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Batman V Superman: A Video Review for Your Viewing Pleasure

I decided to try a new format. Check it out and tell me how stupid I am!

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The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015): A Film Review

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Scientists sometimes feel like they must push ethical boundaries in order to discover an objective, empirical truth. Psychologists–behavioral and mental scientists–are among those who might perform questionable tests to better understand the human condition. In 1971, such a psychologist named Philip Zimbardo created a study called, The Stanford Prison Experiment. With a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, Zimbardo was able to pay 24 students to simulate a realistic (and hostile) prison environment. Instead of lasting the initial two-weeks, the abusive atmosphere of the “Stanford County Prison” became so out of hand, the experiment had to be terminated in six days.

What was the purpose?

According to Zimbardo in a documentary,

“I was interested in what happens when you put good people in an evil place. Does the situation outside of you, the institution, come to control your behavior, or does the things inside of you- your attitude, your values, your morality- allow you to rise above a negative environment?”

There have been several documentaries based on Zimbardo’s book and research, and although I’ve seen two of them, it was the 2015 full-length feature film that captivated me most. It brought to life the story I read in ‘Intro to Psych’ class that made me interested in the field. The abuse of power and evil of domination displayed in the experiment can not only be applied to prison, but also situations in war and abusive relationships.

So, what made the feature film version stand out more than the actual footage?

The feature film is much more personal and intimate. Instead of hidden camera footage with a narrator or Dr. Zimbardo voiceover, we are thrown right into the action, so close that we can see welling tears and trembling hands. You get the idea of emotional and physical torture the boys go through in the documentary, but you experience the torture in the feature, which is filled with such persistent bullying that two hours feels like the six long days the students participated. It is grueling to watch because you share in the prisoners’ humiliation but done so well that it is hard to look away.

I think what makes this film so successful is the superb acting.

The first character who caught my attention was Daniel aka Prisoner 8612 (Ezra Miller). After being mock arrested, his carefree disposition turned solemn as a blindfold was placed over his eyes. He continued to take the experiment lightly, as if it were a game, until he was stripped naked. This scene really allowed Miller to shine as an actor, revealing the fear and vulnerability his character wasn’t prepared for. Although 8612 wanted to play a game, the environment was very real.

8612’s First Encounter with the Guards

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Moments Later After the Guards Follow Directions to Strip Him

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Miller was the perfect actor for the role, showing two extremes of reaction in a hostile environment. From leading a violent resistance against the guards to reaching his emotional breaking point after realizing he has no power, I think 8612 was symbolic for the oppressed who grieve their freedom.

Another actor I enjoyed watching was Billy Crudup (Watchmen, Almost Famous, Big Fish), who played Dr. Zimbardo.

What this film was able to do that the documentaries could not, was provide the real-time perspective and reaction of the project overseer.

Zimbardo

At times, Zimbardo seemed like a mad scientist who was willing to sacrifice everything to get results. He even intervened and became a part of the experiment as Superintendent, encouraging the guards to use aggressive tactics to break apart alliances between the prisoners. Despite his obsessive behavior, he was also humanized as he watched in horror how quickly the guards accepted the role of abusers. His perspective also added depth to the story, allowing the viewer to step away from the action and become a passive observer like the researchers behind the cameras.

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The Stanford Prison Experiment strives as a piece of historical fiction, prompting the viewer to go out and learn more about the notorious study. After finding the short documentary below, I came to learn that the dialogue was almost entirely verbatim from real life.

 

It’s “about 90 percent accurate,” Dr. Zimbardo was quoted in an American Psychological Association article in reference to the feature film. The 10% inaccuracies include: the unseen part of the experiment where prisoners were “processed” at a real police department. The students were also paid $20/day, not $15/day as the film suggested.

Despite criticism of the experiment (claiming that it was inconclusive because the subjects knew they were being recorded and performed the roles in stereotypical ways to satisfy the researcher), I think there is a lot to learn from this film. It was stressed throughout that the prisoners were losing their identity, but I think it’s important to remember that the guards didn’t have names either– Besides the bad guard known as “John Wayne” for his roughness, the rest were called “Mr. Correction Officer.” Their “unified singular authority” made them a single entity, controlled by the most dominant. The guards no longer felt individually responsible for torturing, but found themselves in a position where they could blame the role or group for the atrocities within the mock prison.

In the end, this is a film that raises more questions than it answers: When fate gives an authoritarian sadist power, is there a way to resist? How far should we push humans to test emotional breaking points? Are our actions motivated internally or externally? If you’re ready to watch the worst of humanity for two hours and think twice as long, The Stanford Prison Experiment is for you. Now available on Netflix.

Examine Dem Shorts! Zygote: The Monster that Gained the Upper Hand

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According to the Webster-Merriam dictionary, a zygote is a “cell formed by the union of two gametes; the developing individual produced from such a cell”– basically, it’s the stage of reproduction when two things become one. In a short 22-minute film with the same name, human and monster become one, creating a suspenseful sci-fi horror flick fun for whole family! Just kidding about that last part…do not show this to your kids.

Zygote was made by South African filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, known for creating District 9 (favorably), Elysium, and Chappie (less favorably). The short is part of a film project produced by Blomkamp’s Oats Studio as a way to experiment with ideas and test audience reactions for potential feature films. I haven’t seen the three other shorts in this Volume 1 collection, but I would definitely pay to see a longer, more developed adaptation of Zygote.

Some critics have compared this short to a combination of The Thing and Alien. In an interview, Blomkamp’s responded to the questioned influence:

Probably more The Thing for this particular film. Its DNA is a kind of ‘80s leviathan, science fiction horror.

Personally, I would say it’s more like a galactic-zombie Frankenstein combo.

The story begins in an asteroid mine located in the Arctic Circle. The mine is owned by Cerebus Minerals, a wealthy corporation gleaning from the mysterious resources inside the asteroids. We learn quickly that an accident occurred, taking the lives of 98 members of the crew and leaving only two survivors. With limited supplies and a horrific monster hunting them down, Barklay (Dakota Fanning) and the blinded Quinn (Jose Pablo Cantillo) must hurry to safety before they are absorbed.

There are many things I liked about this film, but my favorite element was the character design of the monster. It looked like something out of a Resident Evil game– horrifying yet mesmerizing to watch. It was an amalgamation of countless arms and eyeballs collected from the crew, occasionally screeching, occasionally groaning in multiple voices. The Zygote creature was the thing of nightmares. Apparently, that’s what Blomkamp had in mind when he first conceived this film.

I don’t know what made me think of it, but I wrote down “a monster made out of men.”

This is typically the point I would add a picture of the monster, but I’ll let your imagination play until you see the reveal in the short film.

Another component of this film I enjoyed was the setting. Even though the monster was slow-moving, the tight and dimly lit corridors of the mines provided a claustrophobic and suspenseful element to the action.

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Dakota Fanning was a great choice for the role of Barklay, the female protagonist. I reviewed a film a couple months ago called Brimstone starring Fanning and I’m glad to see her frontier film wasn’t just fluke. She really is talented– her use of body language helps her to steal the screen, even when she doesn’t have any dialogue.

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One thing that didn’t really work for me was the execution of the exposition. In the first five minutes Quinn basically tells spouts out everything at once- what’s chasing them, how it was created via experimentation and mysterious ET stuff, where they need to go, and a little social class discussion. There’s a lot of info. Granted, this is a short film so I understand it was probably best to get all of that out of the way, but it just happened very quickly. I imagine if Blomkamp does decide to make this into a feature he could definitely stretch this foundation out for a solid hour of showing, instead of telling.

Welp, that’s all I got. A bunch of Youtube commenters think there’s a glaring plothole at the end. I was too satisfied to bother with such a trifle. Anyway, here’s the film. What do you think of the ending?

Examine Dem Shorts! The Rooster: A Russian Romp About Death and Poultry

To my friends, enemies, frenemies, and the ilk,

Before I start my film review this week, I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to do things a bit different from here on out. Recently I’ve found myself with a huge time management problem—not that I’m procrastinating (okay…maybe a little), or being lazy (also…maybe a little), but I’m finding it hard to balance a full-time job, applying to grad school, writing a short story, getting involved in social justice, maintaining a social life, managing two diseases (depression and hypothyroidism), and doing this blog. I admit, more than half of that was/is my choice, including these film reviews, and I guess this is my way of saying rather cliché-ly, I bit off more than I could chew. To compromise, I’m going to continue doing weekly film reviews, if anything, to strengthen my endurance—the only difference is I’m going to be reviewing short films instead of feature-length films.

And now, let me introduce to you my new series:

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The Rooster by Alexey/Aleksey/Alexei (Yeah…it’s a weird Russian name that nobody seems to know how to spell) Nuzhny.

Shortoftheweek.com summary:

A 20-minute short comedy about a working-class Russian girl, Anya, desperately trying to cure her depression by falling in love with… a Rooster.

IMDB summary:

After the death of Anya’s lover she has no reason to live. Suddenly she comes across a rooster who is a spitting image of her late lover. She decides to build a proper romantic relationship with this rooster in spite of that everything and everyone are against it.

0:00Rooster_pic

No, it’s not an animated film; this is just the logo for the Russian production company, “Life Is Short.” It fits well with the creative project, being creative itself. Within a few seconds, it juxtaposed the multi-layered phrase “life is short” [short also being a pun for a company that makes short films] with a comical image like a chicken. A good start!

00:39

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Not even a minute in and someone is writing a suicide note on a mirror. Welcome to the joyful pit of despair that is dark comedy. On a sidenote, a plus-size lead actress is damn refreshing. Valentina Mazunina, who plays Anya, does a great job creating a believable character who is suffering from a loss, and does so with a flair of comedy that doesn’t make you feel bad for laughing at someone’s bizarre coping mechanisms.

2:40

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In Mother Russia, chicken ask you, “Why did the human cross the road?”

Visually, this film is remarkable. I was genuinely surprised by the amount of artistry seen in every scene. The small attention to detail in the cinematography gives more depth to the story than most feature films do with an hour of dialogue. In the screenshot above, you don’t even need to know the story to understand there is an intimate connection between the rooster and the woman (if you don’t see it at first glance, look harder).

7:06

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When a film makes fun of itself, I typically get a good laugh like I did when I saw the English subtitles above. It also brings about an element of meta-reference.

Here’s the song:

While it plays, prepare to laugh in awkwardness. #bestiality

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10:56

That look on your face when someone tells you they want to marry a rooster:

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14:33

Great wide angle and semi-symmetry. Although Anya’s problems seem big, in this moment she’s quite small and in the hands of nature; nature being a symbol of death and chaos. The sea can also be seen as a symbol of sadness. It’s an appropriate setting for her to finally face and accept the death of her love.

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15:07-end

For a moment I actually forgot I was watching a short and was shocked the climax came so quickly, but it was satisfying and didn’t feel abrupt in any way. As it ended I thought to myself, “Ah…this is a short film” and immediately watched it again.

——-

The Rooster was written and directed by Aleksey Nuzhny, who also directed the famous short Envelope (2012) starring Kevin Spacey and winner of the Jameson Shot Competition. According to the Life Is Short website, The Rooster was screened at 65 film festivals worldwide and won 16 awards.

In the review, “‘The Rooster’ Provides an Innovative Twist on the Stages of Grief,” Gabriel Ricard writes

It is hard for her to accept that her lover is gone and the only way for her to have the physical connection she so desperately desires is by believing Petya’s soul lives inside of an animal. This is the definition of the first stage of grief: denial.

Ricard dissects the film, illustrating how Anya experiences the grief cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Because she displays these stages out of order and with varying degrees, I feel like the treatment of grief was handled very organically.

What can I say? This film made me glad I decided to switch to shorts. It had just enough wit, humor, and thought-provoking material to keep me invested from start to finish. I highly recommend The Rooster and, being only 20 minutes, I think everyone has time to watch it. I mean…c’mon…that’s not even half an episode of Law & Order. Check it out below and tell me what you think!

 

 

 

 

Sausage Party: An Existential Crisis with Food

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When I watch a film to review, I go into it completely blind—I don’t read other reviews beforehand or look at ratings…hell, I don’t even read the description. That being said, I first viewed Sausage Party with many assumptions in mind, one of which being: “This movie is probably just going to be 89 minutes of sexual innuendo.” Although there was a jolly amount of sexual imagery and gags, I was surprised to find a deeper meaning that drove the story. If you were to strip away the fun and colorful façade, you would find a metaphysical query forcing you to consider existence without an afterlife or God. Like an Adult Swim show that combines man-child humor and questions like, “What’s the purpose of life?” this film will have you laughing and thinking at the same time.

Summary

Sausage Party opens with a Disney-esque musical number courtesy of Aladdin and Beauty & the Beast composer, Alan Menken. Whereas a typical Disney song might feature lyrics about wanting more in life, or finding love, this whimsical tune is an expletive-filled hymn to the ‘gods’ ie. human shoppers.

Disclaimer: NSFW

For those who don’t feel like watching (or can’t), here are the ending lyrics to give you an idea of the mood:

The gods will always care for us,

They won’t squeeze us out their butts,

We cannot overstate how

Nothing bad will happen to us

in the Great Beyond

The food items, self-aware in the ‘fourth dimension,’ await to be chosen to experience the ‘Great Beyond’ just outside the supermarket doors. What they expect is a Promised Land where every desire is fulfilled, including all sexual desires that were repressed in the supermarket to make the gods happy. After a jar of honey mustard (Danny McBride) is returned, the traumatized condiment relays a message of horror: “The Great Beyond is bullshit!”

Frank (Seth Rogen), the protagonist hotdog, hears the message and begins to question everything he knows about the afterlife. His purpose slowly turns from waiting to put his wiener in Brenda the bun (Kristen Wiig), to unveiling the truth about the gods and the Great Beyond. Along the way, Frank becomes an enemy of a vengeful [literal] douche (Nick Kroll) and befriends a Jewish bagel (Edward Norton), an Arab lavash (David Krumholtz), and a Mexican taco (Salma Hayek).

When Frank finds proof that the gods are actually monsters that long to devour food, he takes life into his own gloved hands and leads a rebellion that results in a store-wide orgy.

Fun fact: The orgy scene was twelve minutes long after animators finished it, but was cut for length to include only the raunchiest parts.

 

What Worked

Comedy:

As many know, combining two unlike things often makes for uncomfortable and comedic situations in films. Sausage Party does so by combining a children-style animation with adult situations, thoughts, and language. Though, it’s not new (see: South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut or Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters), it still manages to raise a laugh with unique material and visual puns.

One particular scene that had me close to crying with laughter involved a druggie injecting himself with bath salts, allowing him to see the “real world” where food and beverages are alive. If anthropomorphic household items interacting with humans sounds similar to Toy Story (minus the bath salts), the connection was also made by the filmmakers. Check out the obvious, and less than obvious (“A113” is a Pixar Easter Egg hidden in each of their movies), reference below:

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I also enjoyed many of the visual puns like Meatloaf (artist) shaped as an actual meatloaf. And the subtle Pu Ping (pooping) Chinese food box.

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Pu-Ping

 

Serious subject matter:

I was shocked by the level of metaphysics explored in this low-brow film which at first appears to be a wet dream of someone who has a food fetish. It shows both the downside and upside of nihilism and hedonism; that when someone loses their purpose they can either choose to be selfish and evil or try to inspire hope for the betterment of all.

Another serious issue this film discusses is the conflict in the Middle East. Of course, it plays very heavily on stereotypes, but I thought it was interesting to visually see the representation of Arabs and Hebrews separated but sharing the same aisle.

Middle_East

While fighting over shelf space, the lavash and bagel turn to Frank urging him to take a side.

“Isn’t there enough room for both of you in your aisle? It seems like a pretty big aisle,” Frank said. Although this is a simplified version of “The Two-State Solution” it’s a bold statement using the light-heartedness of comedy. When you see it laid out as a parable, it almost seems like the most obvious answer.

 

What Didn’t Work

Adult Language:

I’m not one of those people who will laugh at a sentence just because you insert a cuss word. If there’s not an actual joke, I most likely won’t chuckle unless the delivery is unique with some kind of weird intonation. Almost every piece of dialogue in this film has an unnecessary expletive that is a bit off-putting to me at times. This might be a normal speech-pattern to Seth Rogen and friends, but it’s not how a majority of people talk. Comedy-wise it doesn’t add shit for me.

Soooo Racist:

From Sauerkraut Nazis to a Native American liquor bottle, this movie is filled with all kinds of offensive images. As someone who was raised watching Mel Brooks films, I understand this is the nature of the risqué and a way of showing diversity, but it just perpetuates the skewed way we view each other. Then again, A.O. Scott at the New York Times wrote in his review,

“Since ethnic stereotypes figure so heavily in retail branding and advertising, the spicy taco (voices by Salma Hayek) and the neurotic bagel can be interpreted as satirical jabs at the food industry rather than insults aimed at groups of actual people.”

It seems like a fair explanation, but also seems like an excuse to pardon the guilt of laughing at stereotypes.

Rape Scene:

In this film, the douche rapes a juice box. I don’t find it funny… but it does encourage a well overdue conversation about men being raped. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the right platform for that discussion because it’s hard to be taken seriously. Imagery like that might also be a trigger for someone; to have people laughing around them might affirm in their mind that they are not a victim or survivor of trauma.

Conclusion

On the whole, I was too amused and deep in thought to be offended for long during this film. What was lost with stereotypes was gained with thoughtful reflection on why we hate each other even when we share so many similarities. Despite our differences, we all feel pain and pleasure, and eventually die. What makes this movie unique is its delicate treatment of atheism in a world filled with thousands of belief systems. If you hate Seth Rogen films, you’ll most likely hate this one too. It’s not one of my favorites, but I would recommend fans of raunchy comedy to check it out.

The Fifth Element: An Action Film With Aliens

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Typically, my film preferences lean towards the didactic, allowing me to walk away from the screen with a lesson I can apply to my own life. Because I think this way, I often forget that most filmmakers go into the business to entertain– and entertaining is one thing Director Luc Besson succeeded with his film, The Fifth Element. Although it doesn’t inspire much critical thinking, I see it as a fun entry-level sci-fi film that combines action and comedy, bringing a space adventure to a broad audience.

The Fifth Element recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in mid-May with theater screenings. For twenty years, this movie has received mixed reviews, ranging from cult classic adoration to loathing hatred.

Take a look at these RottenTomatoes.com reactions to get a sample of what I mean:

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Summary

The film opens in space and quickly transports the viewer to Egypt. As scientists examine the inner walls of an ancient pyramid, they read a story of good versus evil in hieroglyphics that call a divine being “the fifth element.” As they continue to read, aliens descend on the scene and come to take the four stones that represent life (earth, wind, fire, and water) and the mysterious fifth element that appears to be trapped inside a stone sarcophagus.

Skip ahead 300 years and the unstoppable evil force that was foreseen begins to make its way towards Earth. Meanwhile, a group of alien mercenaries track down the protectors of the fifth element and destroy the ship to steal the stones. Though there are no survivors, the U.S. government is able to reconstruct the fifth element, bringing life to the divine being, Leelo (Milla Jovovich). She escapes and lands into the taxi cab of average-Joe-but-actually-ex-Major Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis).

Soon, there are four different groups trying to chase down the stones: the evil and cartoony Zorg (Gary Oldman), the mercenary aliens, Cornelius the priest (Ian Holm), and Korben/Leelo. Whoever gets the stones decides the fate of the world.

 

 

What Worked

Acting:

 

I already liked Milla Jovovich before this film, but I can say I like her even more now. Although most of the time she was speaking in a gibberish language invented by her and Besson, she made every word count. Only Jovovich could transform a simple phrase like “multi-pass” into something meaningful and quotable.

I was first moved by her performance in this film when she escaped the government facility that re-constructed her. I felt the fear was tangible, as can be seen below.

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Chris Tucker was my second favorite actor in this film. At first, his flamboyant costumes made me do a second-take, but as I became more comfortable with his clothes, I became more comfortable with the character. Funny enough, Prince was originally offered the role of Ruby Rhod but turned it down because he found the costume designs “a bit too effeminate.” Anyway, Tucker’s performance had me close to tears with laughter at times, especially with that tiny microphone.

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My third favorite performance was by Gary Oldman. I’m always astonished by his range of accents and characterizations; I was almost shocked by how different this character was from other roles he has played. His cartoony character was borderline awkward to watch at times, but became a likeable villain by balancing out the zaniness with truely scary maliciousness.

Watch the clip below to see my favorite scene from the film that illustrates Oldman’s excellent performance:

Despite doing well, Oldman said in a 2014 interview, “I can’t bear it.”

 

Pacing:

At 2 hours and 6 minutes, this isn’t exactly a short movie. Fortunately, the second half of the movie flies by with the neck-break pace of an action flick. After the heroes arrive in Fhloston Paradise, the urgency to retrieve and maintain the stones, escape a bomb, get the stones to Earth, and activate them to stop the evil presence from destroying Earth is enough to keep most people from looking away.

 

Sound:

The Fifth Element was nominated for one Oscar: Sound Effects Editing. As I was watching, I had the same thought. The sounds are spliced so beautifully between sound effect, dialogue, and music.

Here is a good example:

 

What Didn’t Work

Shift in Tone:

I like drama and I like comedy– but when a film shifts too quickly between one and the other I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…or sue for whiplash. In this film, I found there was quite an abrupt change from serious to silly, starting around the time of the cockroach surveillance being smashed, causing the operator to scream. Following this scene, Korben received persistent annoying phone calls from his mother and shoved military officers into a freezer. I liked Ruby, but some of his lines were over the top and served no purpose. Though some people might like the comedy bits best about this film, I felt like it was often out-of-place and dissolved just as quickly as it came once the action sequence began.

 

Simple Concept:

I know this will probably piss off some people, but I thought the simple story structure really did this film an injustice. Although it might help more people get interested in a sci-fi film, it was kind of a turn-off for me. It felt superficial…especially with all of the half-naked women. It also had the most expensive film made outside Hollywood at that time. It lacked the substance to make it a classic in my mind.

The scene I shared above while speaking of Oldman’s performance seems to be the most thought-provoking–it triggers a conversation about the purpose of life and the purpose evil. I believe this film could have used many more scenes like this to elevate it above cheap gags, female bodies, and visual effects.

Conclusion

The Fifth Element is a fun and entertaining ride filled with pros and cons. Although it didn’t meet my preferences, I can see the appeal and would recommend everyone give it a chance, if anything, to see Milla Jovovich kick ass. If you’re looking for an action film with aliens, this one is for you.

 

 

The Disappointments Room: A Film Full of Disappointment

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“The Disappointments Room” is a good concept in theory but fails to live up to its ambition. The tagline is, “Some mysteries should not be unlocked” but the real function of this film seems to illustrate why “Some movies should not be unveiled.” Granted, there are a few redeeming points like: it’s nod to classic horror, Kate Beckinsale, cinematography, and Kate Beckinsale.

Apparently, this film was finished in 2014 but wasn’t released until two years later due to the studio filing bankruptcy in 2015. After recovering from its debts and receiving a name-change, Relativity Rouge released “The Disappointments Room” on September 9, 2016. Upon its opening, the film received poor reviews across the board, including this one from Variety:

There is more mood than matter to be sampled in “The Disappointments Room,” a spooky psychological thriller — or, perhaps, a psychological thriller with spooks — that is initially intriguing but ultimately, unfortunately, lives down to its title.

And this one from The A.V. Club:

The only sustained suspense comes from wondering what kind of horror movie it will turn into, and the realization that it will not feature a clown doll or skittering little-girl ghosts is one of its chief pleasures.

The Story

The story begins in a car ride through the woods, leading a family to their new country home. Soon, we learn that the mother, Dana (Kate Beckinsale), has a past that requires her a change of life to find peace. Unfortunately for her, the new house is anything but peaceful as she begins to see apparitions of a vicious dog and man in black. It is a house with a haunting past and a haunted present.

As Dana’s visions become more terrifying, her husband, David (Mel Raido) shrugs it off as hallucinations and constantly asks if she’s still taking her meds. Meanwhile, she has dreams of her son Lucas (Duncan Joiner) being harmed.

After seeing the attic light on, she finds a way to explore the room and discovers it to be full of horror. The room locks her inside with the sights of deformed children and the man in black. After escaping, she becomes determined to learn more about the room, which turns out to be a “Disappointments Room” where wealthy families kept undesirable children out of the view of the public.

Following the discovery, the visions become more violent, threatening the life of her son.  Whether apparition or hallucination, Dana frantically tries to overcome the past of the house, and the past of her own life to protect her son.

 

WHAT WORKED

Nod to Classic Horror Films:

The haunted house setting is a trope in itself for horror films, but “The Disappointments Room” went to the next level of replicating the classics by including bats flying out of a wardrobe, and doors slamming/locking on their own. Personally, I can appreciate these elements as a nod to inspiration, but I think many people would get annoyed at the unoriginality and put it in the “What Didn’t Work” section.

 

Acting:

Although I prefer Kate Beckinsale with black hair, sporting a shade of blonde doesn’t make her any less talented in this film. Because of Beckinsale, I was able to pick up on some deeper psychological aspects of the film like the intense grief of losing a child. Although the story didn’t lead anywhere at times, I feel like she used every opportunity to explore the character and display a wide range of emotions that made me sympathetic to Dana. In my opinion, her performance made her the only memorable cast member in the film.

 

Cinematography:

There was really some great framing and lighting in this film. At first I thought some of the shots were too pretty to be in a horror film, but as it started to reveal itself to be a psychological thriller, the artistic angles seemed appropriate. Many of the shots included mirrors, which I saw as a sort of metaphor– maybe symbolic for the subconscious and the duality within Dana.

Some examples of the framing:

DR-staircasemirrorframemirrors

 

What Didn’t Work

FX makeup:

Just like most horror films, there was a fair amount of blood in “The Disappointments Room.” At times, the gore looked convincing, but other times…not so much. I was especially turned off by the special effects makeup when one of the “Disappointments” was shown on the screen. I thought this color job was pretty muddy and flat despite the abnormalities.

muddy_fx_makeup

 

The Story

I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t dislike this movie the first time I saw it. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it was a knock-off of “The Haunting” mixed with a little “1408.”

There is an important distinction between apparitions and hallucinations, and the fact that we don’t know what Dana was seeing at the end felt like a let-down with no payoff. Sometimes ambiguous endings work great, but this is not one of those times. Ultimately, it lacks the originality and suspense to make it something worthwhile.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, director and co-writer D.J. Caruso should’ve made sure this script went through a couple more drafts before it was made. Although “The Disappointments Room” wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, it was is far from the best. Should you watch it? I don’t know. If you’re a horror junkie, it wouldn’t hurt to put it in your repertoire. It’s on Netflix, you decide for yourself.