND COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS. It was a waste of time for all characters involved and if she would’ve just given him the number and then they could’ve sang it to each other, the gate could’ve been closed much faster, it could’ve served both story and character development at the same time, and Hopper might not have ‘died.’ I’m putting ‘died’ like that because, like everyone with a brain, I don’t think they would kill off one of their best and complicated characters. David Harbour is a master in the role, and like I always say, “no body, not dead.” Unfortunately I’m afraid they are just going to resolve the situation like they did with Eleven in season 1 and 2 where she ‘died’ but really just ended up back in the Upside Down place.

Other character development problems: Max and Lucas, who got together near the end of season 2, have virtually no character development between the two this season, they are together the whole time, barely an argument. She has a small arc with her brother Billy but it is completely rushed and half-assed. Eleven and Mike break up for the stupidest reasons other than to get some funny scenes between her and Max. All he had to say was, “Hopper told me to spend less time with you,” and everything would’ve been solved. The relationship between Eleven and Hopper, the father/daughter angle, is good in the first two episodes, and then they are separated the rest of the time, everything meaning to tie together in a sappy yet sweet letter at the end. If there was anything that season 2 got completely right, it was the relationship with those two. The Jonathan/Nancy lover thing, that was again, done better in Season Two, is kind of like the Max and Lucas thing here, they have a couple of arguments, but ultimately love each other and everything is okay. Thank goodness the acting all around, especially from Millie Bobby Brown, is top notch, other wise all these problems would’ve bothered me more.

Fortunately, there are some very, very good character moments that about evens everything up developmental wise. Hopper and Joyce’s relationship is the best it has ever been this season and has a pretty solid arc. And remember that last minute Steve and Dustin friendship near the end of season 2? Here, it is full blown brilliant and is even combined with a great arc between Steven and a new character named Robin (played by Maya Hawke, who looks just like her mom, Uma Thurman) that works with him at Scoops Ahoy (I want to work there). Even though they are in the mall (and the secret Russian underground base) basically the entire 8 episodes, every scene with all of them together work perfectly, including when Lucas’ sister joins the fray later in the season. Also that weird conspiracy theorist dude from season 2 that helped Nancy and Jonathan get together gets a cute, little, but strong and effective arc with a Russian turncoat, a scientist nerd by the name of Alexei, who loves Cherry Slurpees and Burger King but is empathetic with the American’s plight. Also, the CGI and special effects this season are amazing. The Meat Monster is the greatest horror to come out of this series, even more enjoyable than the original Demogorgan.

So basically because of some character development problems and that the 8 episodes went by way too fast, it did not beat Season 1 for me, but at times it came incredibly close. Blew Season Two out of the water, but to be fair, I still do like that season, and love this series. With Season 3, The Duffer Brothers have finally found their groove with the series, relying less on just nostalgia references and more on story and group dynamics. And when there are references, it isn’t just to say, “hey look! Remember this!” anymore, but is often introduced to be a foreshadowing plot point or a joke that hits hard and is immersed in the overall story. And it’s just fucking fun as hell. The 8 episodes went by fast because I completely gave myself to that world and everything in it. I would complain about that long wait times between seasons (it was almost two years! Oct 2017 – July 2019) but if that’s how long it takes to tinker it, and give us a great, almost greatest, season like this one, everyone involved can take all the time they need. Now all they need to do is just end it all next season, or at the most, Season 5, so the whole thing doesn’t become stale. *coughlikeHouseOfCardscough*