October 3, 2018

Diary Of A Movie Watchin' Madman Volume III - The Long Overdue Reboot

     So...seen any good horror lately?  This is the first time I've kept a viewing diary for Pre'Ween since 2014.  I find myself a bit more enthusiastic about my accelerated Pre'Ween viewing schedule than I've been for many a moon, and the capsulized review format of these entries seemed tailor made for dipping my toe in the bloody pool again after such a long absence.  Please be kind, as it's been a long time since I flexed my withered old writing muscle.

Channel Zero Candle Cove (2016)
(10/1) Channel Zero - Candle Cove (2016)  As is usually the case with newer offerings, I'm way behind the curve on catching up with Syfy's creepypasta inspired horror anthology series Channel Zero.  Season four is scheduled to debut at the end of this month, and I am only now having my first look at season one.  Thanks, Shudder.

     I'm only two episodes in, and I am thus far fairly enamored of what I've seen.  Based upon a creepypasta by cartoonist and author Kris Straub that first surfaced in 2009, the six episode first season seems well poised to expand upon the tale of a fictional children's television series (called Candle Cove, natch) that can only be viewed by a small group of people, usually children.

     Even on ad-free Shudder, I do find myself a little too cognizant of the rhythm of cable programming designed to accommodate commercial breaks (a problem I've always had with TV horror), but Candle Cove already seems to be getting a lot of things right.  The performances, at least the most important ones, are uniformly decent.  Paul Schneider as troubled child psychologist Mike Painter and Fiona Shaw as Mike's less overtly damaged mother Marla Painter have been standouts.  Nothing has quite had me pissing my diddies yet, but my interest is piqued.

     I kicked off this year's Pre'Ween festivities with my initial impression of Candle Cove because I intend to return to it for a more in depth analysis after I've finished viewing.  Just for point of reference, Candle Cove already has a leg up on Hulu's recent Stephen King penned opus Castle Rock.  I barely got through one episode of that, and I had absolutely no interest in going any further.  Did I miss out on anything by jumping ship too soon?

     I should also note that at least initially I believe one of the things Channel Zero has gotten right is limiting its self-contained single season arc to only six episodes.  I gave up on American Horror Story about four seasons ago, at least in part because every season seemed to run out of steam around episode seven or eight on its grim march to an obligatory dozen or so episodes. (First Watch)

Oculus (2013) creepiest scene
The creepiest scene in Oculus (2013) , spoiled by the trailer.
(10/2) Oculus (2013)  "You are entering an area adjacent to a location.  The kind of place where there might be a monster, or some kind of weird mirror.  These are just examples.  It could be something much better.  Prepare to enter... The Scary Door."   Futurama

     Thank you, Futurama, for once again stripping bare the very essence of my nerdified, horror loving existence.  A movie built around the premise of a haunted mirror should have been enough of a red flag to guarantee that I continued to steer clear of director Mike Flanagan's Oculus, but the promise of something much better suckered me in against my better judgement.  Only last week I watched Paco Plaza's Veronica (2017), a movie built around the premise of a haunted Ouija board, and I quite enjoyed it.  I harbor a strongly held belief that there is nothing new under the sun, and the best an inveterate horror fan can reasonably hope for now is a well executed, technically proficient rehash of something he or she has already seen before.  Competency is the new high water mark.

     I was cautiously optimistic about Oculus because I'd been pleasantly surprised by the competency of Flanagan's Hush (2016), itself a competently rendered rehash of Wait Until Dark (1967) with a deaf protagonist subbing for the blind protagonist of its predecessor.  No shame in that.  Flanagan fashioned an undeniably effective thriller from the borrowed nuts and bolts of an undeniably effective cinematic precursor.  Maybe lightning could strike twice?  Sadly, no.  At least, not this time.  Perhaps Flanagan's own rehash of the haunted Ouija board trope entitled Ouija: Origin Of Evil (2016) succeeds where Oculus failed.  I'll likely never know.  I think I've grown weary of watching the snake eat its own tail.

     Oculus is a heartbreaker because it does in fact show promise in the early going.  It seems all the talent involved was striving for something better than the muddled gumbo of horror cliches it ultimately becomes.  Unfortunately, Oculus falls prey to entirely too much rubber reality chaos in the third act by crosscutting between the horrors of the past and the trials of the present, and then it completely screws the pooch by ending with a "twist" that was telegraphed at the end of the first act to any viewer familiar with the concept of Chekov's Gun.  It's definitely not an embarrassing effort, but it's a frustrating one.

     Mike Flanagan is talented.  He can do better than just slapping a fresh coat of paint on rickety old narratives.  That being said, his next high profile venture is The Haunting Of Hill House, which premieres on Netflix on October 12th.  It already has a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Yeah, I'm gonna watch it.  What do I know?  (First Watch)

     Stay tuned.  There's probably more diary entries to come...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...