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Men, Fang, House of Darkness, Cloverfield, and Village of the Damned (1960 and 1995)
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 206
We’re back to our usual lineup of four movies and a short film this week. We’’ start with “Men” from 2022, then look at “Fang” a new indie film. “House of Darkness” from this year is up next, and then we’ll finish off with “Cloverfield,” the giant monster-hit of 2008.
As a bonus this week, we’ll look at a classic 1960 film and its remake from 1995:
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• “Village of the Damned” from 1960
• “Village of the Damned” from 1995
Which is better?
Four years ago this week...
Four YEARS AGO this week, on episode 1, we looked at “Leprechaun” (1993) and “Leprechaun Returns” (2018). It’s fun hearing how much the show has changed since that first episode!
Listen to that old episode here: https://www.horrorguys.com/hg051/.
New Book: The Horror Films of Roger Corman
We do the usual “Horror Guys Treatment” for all the horror films directed by Roger Corman from 1954 up to 1990. Included are 29 full-length films that truly count as horror. In addition, we’ll look at seven other noteworthy Corman movies that aren’t horror, including his first producing credit, his first directing credit, his favorite non-horror project, and a few others. If you love Roger Corman’s macabre masterpieces, we’ll cover all of them here.
Fifteenth Issue of Horror Bulletin now available
The newest issue of Horror Bulletin Monthly, our monthly compilation of all our reviews, is out now. This includes all the bonus content and is available as both a print book and an ebook. If you don’t have time to read the website or email, here’s one more option for you!
• Buy from Amazon: Amazon.com
• Buy Direct: https://horrorguysshop.com/
Check out all our books!
The Horror Guys Guide to:
• Tales to Make You Shiver, Volumes 1 and 2
Here. We. Go!
1960 Village of the Damned
• Directed by Wolf Rilla
• Written by Sterling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla, Ronald Kinnoch
• Stars George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynne, Laurence Naismith
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This holds up well. Some mystery and suspense. With good production values and a strong cast. It’s a classic worth checking out.
Gordon Zellaby calls Major Bernard on the phone and passes out during the call. The dog passes out. The phone operator passes out. Every single person in Midwich has passed out! Credits roll.
Major Alan Bernard talks to his superior about losing contact with the town. He was planning to go up there for the weekend anyway and decides to leave early. When the policeman gets to a certain point, he falls over too as Alan watches. Alan, not being stupid, turns around and calls the army.
There’s a definite borderline that they cannot cross. They put up markers all around the little town. Doctor Willers arrives on the scene. A man crosses the line and passes out. They pull him back with a rope, and the doctor says he’s fainted. The man wakes up, and he’s extremely cold but seems fine. Alan orders a plane to fly over the town, and that goes about how we’d think, ending in a crash.
All of a sudden, everyone wakes up. Gordon’s wife, Anthea, comes in, thinking she dozed off. Alan comes in, and they don’t know what happened to them. Even after the investigation, no one can explain it at all. Nothing was detectable. Anthea comes home and tells Gordon that she’s pregnant. He’s surprised. So are many people, since suddenly, every woman of the proper age in the village has gotten pregnant— even at least one virgin and the woman whose husband has been away for a year. Awkward!
Dr. Willers figures out that they all became pregnant on the day the village went to sleep. The embryos are more advanced than normal; after five months, they appear to be seven months along. Anthea wonders what the hell is growing inside her; she doesn’t care what the doctor says. Whose baby is it? The men in town aren’t happy since it’s unlikely they are the fathers. The babies are born, mostly all within a few days, and they’re all big babies with strange eyes. Gordon’s dog whines when near baby David.
Dr. Willers does lots of tests on the children. They have some minor differences, like unusual fingernails and hair. They are really smart for their age. One of the mothers burns her own hand in hot water after she gave one of the babies too hot milk. The baby glares as she cries that she doesn’t know why she did that.
At one year old, David can spell his name and can figure out a Chinese puzzle box that even Alan found difficult. All of the special children can do it; every one of them. “If you demonstrate something to one of them, they all know it.” When the children don’t get what they want, their eyes glow and others respond against their will.
A few years pass, and the white-haired children stick together. When the regular children taunt them, David orders the other children to leave them alone. They know what people think and they’re way too mature for their age.
Alan and Gordon argue over the goodness or badness of the children. The two are going to a conference in London concerning the children. There are other places where the same thing happened, but the children were all killed for the most part— except for one village in Russia. Gordon begs for one more year to study the children, but the general thinks it’s a bad idea.
Gordon tests the childrens’ telepathy. He asks them if they are aware of life on other planets, but they don’t answer that one. David says it would be better if Gordon didn’t ask so many questions.
Anthea watches as David and the other children make a reckless driver kill himself. Afterward, Anthea is fuzzy about what happened.
The general calls Alan and tells him that the Russians killed their special children. They nuked the entire town from afar because the children took over. They couldn’t rescue the normal people first because the children would have known and stopped them.
The local village men march on the schoolhouse, where the twelve children have been living, intending to do away with the kids. This goes badly for the villagers.
David orders Alan to “Leave us alone.” Alan ends up in a coma. Gordon realizes that the children can’t be stopped or controlled. David tells Gordon that the children will leave and disperse themselves worldwide. Put into families until they mature enough to each make their own colony of others. David wants Gordon to arrange that. David warns that Gordon cannot deceive them.
Gordon sends Anthea out of town on some pretense. Then he makes a time bomb, and as he works and sets it, he concentrates on a brick wall, hoping to be able to block the mind-readers.
Halfway out of town, Anthea and Alan realize what he’s up to and turn around and go back to save Gordon. At the schoolhouse, Gordon sets his satchel on the desk as he blathers about science, but the kids can tell he’s nervous and hiding something. The children try to read Gordon’s mind and get nothing but the brick wall image. The kids and Gordon battle in their minds, the virtual wall crumbling, and they finally see what he’s hiding, but it's too late. The bomb goes off. Everyone in town, Anthea included, hears the blast.
The mystery of the first half hour is good. Once the children arrive, it’s a whole different story. The kids are creepy with their blond wigs and dubbed voices. Who wants to take orders from a super-intelligent kid, anyway?
Other than their best theory of “aliens” using sophisticated radio waves to cause this, nothing is ever really explained. The performances are good from the adults, and the children are weird, so they can get away with not acting particularly realistically. It’s quite good.
Village of the Damned (1995)
• Directed by John Carpenter
• Written by John Wyndham, Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla
• Stars Christopher Reece, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Micheal Pare
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was a well-done remake of the 1960 original. It follows the same story closely, but it’s more graphic and violent with better character development. Plus it has much stronger direction and acting. It was very entertaining.
Alan Chaffee and wife Barbara wake up, hearing something weird outside. Something is flying around out there, and we see its shadow a few times.
Frank and Jill McGowan are heading to her first day as the school’s new principal. There’s a big picnic, and we get to meet the rest of the town. At exactly ten o’clock, everyone, even the dogs and a pet bird, passes out.
Frank has left town to get helium for the party balloons, and when he returns, he notices the cows asleep in the fields. Then he passes out as well, and his truck crashes explosively.
Police and scientists start investigating. They paint a big white line on the road that people cannot cross. Dr. Susan Verner, an epidemiologist, arrives, as does Alan Chaffee, who we know to be the town doctor. They send in a man in a gas mask with a rope tied to his waist; he goes a few steps and then passes out too. They haul him back, and he wakes, appearing to have just fainted. Susan notices the cows waking up, and it soon becomes apparent that the effect has ended. It’s 4 o’clock.
One guy at the party passed out on the grill, and that goes really badly for him, but everyone else is fine. Frank died in the truck crash, and Reverend George handles the funeral as all the characters we’ve met come to the cemetery. Jill soon starts getting morning sickness; she’s pregnant. Melanie comes to church crying. Ben returns home from a year in Japan, and his wife Callie throws him a party. He learns that she’s pregnant, and he’s not happy about it; he leaves Callie.
Actually, every fertile woman in town is pregnant, even the virgins. Alan tells Jill they can all be timed back to the blackout.
The town generally panics, but Alan insists that all the tests show nothing wrong with the babies. Susan tells the town they need to make “decisions” about terminations (they didn’t have these “decisions” in the 1960 version). The government wants these children to be born, and they offer each family full medical care plus a $3000 monthly stipend to go through with the births.
The women also start having weird dreams. When the abortion crew comes in for those who want to go that route, they find that all of the women have decided to keep their babies, which Dr. Susan thinks is very surprising.
When the time comes, all the babies are born at once; in a barn segmented into dozens of “delivery stalls.” Ben comes back to Callie, so it’s obvious that people are being “influenced” somehow, even the husbands. Melanie, however, has her baby stillborn, and Dr. Susan drives off with the corpse. She says it’s for an autopsy, but she seems a little sketchy about the whole thing.
They soon notice that there are oddities with the childrens’ hair and nails, almost as if they were all related somehow. Little David can spell his name before he can even walk. When Barbara’s daughter Mara gets angry over food, her eyes glow and Barbara puts her arm in boiling water. Later, she can’t explain it to Alan. Little Mara glares at her evilly. Later, Mara makes Barabara jump off a cliff to her death.
Dr. Susan relays to her supervisors what’s been going on as the children have aged. They all know the children have powers and need to be studied. The children all tend to hang together as a group, have platinum blonde hair, and communicate with each other by thought. Mara seems to be the leader.
Everyone knows the children are dangerous, and Jill wants Alan to teach them since they can’t be in a room with normal children; “What can I possibly teach them?” He asks. “Humanity,” she answers. Jill talks to white-haired son David about empathy, but he doesn’t seem to get it.
Melanie kills herself, and Reverend George straight out blames the children. David wants to know about the baby who died. “She was to be with me; we were to be together,” he says. Alan wants to know how he knows that, but David can’t explain. David shows maybe a hint of empathy, and Alan latches onto that; now, he wants to teach them.
They are hard to teach; they know what he’s going to say before he says it. Carlton the janitor confronts the children, and he’s too drunk to keep quiet. They make him jump off the roof and impale himself with a broom handle. Mara dictates to Alan later, “There are going to be changes.”
Alan goes to see Dr. Susan, and she reveals that there are other colonies of these kinds of children in other parts of the world. She thinks the children were implanted in their mothers, whom they used as hosts. They aren’t human at all. She takes him to see the dead baby she took, and it’s very alien in appearance.
The children all decide to go live in the barn on the outskirts of town as a group. Jill tells David that he doesn’t have to do everything the others tell him.
Later, Susan tells Alan that all the other colonies were destroyed completely from afar. They couldn’t let the kids get wind of the plan. The government plans to destroy the whole city soon; she’s been instructed to evacuate.
Mara says that if they all survive, they will dominate the humans, so they expect the humans will fight back.
Alan gives an emotional speech about passion and emotions. Mara doesn’t care, but she admits they must spread out and disperse so they can reproduce. She orders him to make arrangements so they can all leave tonight. Mara gets after David about his development of emotion.
The villagers have had enough and pull out the torches and pitchforks. The children make the leader of the group set herself on fire.
The children command Dr. Susan to take them to the dead baby, and they see that it has been autopsied. Then they make Susan lay down on the table and cut herself open, autopsy-style. Alan figures out a way to deceive the children by blocking his thoughts and gets a box of dynamite.
The police and military arrive at the barn to try an all-out strike, but the children are ready for them. This goes badly as the men, who are all heavily armed, then start shooting each other. As the battle rages, David seems to be having second thoughts about whose side he is on.
Alan arrives at the barn with a homemade time bomb and walks through all the dead cops. The kids know he’s hiding something, but he’s visualizing waves and a brick wall and blocking them. Alan asks if David could go outside to his car for a moment and get his notebook. Jill comes inside to take David, but the children order her to stay. The children, as a group, try to break through Alan’s mental barriers. Jill gets out with David just as the timer runs out, and the bomb goes off.
Jill and David get in the car and drive away. He’s going to be different, right? Right?
It’s the same basic story as the 1960 version, but it’s all properly updated for modern viewers. Color helps a lot, as does better acting and more character depth. In this version, there is some doubt about whether David will be good or bad. It’s well-acted with good special effects and just different enough from the original to make it interesting.
• Directed by Alex Garland
• Written by Alex Garland
• Stars Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Papa Essiedu
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This has impressive acting, beautiful settings, amazing makeup and effects, and a story that neither of us were quite sure we completely understood. It’s strange and interesting; one highly recommended to check out for yourself.
Harper has a bloody nose and watches a man falling outside her window. She moves to a big house out in the countryside. Geoffrey, the owner, comes to the door to let her in. She’s rented the place for two weeks. He shows her around, and it’s a nice place but awfully big for just her. It’s a ten-minute walk to the town. He’s weird but seems harmless. He asks about her husband since she’s a “Mrs.,” but she avoids answering.
We get a flashback to Harper and James talking about death. He threatens to kill himself if she leaves him. James is the man we saw falling. He sees she’ll have to live with the guilt of driving him to do it. She says he’s threatening her, and he says it’s just a warning. We don’t see what he did, but he likely followed through on his promise.
Harper goes for a walk in the woods. There’s a long, dark tunnel, and she plays around with the echoes. Until a man at the other end runs toward her, she goes the other way to avoid him. She then comes to a bricked-up tunnel and takes a different route home. She comes across some abandoned houses, which also creep her out. She takes a picture of the place but sees the strange naked man standing there.
We flashback to Harper finding James’s body half-impaled on a metal fence after jumping to his death. She does some work on the computer, and we see the naked man walking through her backyard. She doesn’t see him, but he’s definitely not trying to hide. Then she does see him and calls the police.
The police arrest the man, and in the meantime, we flashback to James punching Harper sometime in the past. Later, she visits the town and stops at the big old church there. She has a breakdown over what happened with James and just sits there crying for a while.
On the way out, she finds a creepy young man in a plastic Halloween mask who wants to play hide-and-seek. He calls Harper a stupid bitch. The priest comes to Harper’s defense and asks her what the crying was about. She tells him what happened with James. James didn’t jump to his death, he was trying to climb down into her apartment from the one upstairs and fell by accident. Or maybe it was a suicide; she can’t be sure. It’s the uncertainty of his intent that haunts her. The priest isn’t as sympathetic as she was expecting.
Time passes. Out in the woods, the naked man inserts a leaf into his scalp. Harper goes to the pub and runs into Geoffrey there. The pub is full of men who look a lot like Geoffrey. Because Rory Kinnear is playing all the men in the village. Which she doesn’t seem to notice or register. The policeman comes in and explains that they had to release the naked man about an hour ago, he didn’t really do anything harmful. Harper gets upset and goes home; we see the naked man following her again.
Harper calls her friend Riley and says she’s returning to the city, right now. Riley says to stay put, and she’ll be there in a couple of hours to join her. Harper tries to send Riley the address, but her phone keeps breaking up. She gets a text, “I already know where U are, stupid bitch.” She looks outside and sees the policeman there standing in her yard. She goes outside, and he vanishes, then all the apples fall off her tree.
Geoffrey comes in and finds that a big bird has broken into the kitchen window. He doesn’t see any strange men around, however, and he goes to look around. Geoffrey vanishes, and the naked man appears, covered in thorns and spikes and leaves that he has stuck in himself. He blows dandelion bits at her. We see flashes of things that haven’t happened. The man sticks his arm through the mail slot, and she cuts it badly with a knife.
Then it starts getting weirder. We see the boy with the mask playing with the dead bird. His arm is wounded where she cut it in two. Then the priest comes to visit while she’s hiding in the bathroom. She sees that his arm is cut up as well. He asks her about her virginity; he’s become sexually obsessed with her and blames her for it. She ends up stabbing him and walking out.
She gets in the car and drives off. She hits Geoffrey in the road. He pulls her out of the car and she sees that he has the weird arm now too. He steals her car and drives it off, leaving her stranded. He chases her back to the house and wrecks the car, breaking his leg.
The naked man appears again, and he’s looking more and more like a pregnant tree. He starts singing and giving birth at the same time. The child crawls out and looks just like all the other men, except he’s pregnant too. This child gives birth to another version that looks like Geoffrey again. This one gives birth to one more. All these various children have a split arm and broken leg. He gives birth to yet another, this time coming out feet first, and it looks pretty painful. This one looks like… James, her dead husband.
Harper goes to the fireplace and picks up a hatchet. He talks to her, and points out that when he fell, his arm got split on the iron fence, and his ankle was broken, just like the creatures we’ve been seeing. He says, “This is what you did.”
Morning comes, and Riley arrives as promised. She sees blood everywhere. We see that Riley is visibly pregnant…
Rory Kinnear plays all the men. All of them— Geoffrey, the naked man, the policeman, the child, and everyone else. I guess this is a not-so-subtle way of telling us all men are the same? Watching him play five different characters at once in the pub was fun. Did the naked tree-man give birth to the entire town?Are there no women in the town? There’s a female police officer who appears at one point; did she not see that all the men look alike (We both felt that Kinnear should have played this character too).
The scene with the door, the knife, and the arm was unique and well done, although maybe just a touch overdone. The birthing scenes are also extremely unique and gross.
This is very weird. I have no idea what it’s really about. Grief and sex, I suppose, but that’s not clear. Overall, it’s very strange and unique. I absolutely liked it!
• Directed by Richard Burgin
• Written by Richard Burgin
• Stars Dylan LaRay, Lynn Lowry, Jess Paul
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 38 Minutes
• More info: https://www.facebook.com/fangmovie
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a slow-moving story with low-key horror, but its excellent direction and strong acting make it worthwhile. Sometimes real life is horrible, and then it gets worse.
Billy draws in his sketchbook. He stops to take a pill. He goes out, passing his mother, asleep on the couch with puke on the floor next to her. Later, he pokes a dead rat with a stick on the way home from work. When he gets home, what we assume is his meth-head mother is on the floor tripping on something, so he calls an ambulance.
The doctor reveals to us that Gina’s not on drugs; she has end-stage Parkinson’s. The doctor says she needs 24/7 care, but Mom’s insurance won’t cover that. We see that Billy’s been taking mom’s Valium to cope. He has a hard time cashing his paycheck, and his boss lectures him about being a quitter (Billy never goes to a real bank).
Billy meets Myra, Gina’s new caregiver. He obsesses over the dead rat. Myra likes Billy’s drawings, and he narrates the backstory of the drawings— it’s quite involved, and she seems fascinated. There is a lot of drama and conflict between Billy and his ailing mother, who sometimes mistakes Billy for Billy’s father - which makes for one really uncomfortable scene in particular.
That night, Billy is bitten by a rat, and he cries like a baby. They give him a tetanus shot at the hospital, knocking him out. When he wakes up, Myra is there to take him home, but he doesn’t really want to go home again.
As Billy upgrades from Valium to OxyContin, he notices a big itchy bump on his arm and has started having twitches and the shakes. He sees fur growing in the wound, but the next day, the fur isn’t there; Myra thinks he may be imagining things. Considering he’s mixing alcohol and OxyContin, that doesn’t seem far-fetched.
Before long, Billy starts hallucinating a man with a rat’s head. He imagines the rat as a surgeon who says, “We need fresh meat!” He tells Myra that, more and more, he’s starting to feel like a rat.
Billy goes to the hardware store and buys a set of lock picks and a big knife. Myra watches Billy throw a temper tantrum and says he needs help.
Billy hatches a plan to rob his boss. He goes over there in the daytime and lets himself in. He finds a bag full of cash in the boss’s closet. Before he gets a chance to leave, he hallucinates the Rat King again. When the boss comes home from work, Billy stabs him to death. Billy walks home, knife in hand, and stabs his mother too. Then he tears open her belly and eats her insides.
“The rats made me do it,” he says after his institutionalization.
The story is pretty slow-moving, but it’s got excellent cinematography that helps keep it interesting. The drama about Billy not wanting to be around his dying mother is realistic and well-portrayed. As Gina, the mother, Lynn Lowry is really good here— she’s hard to watch as she degenerates in her illness. It’s a very uncomfortable film, and Dylan LaRay does really well showing us his torment.
It could stand to be a bit shorter. It’s all good, but there’s too much suffering and angst in the first hour. That’s probably my biggest complaint here— the acting is excellent, terrific even, but it’s almost painfully stretched out. The horror aspect is also pretty weak until the end, but it’s a good drama, so it’s worth watching.
Short Film: Oldtimers (2022)
• Directed by Brian Quintero
• Written by Brian Quintero
• Stars Conrad Coates, Christopher Cordell, Natalie Dale, Julian Richings
• Run Time: 15 Minutes
It’s December 24th, and Lawrence gets ready as a man walks through the snow in the cold. Credits roll.
There’s a knock at the door, and Lawrence answers; it’s Richard, the man from the cold walk. Lawrence has invited him for a visit, and Richard has brought a surprise. Lawrence says they are both artists, old professionals, who are overdue for a collaboration. There’s wine and snacks. Richard complains about getting old and falling apart. Richard is retired, but he says Lawrence is still doing the work. They argue and pull knives on each other. Then they laugh, continue to chat, and exchange gifts.
Why are these two getting together? Why does Richard not think this house is right for Lawrence? Are they really friends?
It looked like Richard was talking to us, breaking the fourth wall. But then we find out later what that was about. We didn’t actually realize this was a short film until the end credits came up; we were ready for so much more.
The acting, production values, and script are excellent. It’s really great!
House of Darkness (2022)
• Directed by Neil LaBute
• Written by Neil LaBute
• Stars Kate Bosworth, Justin Long, Gia Crovatin
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 28 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s well made, but not that interesting. The cast is excellent, and so is the setting. You suspect right from the beginning where things are heading. It drags on a bit too long getting to a climax.
"Once upon a time..."
Mina takes Hap home after their date, and she lives way out in the middle of nowhere. He's a "city guy" and he's a little creeped out by the country darkness. She invites him in, and he's all awkward about it. Her house looks more like a castle than a house.
They step inside and almost immediately, the power goes out. Hap thinks he sees someone in the mirror, but when he looks again, there's no one there. She twists his words, teases and torments him with what he says, but finally they sit together on the couch.
Mina says that her family has several of these estates scattered around through the country. While she’s gone getting drinks, he calls a friend to brag, and she overhears just enough to ask if he's married. He admits that they're legally separated.
Finally, they get down to business kissing, and she talks about how strong he is, keeping himself young. He says he could do anything he wanted to her way out here in the country; anything he wanted. Just as things start getting serious, he hears someone else in the house. About this time, they remember that they don't even know each other's names.
As Mina pulls Hap's pants down around his knees, Mina's sister Lucy walks in. Lucy and Hap talk about their fathers. Suddenly, the power comes back on. The sisters go into the kitchen, and Hap goes to sleep.
Hap wakes up in a dark cave, tied to a chair. He screams and struggles for a while until he sees someone there with him, but they vanish. He gets himself untied eventually. The tunnels he's in are extensive; he finds a huge mound of old shoes. He runs around in the dark until he breaks his leg.
And then he wakes up back in the living room. He was just dreaming. Lucy is honest and very direct, and more than a little weird. She offers to give him a tour of the house. They talk for a while, and she seems to like him as well.
Mina returns with drinks, and Lucy says she'll tell Hap a ghost story if tells one first. Hap starts to think about a three-way, and the girls don't say anything to dissuade him, so he plays along.
Hap's too drunk to really make up a story, so he basically narrates what his evening has been like. At the end of the story, he says he'll never be afraid again for the rest of his life, and then they all get together and have sex, at least in his story.
The girls are disappointed-- they wanted a ghost story. Lucy tells a story next. Her story is less fun than his-- a girl was beaten and gang raped, but then a father and his two daughters nursed her back to health, drop-by-drop. Together, the family took revenge on the men who hurt her one by one. The story moves into the girl tying men up in caves, which reminds Hap of his dream. She talks about the family luring in victims to toy with as they tear them apart, piece-by-piece. Three sisters of the undead; their story never ends.
Hap doesn't find the story amusing. Suddenly, Nora, the third sister, pops in. "You still don't understand what's happening here," Mina asks. He starts getting annoyed and defensive. Then he turns nasty and puts his coat on to leave. He finds the door is locked.
He goes outside, and Mina is there waiting for him. She bites his throat out. The three sisters drain him dry.
"...and they all lived happily ever after."
The first half is pure awkward talking about an awkward date. If cringey, first-date awkwardness is scary, then this movie is terrifying. It goes on way too long, and after the first hour, it started to grate.
We assumed from the beginning, from the movie poster and the fact the two women are named Mina and Lucy that this was a vampire movie. Kevin said after an hour that it felt like they were just playing with their food.
We mostly knew where it was going from the beginning, but we were hoping for a twist or surprise. Maybe he would turn out to be the vampire or something, but no. There are only a couple of sets and only four actors; special effects are nonexistent. It feels a lot like a stage play. The production values are great, it's just nothing but talk until the final gore shot.
• Directed by Matt Reeves
• Written by Drew Goddard
• Stars Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 25 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a unique take, showing a first-person view of a kanji attack on New York City. We get to know the characters and care about them a bit, then follow their ordeal as things unfold. It's gripping once things get going, and it’s pretty realistic.
We see information from the Department of Defense stating that this was a memory card found after the “Cloverfield” incident. So basically, we’re told right off the bat that this is “found footage.”
By the date stamp and Rob’s narration, we see that it’s April in New York City, and he takes footage of Beth in the bedroom. Footage cuts to Jason and Lily wandering around town getting ready for a party weeks later. The same camera is being used, and Rob and Beth’s footage is being overwritten. They meet Hud, who will carry the camera around the party, and he’s looking forward to talking to Marlena. Rob is going to Japan, and this is a going-away party.
Beth does her recorded bit for Rob, and it seems she likes Rob more than she should. They had sex some weeks ago, but that’s a secret - the footage that started the movie out. Hud is soon telling everyone at the party this closely-held secret. Rob and his brother Jason talk about Beth and how Beth’s out of Rob’s league anyway.
Suddenly, there’s an earthquake or something. They turn on the news and hear about an oil tanker capsizing near the Statue of Liberty. A group of party guests goes up to the roof to see if they can see anything. An explosion across the river sends debris flying, and suddenly, there’s a mass stampede in the streets. Next thing you know, the Statue of Liberty’s head is lying in the middle of the street, and we get little glimpses of something big knocking down the Empire State Building.
The group hides in a little store as the lights go out, the windows implode, and we hear growling and huge footsteps outside. When they finally go back outside, it’s a ground-zero-level disaster out there.
James says the creature is still out there, so he wants to escape Manhattan. Some of the party decides to go with him. They all walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Rob gets a call from Beth, and a giant tail smashes down on top of Jason, killing him and smashing the bridge.
We start to see military vehicles arriving in the city as the giant monster wanders around the downtown skyscrapers. We see a news report showing smaller creatures falling off the big one and attacking soldiers.
Rob gets another call from Beth; she can’t move, as part of her apartment collapsed on top of her. Rob decides to return for her in midtown, right where the creature is. Lily, Hud, and Marlena follow along to help.
They duck into a subway just as the monster is overhead, and we get a pretty good glimpse of it this time. Rob gets a call from his and James’s mother, and that’s awkward since James is dead. We get a dramatic lull as everyone rests for a bit. Hud and Marlena talk about where she was supposed to be tonight. Rob thinks it’s a good idea to walk through the subway tunnels. They notice that all the rats are running away from something.
They turn on the night vision on the camera and are soon attacked by some of the little spider-like parasite things that fell off the big monster. Well, not quite little. They’re the size of large dogs. They fight them all off, but some of the group are wounded now. Marlena has a big bite on her shoulder. They think it might be best to get out of the tunnels after that, so they find a stairway out of the subway.
Marlena gets dizzy, but she wants to press on. They are captured by the army and taken into a temporary operations center. The soldier says he doesn’t know what that thing out there is, “but it’s winning.” As Rob argues with the soldiers about helping Beth, they are not cooperative. Once the soldiers notice that Marlena has been bitten, all Hell breaks loose. Then Marlena simply explodes. The soldier lets Rob and the group go, but he warns that the government is considering wiping out the whole of Manhattan if they can’t kill the monster.
They make their way down the road and spot Beth’s apartment on the 39th floor of a building that has literally fallen over and is leaning against another building. They end up going up the straight building and climbing over to the leaning building.
They kick in Beth’s door and find her impaled on the floor. They pull her off the rebar that was going right through her/ They look out the window and see the monster coming right toward their precariously leaning skyscraper. They make it down the stairs and back onto the street as we see the creature fighting the full strength of the military.
The group makes it to the takeoff zone, and Lily gets on a chopper; the others have to wait for the next one. The creature is right there, but the rest of the gang gets on a copter and takes off. We hear that the government is about to start its bombing run.
The bomber drops a massive load, and the monster is hit. Then it jumps up and knocks the helicopter out of the sky. Crash! We hear on the radio that the army will drop the big bomb in just a few minutes. “If you can hear the sirens, you are too close,” it says. Hud faces down the creature in Central Park, which goes badly for Hud. Rob and Beth hide under a footbridge to avoid the thing. “We should wait here; they’ll find us,” Rob says.
Then we hear the two-minute-warning sirens. That’s bad. They both leave final messages for whoever finds the tape. Then the bomb hits, and they get buried.
The first time I saw this, I hated it. I thought they spent way too much time at the party and getting to know characters that would all die anyway. And then we never really got to see much of the monster.
This time though, I liked it a lot more. If there really were a kaiju attack in the city, it probably would go something like this. The characters, especially Rob, make every stupid choice available to them and turn down every opportunity to be evacuated, so they definitely deserve what they get. Still, from a man-on-the-street perspective, it’s really good.
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