It Follows (2014)

itfollows0120 minutes of previews?

First, we are treated to the wholly unnecessary remake of Poltergeist, a movie that was almost perfect in its original incarnation.  We see several of the same exact same beats — the houses built over the cemetery, the clown, the ghostbuster, the hands on the TV, the killer tree.  I can’t see this through the eyes of an 18 year old, but to anyone who saw the original back in the day, this preview pales on almost every point; and pales literally, since it is so dark.

Much of the success of the original was that it was constructed on sunny days, a new neighborhood, clean streets,and with a happy family with 2.5 kids — it was the Stephen King / Richard Matheson horror-in-our-own-neighborhood concept.  Everything in this trailer goes for the cliched dark motif. The “harmless” toy clown is now sports an evil smirk, the new home is described as a fixer-upper, even the absolutely radiant blonde original Carol Anne is now a brunette.

And JoBeth Williams might have been the first MILF, even before there was an acronym for the phenomena.  No one who enjoyed the original can be looking forward to this.

Insidious was fun.  Insidious 2 was fun, but got a little too busy in the final act.  Insidious 3 does not look like fun.  Like the Poltergeist remake, all of the scares in the trailer are cheap jump-scares.  And, for the love of God, can we have one movie that Lin Shaye is not in?  OK, she’s not in Poltergeist, but she has 10 movies in 2015 so far in IMDb.  Give someone else a chance.

On the other hand, Unfriended is not a sequel, looks like a low-budget joint and I didn’t recognize a single person in it.  Yet, miraculously, I actually got several real chills from its preview, and not a single goose-bump from the other two.  Maybe it will be crap, but it is the only one I could care less about seeing.

Each of these trailers was not 6+ minutes long, so there must have been others, but they were so uninteresting that I have forgotten them a few hours later.

And, hey Regal Cinema — no one cares about your nagging, product-placement-loaded roller coaster.  Yes, texters should be killed — I think we can all agree on that — but you’re just delaying the movie another minute.

And now our feature presentation . . .

itfollows02After seeing the film, I read many interpretations of It Follows.  I don’t know that I really subscribe to any of them.  Is it a metaphor for adolescence?  For a budding young love affair?  For an STD?  Does the water represent innocence?  Don’t know, don’t care.

We are thrust into the narrative immediately as we see a girl run from her house in a snappy lingerie set and spiked heels.  How this ensemble was put put together is not explained, but is worthy of later reflection by the viewer.  Her father comes after her, but she runs back into the house, presumably to get car keys as Victoria’s Secret still refuses to put pockets in their panties.  She ends up at the beach, dead with a leg bent at the knee — the wrong way.

After having the sex with Jay in the backseat of a car, Hugh chloroforms her and ties her to a chair. He explains to her and to us that he has passed along a curse (although that word is never used, so thank God no one is trotting out the menstruation metaphor again).  A thing is now going to follow her, but must never be allowed to catch her.  Only she and previous owners of the curse can see this thing which can take the form of anyone.  It is not clear why he ties her to a chair to make his point, as he does untie her and take her home (i.e. dumps her in the street) when the thing arrives.

The bulk of the movie is the very slow Michael Myers / Walking Dead speed pursuit of Jay (who is a teenage girl, BTW), sometimes across many miles of country.  The relentlessness of the pursuit provides an over-arching suspense, and periodic battles with the thing provide some good scares and action.  Like the Terminator, it absolutely will not stop until Jay is dead; or passes the curse to someone else via sex.  And once Jay is dead, it will go back up the food-chain and kill Hugh.

The thing always shows up in the form of a person and only visible to Jay.  On the first sighting, it is a completely naked woman.  Other times, the thing takes the form of other women and men, some of which Jay recognizes.  Kind of like er . . . The Thing.  So the suspense is heightened — as in Paranormal Activity — by the viewer constantly being on the lookout for anyone in the background who could become a threat.

The viewer is also subtly kept off-balance by the indeterminate time of the film.  Like the hatch in Lost which had an eclectic mixture of new appliances and 1970s stereo, there are conflicting signals.  The cars all seen to be old family trucksters, but one girl seems to be reading from a clam-shell Kindle.  Or maybe it is a cell-phone — if it is, it is the only cell-phone in the movie and is never used as one.

All of this keeps the viewer constantly on edge, and makes for a great experience. There is some wailing and moaning about a couple of scenes or unanswered questioned, but are you going to obsess over details, or have a good time?

Highly recommended.


  • Despite all the references to other titles above, I never once felt like this was unoriginal.
  • For some reason I can’t figure out, the thing frequently shows up totally or partially naked.  This is not as good as it sounds as it rarely takes the form of anyone you want to see naked.  Especially the naked guy standing on the roof — to be fair, he does thankfully appear to be wearing a Speedo, or is maybe is in desperate need of some manscaping.
  • I took an immediate dislike to the score other than in the set-pieces.  It seems to be praised everywhere else, though, so I am willing to chalk that up to a tin ear.

The Signal (2014)

signalcover01Anyone who watches way too many movies and sees this poster thinks, Moon.  If you liked Moon, that’s a good thing.  If you didn’t like Moon, at least you’re in for a surprise treat with The Signal.

It starts off feeling like a thousand other horror movies, with a small group of friends on a road trip.  Somehow it has a handheld feel even though it is not handheld, and doesn’t even use the shaky-cam. Maybe because it has an unattached odd-numbered wheel character, often the camera wielder in those films.

Jonah and the couple, Nic & Haley, are driving Haley to Cal Tech.  The vibe switches gears a little, but smoothly, to techno-thriller, showing the two guys trying to track down a hacker that had targeted them at MIT.  So, no dummies these — a major deviation from most horror movies.

Then, it is back to a horror vibe as their investigation leads them on a side-trip down a dirt road ending at a dilapidated house.  They bravely search the house, even going into the Blair Witchy, Evil Deady basement.  When they hear screams from Haley, they race back to the car.  Then we do have a bit of shaky-cam action with bright lights and chaos.

signallf01Nic wakes up in government facility staffed by employees wearing hazmat suits.  Laurence Fishburne tells Nic that what they saw at the house was an EBE.  He is otherwise tight with any info about where they are or the condition of his friends.  For his part, his legs which required crutches before, seem to not be functional at all.

Nic makes an unsuccessful escape attempt with Haley in tow — literally — he is rolling out in his wheelchair with a tow-line attached to her gurney.  The attempt is so quixotic, that it almost seems like it must have been a dream; especially as numerous workers come absurdly close without spotting them.

Nic makes a shocking discovery about his condition, and attempts another unlikely escape with Haley.  This time they manage to escape the facility and find themselves in the desert.  From here they encounter some very strange locals, and they story takes another turn into the superhero / fantasy realm.

signallf02Throughout its twists, I was consistently interested and entertained.  Several reviews have complained about pacing, but I had no issues at all.  One went so far as to give the screenplay a D grade.  There certainly is a huge question at the end, but it is the kind best left to the audience to resolve for themselves.

If I had to lodge one criticism, it would be that the Haley character is pretty much a zero. She is the reason they are travelling to California, but not for any otherwise plot-relevant purpose.  She is absent or in a coma for much of the film.  She does not assist in the escapes, being literally a drag in the first attempt. While Nic and Jonah experience certain changes during their captivity, Haley really does not.  There is evidence of surgical tinkering with her body, but no overt changes as we see in the other two.  She is Winston Zeddemore.  Except white.  And female.  And cute (sorry, Z).

Very good stuff.


  • Haley is played by the very cute Olivia Cooke from Bates Motel — I did not recognize her without the tubes in her nose.
  • My occasional prosopagnosia also prevented me from recognizing Brenton Thwaites from the very good Oculus which I just saw on April 12th (yeah, I keep track).
  • Wikipedia says Sarah Clarke (Nina Myers from 24) was in this, but IMDb does not list her.  Her, I can’t believe I would have missed.  Based on the trailers, I get the sense there were a LOT of scenes cut.
  • Not to be confused with The Signal, a 2007 horror joint that I liked.  Or according to IMDb, Signal which will be released in 2015, or The Signal which will be released in 2016, or The Signal currently in development (c’mon 2017!).

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Conedgeoftomcover01s: Got to the Theater 8 minutes late, anticipating the usual 17 minutes of previews. Miraculously, the movie had already started.  OK, I can’t blame the film for that, but I’m grasping for straws because the movie itself was very good.

Tom Cruise is caught in a time loop similar to Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, except some chick is shooting him in the head in most of the iterations.

Also, he is waking to each reset day with a sergeant screaming “On your feet maggot!” rather than hearing “I Got You Babe” on the radio.  Although around the 20th time, I’m not sure which would be worse.

It gets off to an interesting start — at least at the point where I where I strolled in — as Tom Cruise is not playing his usual confident, infallible, smirking superman. Here he is Don Draper, or more accurately Pete Campbell, a weaselly military ad man who finds himself on the front lines of a war with aliens.  He does his best to talk, spin, and blackmail his way out of being sent into the real war, but to no avail

He is busted to private and assigned to a combat unit commanded by Bill Paxton, who is great in this role despite being possibly the worst actor to ever make a fine living working full-time in movies; he is frequently a great character, but that is not the same.  The irony is that among the grunts he commands there is not a single character as interesting as Hudson in Aliens.  OK, I guess the indistinguishable soldiers are the real “con” of the movie.

Once in combat, he is pretty quickly killed.  But not before killing one of the aliens. Not just a regular alien, but a 1 in 6 million alien that possesses time-travel capabilities.  You’d think the aliens would protect such a rare, valuable resource, but no.  After blasting the alien, Cruise gets a blood, guts & goo facial. This is enough to transfer the time-travel abilities to him.  When he is killed, he resets / awakens the previous morning.

Eventually, Cruise becomes the superhuman killing machine that we expect him to be.  The difference here is that it is earned.  We see him repeatedly fail, die, and learn from his mistakes.  For him, Nietzsche was wrong — What DOES kill him makes him stronger.  There are no participation trophies.  Cruise gets a rare chance to develop a character — from smug ad man, to scared toy-soldier, to born-again hard — and completely pulls it off.

Emily Blunt plays a war hero aka The Angel of Verdun aka Full Metal Bitch who had earlier been stuck in a time-loop.  Understanding Cruise’s potential as a weapon, she becomes his trainer and partner.  If there was one thing I didn’t care for in the movie, it was her.  The character is OK, but the actress just brought nothing special to the role.  OK, forget the indistinguishable soldiers, they were just bit players and ultimately cannon-fodder — the miscasting of Emily Blunt would be the only “con” I could come up with.

Toward the end, there were several things I didn’t understand.  For example:

  1. Cruise seemed to indicate he was teaching himself to fly the helicopter at the farmhouse, but then told Blunt that an alien would hear the noise and attack it if were even started (which she proved to be true).
  2. Before attacking the Louvre, Cruise says not to kill any of the Alpha aliens because that would alert the Omega alien who would would then reset the day.  But they do go in guns a-blazing, killing scores of aliens.
  3. And, of course, the whole ending.

Mostly likely all of these are explainable by a) dialogue I missed, or b) the fact that the theater now serves beer.

Except the ending.

So, maybe the real “con” is the ending; in more ways than one.  Certainly that seems to be creating a lot of online chatter.  But then most chatterers are praising Emily Blunt, too.  I can construct a scenario in which it makes sense to me, even if it is not airtight.  This ain’t Algebra; both sides of the equation don’t have to balance to be entertaining.

Rating: I’d rather sit through a time-loop viewing this movie than have to sit through Godzilla one more time.

Post-Post Leftovers:

  • Great movie, but terrible title — sounds like a soap opera.
  • Why the European setting?  Callback to D-Day?  Tired of destroying Washington and New York?  Got news for you, people love seeing Washington destroyed. Maybe it is not PC during this administration.
  • I can’t figure out what the giant paddle is that she is carrying.
  • The shadow of Aliens looms large, and not just for Paxton and the cargo-loaders.  When told they could not shoot the aliens at the Louvre, I really wanted to hear, “What the hell are we supposed to use, man?  Harsh language?
  • As usual, I regret going 3D.  It was fine, but pointless, in the static shots; but many of the action scenes were a mess.  Also, it darkens the screen so much that I never was able to make out the last word of Full Metal Bitch on the poster, and didn’t recognize Emily Blunt as being the woman pictured.  Possibly due to sitting at a sharp angle to the screen.
  • Seventeen minutes does seem to be the average for previews.  However, the new X-Men ran longer, and the Evil Dead reboot last year had a record-breaking 25 minutes.  I wouldn’t care if they lasted an hour — if we knew they would last an hour.  Here’s a way to start — no advertising for movies that won’t be in the theater for 2 years.
  • There really is a Science Hill, KY but I can’t figure out why they would have made it Paxton’s character’s hometown.  Bill Paxton was born in Fort Worth, TX.  He was photographed waving to JFK leaving his hotel the morning he was killed, and later attended Lee Harvey Oswald’s old high school.  John Denver also attended the same high school, but there is no photographic evidence linking Paxton to his death.

Godzilla (2013)

godzillacover02What is wrong with you people?  By “you people”, I mean the 72% of critics and 77% of normal people on Rotten Tomatoes who liked this.

I actually dozed off more than once during this fiasco.  Does that disqualify me from giving a review?  Or is that the review?  And this was after starting off with a 128 ounce Coke.

It starts out great — the montage under the opening credits is fascinating.  Then people start talking.  No movie I have covered on this site has had more lackluster dialogue than Godzilla (the movie, not the monster).

OK, no one went to this expecting My Dinner with Andre.  But just compare scenes from Jaws or Close Encounters or Independence Day to similar scenes in this movie.  The dialog  is constantly clunky or too wordy, never artful, and rarely effective.

I first noticed this when Bryan Cranston was being detained.  It instantly reminded me of Richard Dreyfuss being held in a small trailer by the Army in CE3K.  That short non-action scene in Close Encounters was made interesting and suspenseful in just a few sentences.  Even an actor as good as Cranston could not sell the terrible words he was given in his comparable scene.  I wish I could find the script online to give many more examples.

And thank God I did not find a bootleg DVD in the street, so I am not tempted to even just skim this movie again to make notes.  I will never watch this movie again.  I wasn’t even planning on writing about it, but the spent time and money are buggin’ me, man!  Where to start?  How much time is worth wasting on this movie?

  • It is kind of a bait & switch to show Bryan Cranston so prominently in the ads.  He really is killed off pretty early.  And maybe I was already getting drowsy, but somehow I missed him dying.  I saw him strapped to gurney with a neck support.  Was he already dead?  Was that even him?
  • I always like Elizabeth Olson, but she is completely wasted in this film (and not in the good way).
  • Kick-Ass, where art thou?  Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a colossal bore as Cranston’s son.  A problem since he is arguably the lead character.  He reminds me of Bruce Willis’ son in Die Hard 5 — the movie is already crap, and one of the leads is an absolute non-entity.  I would have paid an extra buck to see Jesse Pinkman as his son.
  • David Strathaim — another good actor totally wasted.  And what is this obsession with shooting the back of his head?  Marcellus Wallace got more face-time.
  • When Cranston removes his haz-mat helmet and takes a breath, are they suggesting that he can smell that there is no radiation?
  • Another CE3K comparison: the discovery of the ship in the desert vs the discovery of the Russian sub in the forest in Godzilla.  Fun, mysterious, beautiful vs zzzzzzzz.
  • When Cranston was ranting, “that was no earthquake, that was no typhoon . . .” I expected him to continue, “this is not a boat accident, and it wasn’t any propeller!”
  • And if that Hiroshima story was supposed to be as effective as the USS Indianapolis story in Jaws.  Just no.
  • Add Aliens to the homage list for the burning of the egg-sac.
  • I remember Roger Ebert saying one time that Heaven’s Gate was so poorly filmed that even the primary act of looking at the screen was a chore.  Same here.  In most of the scenes, it is either night, or there is a nuclear winter sized dust cloud which grays out the entire shot.  Some shots were so washed out, that they would have actually been more colorful in black & white.
  • The bit with the lost little boy on the train was so quickly contrived, then immediately resolved in an absurd coincidence that it is laughable in its attempt to manipulate the audience.
  • The design of the MUTOs was distracting.  For a while, I thought they were mechanical due to the shape of the head, and the red lights.  I liked them more when I initially thought they were named MOTOs.
  • Didn’t understand the thing with the bus on the bridge, and the dog scene was just weird.  Again, maybe I was resting my eyes.  Something was off about that opening birthday riff also.
  • How do these 300 foot monsters so often manage to sneak up on people?
  • And why was Godzilla fighting for humans anyway?  Didn’t we nuke him 60 years ago?

Memories were fading before leaving the parking lot.  I need to start taking a notepad to the theater.  And a good pillow.

Lastly.  When buying tickets online, I was very surprised that the 3D show starting in an hour had sold out, but the 2D show starting in 30 minutes was only 1/3 full.  This movie is already so dark, it seems like it would be disastrous for the always-too-dark 3D option.