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Reviews: Disappearance at Clifton Hill, CROOKED HOUSE, and After Midnight

Working out childhood trauma is always a good topic for a character who has narrowly escaped some uncertain fate as a child. It essentially tills the soil for the adult version to tackle later this event with better, if imperfect, tools and perhaps solve the lingering puzzle that’s been haunting in the background ever since. Albert Shin is a director unknown to me, but his hand on the genre is pretty atmospheric in presenting a horrific event that marks the childhood of a young girl who later, as an adult (played by Tuppence Middleton), buzzes around a mystery like a buzzard seeking a dead body whose disappearance went cold. Instead of letting it go, she clings on to the idea that she can somehow come to terms with the boy’s disappearance and dives further into the murky waters of the seedy town where the incident took place, only to find her own sanity begin to unravel. Shin doesn’t quite have a full grasp of the entire genre per se, bringing an extended circus sequence that doesn’t quite fit in with the tone of the picture. Some of the acting is also a bit hammy, if at all to drive the point home that yes, this is a bad place with bad people. However, http://www.naymz.com/dissertation-proposal-online/ master thesis template harvard dissertation reference apa style write an essay about the indian temple sculptures une fille peut elle prendre du viagra viagra did nothing follow url source link http://www.trinitypr.edu/admission/how-do-i-get-someone-to-write-my-paper/53/ viagra shops see source here follow link go to link synthroid 125 without prescription https://thejeffreyfoundation.org/newsletter/topics-for-a-photo-essay/17/ when will viagra patent expire in us can i buy viagra at gnc discrimination case study essay writing skill custom writing cheap source link write me a job application letter how to write an undergraduate dissertation http://www.naymz.com/creative-writing-hsc-stimulus/ thesis statement bullying essay https://bmxunion.com/daily/dissertation-plan-critique/49/ how to setup email on my iphone 6 plus here https://www.hsolc.org/apothecary/viagra-luxora/98/ levitra queensland Disappearance at Clifton Hill manages to emerge mostly unscathed; as a thriller it holds itself well, has some nifty twists and turns, and maintains that frosty, cold atmosphere that has now become a staple of the genre in which shadows loom long and mistrust is everywhere, like a ghost.

The murder mystery has experienced a renaissance as of late with one successful adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel leading to a second. On the heels of that we were served with Knives Out, a murder mystery with social undertones that managed to make it onto several critics’ “best of 2019 lists and almost made mine had I not seen a few that won by a narrow margin. Crooked House came out in 2017 right on the heels of Murder on the Orient Express, but its release on internet platforms muddled its performance, and to be frank, seeing it nearly two and a half years later, it feels mostly inert. That is not a surprise; there have been several disappointing Agatha Christie adaptations done over the years, so another one is just a casualty of a project not quite working. The story is quite similar to that of Knives Out for those who have a sharp eye at narration, but Knives Out manages to use the concept and go to other directions with it and keep the story fresh, exciting, and above all, interesting. You won’t find that here despite the large ensemble cast headed by Glenn Close. Crooked House is basically dead on arrival. It’s as if the stance chosen by the director was to make an already flimsy story even weaker by inert direction, cardboard performances, and questionable events that seemed to have lifted in order to force the viewers into gasp mode once the killer was revealed.

It really pains me when I see as movie made for pennies within the indie community that I can’t recommend. That movie is someone’s project, someone’s idea of a story, and here I come, the Big Bad Reviewer, watch the entire thing (twice, may I add), cringe with every scene being offered, and give it a bad review. However, not everyone in the indie scene is made to make a good product and After Midnight, a film by Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella, is the result. The story concerns Hank and Abby (Gardner and Brea Grant), a couple living the life in the backwoods of America. They are, apparently, happy, Except that by the end of the extended scene in which both express their love, she has left the house, leaving a cryptic note, and left Hank in stasis, unable to move on. So unable to move on that the entire movie features a flashback sequence to when he and Abby were happy and in love every five minutes. Once is okay, but when your story has to venture into horror and we are still in washed out colors and puppy dog stares I started to wonder when the mess would start.

Spoiler alert.

Reader, it does start, but not in the way you would believe and I can’t believe I had to write a second paragraph to explain why. Any kind of horror involves a mood. We know that something bad has to happen, or at least, that there is a sense that something is not quite alright from the onset and is about to get slightly worse as proceedings follow. That never happens in After Midnight. Hank has a business; we never see him in that business. Hank goes to a bar to down some beer and the scene falls flat on its face when he meets a buddy (Henry Zebrowski) who is munching on peanuts. For some reason the camera decides to cut in, twice, on Zebrowski as he chews peanuts and almost chokes on a mouthful. Does this advance the story? No. Neither does a stop at a sheriff’s friend (played by Justin Benson, one half of the other directing duo who brought The Endless, another example of terrible horror). Finally, the horror arrives: someone (or something) is stalking Hank at night, leaving him terrified and shaken. While that should amp up the horror level, Gardner and Stella never change the tone and leave it as bland as an extended flashback into present scene when the much missed Abby decides to come back. And while I don’t want to reveal to the audience how this entire fiasco gets resolved, let’s just say, I might never listen to Lisa Loeb’s Stay (I Missed You).

Bad, bad film-making, terrible storyline, an incredibly cheesy guy in a monster suit, and flat acting: this is what in essence you will get if you sit back and watch all 75 minutes of the interminable After Midnight.

You were warned.


4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Hell is other people. Trapped in a box. With partial information that something worse walks the ground outside the box, just waiting for you to come out. Oh, and with the creeping, crawling terror that the man that saved you from a grisly fate is also operating on a faulty elevator that doesn’t go to the top floor . . . and is all eyes, suspicion, and sudden, violent reflexes.

Imagine that you’re in a bad relationship of sorts (although, when that relationship comes under the form of Bradley Cooper, I’d be hard-pressed to say I’d want out. Has anyone seen the man’s legs and buns?). You’re in a frenzy, packing what little you can and zooming the heck outta dodge. Later that evening while on the road, boyfriend calls. You let it go to voicemail. He calls again. A report of some unusual activity catches you off guard and suddenly–

–you wake up in what looks like a cellar. Dim lights. Chained. An IV tube attached without your explicit permission to your arm.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Michelle wakes up and immediately is all reflexes and tense, jerky motions. She was in a situation she didn’t ask for, but this one is much worse. And then,  a man you wouldn’t imagine to be looney tunes walks in and tells you he’s saved your life. Played by John Goodman, you think, okay, this is Roseanne’s husband; this is about to get fun. Oh, yes. Fun it will get. Just . . . not the kind you think about.

You see, John Goodman’s character, Harold, is a lot of things: former marine, for example. A former father who lost his daughter Megan. He’s also a doomsday prepper, and tells you there’s been some attack on the planet and upstairs, the world as we know it, is now gone.

Michelle isn’t having it and she decides she’s going to take matters into her own hands. It backfires, badly, because Goodman goes from a mild-mannered if slightly creepy host to a dangerous psychopath in less than five seconds when while at dinner, she tries to flirt with a fellow prisoner, Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.). [The scene is as frightening as anything in the movie because Goodman looks like he could kill her right there and then for her affront.] It doesn’t end there. Michelle has somehow managed to get Harold’s keys from him. Herself still a caged animal intent on fleeing, she attacks Harold and by sheer force makes it to ground level. There she encounters a woman with peeling skin on her face who asks to be let in. Michelle is literally frozen in a quandary with the lurching Harold bellowing to her that the woman is infected and the woman progressively losing her shit and banging her head against the window that separates her from the momentary safety where Michelle stands. Michelle realizes that Harold may actually not be the bad guy after all.

And thus begins a sequence of complacency where the two tenants (captives) start to accommodate themselves into domestic complacency. When you’re in a bunker, there’s not much else to do, you know? Bonding inevitably happens, and Michelle learns about Harold’s daughter Megan. Until a chance trip to regulate the air vents leads Michelle to a chilling discovery, one that shatters every sense of this fake reality she’s been forced to live until that moment.

Dan Trachtenberg’s first movie is an excellent game of cat and mouse with homages to Misery and The Twilight Zone’s episode The Shelter. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a final girl unlike any I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t play dumb; her character is so invested on returning to the free world even if it means exposing herself to toxic air and . . . other things, she makes a weapon and a tool out of everything she can get her hands on. There isn’t a single scene where one isn’t rooting for her other than in Cloverfield when the tired trick of TJ Miller yammering off screen as he films everything as “documentation” wears itself out pretty quickly. John Gallagher, Jr. plays his part pretty much straight; he’s almost a baseboard for Winstead to act against. And Goodman . . . I wouldn’t cross that man if my life depended on it. He doesn’t hobble anyone, but Jesus on a stick he’s crazy. And his crazy comes from a real fear — that makes him all the more unpredictable.

So far, so good with 10 Cloverfield Avenue. I wouldn’t really call it a direct sequel (not even the monsters are similar), but the same way Stephen King’s books transpire in alternating or overlapping universes that relate to a single Event, this one seems to be of the same vein. This is one solid, nerve-wracking horror movie with a spectacular pay-off. Except more from where that came from.

10 Cloverfield Lane hit theaters March 9.