For the sixth and sadly final week of the Six Weeks of Halloween, we’ll continue our exploration of media purveyors, this time going with another primarily digital distributor in Netflix. While I’m still one of the grumpy holdouts that still has the disc plan, it’s not like I’m a luddite or anything and I embrace the streaming when it’s available (my primary motivator for the disc plan is not so much the type of media, but for the availability of titles). Netflix was the first major outlet for streaming video, but things have changed dramatically over the years. Driven by drastic increases in licensing fees, Netflix’s selection has waxed and waned considerably over the years, and starting a few years ago, they embarked on a plan to create their own exclusive content. Why deal with greedy studios and exponential increases in licensing fees when you could own the content yourself? They started slow, but have ramped up considerably. The sheer number of Netflix exclusives this year has been staggering and impossible to keep up with, but here are three that I’ve wanted to watch for a while (alright, so, one of these is not an exclusive, but I really wanted to watch it, and it’s not free anywhere else, so there).
- Triangle (trailer)
- Spring (trailer)
- Resolution (trailer)
- The Endless – Two brothers escape from a cult, only to be drawn back in when they begin to suspect that their “culty” beliefs may not be as crazy as they once thought. Ultimately, it plays like a focused, two-hour standalone episode of Lost. Lots of mysterious happenings, plenty of interpersonal drama, with dabbles of science fiction and horror here and there. It’s definitely got some horrific elements, but it feels more like a supernatural drama than a straight up horror flick. This is a fine line that filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson seem to specialize in. Does everything fit? I dunno, maybe? There are some (alright, lots of) open questions at the end, but nothing that is blatantly contradictory. Along the way, there’s lots of great visuals and some genuinely creepy moments (the Civil War era tent, in particular, is terrifying).
I’m being deliberately vague as to the plot here though, as I don’t want to spoil anything. As it turns out, this movie is a sorta unofficial sequel to an earlier film called Resolution, in which two of the bit players in The Endless have a much more in-depth story (that hits some similar themes, but is clearly not as well developed or mature as it is in The Endless). I didn’t really know this going in, and I do wonder what it would be like to watch Resolution before The Endless, but the latter is clearly far superior to the former. Whatever the case, I loved The Endless and would recommend it for sure. ***
- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VI: Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace
- Wet Nightmares (short)
- Freddy Krueger: Registered Offender (short)
- Before I Wake – A young orphan’s dreams manifest out here in the real world while he sleeps. Unfortunately… so do his nightmares! It’s a pretty straightforward premise, but Director Mike Flanagan imbues the film with visual style, patient editing, and spooky atmosphere leavened by a few well executed jump scares. The emotional core is also pretty well established and meshes well with the child’s unexpected powers, leading to some touching moments before the more typical horror tropes take hold.
Unfortunately, the ending leaves something to be desired. I’m apparently unusual in that I don’t mind happy endings, but this ending seemed to be a bit too sappy, even for me. Maybe it would have worked better if it wasn’t so overly expository or built on a coincidence that viewers would never be able to pick up on earlier. That said, I could see what they were going for and it’s certainly functional (I had some feels, for sure), if a bit clunky and ham-fisted. It’s still an above-average spooky flick thanks to the craft with which the film is made, and well worth a watch if you’re in the mood. Flanagan has certainly been on a roll with Netflix releases. After an early studio success with the neat haunted-mirror movie Oculus, Netflix acquired Flanagan’s next few films, including the excellent home invasion film Hush, the surprisingly good adaptation of Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game, and then this one, which Flanagan shot in 2013 but which sat on a shelf until Netflix rescued it (somewhere in their was a studio prequel that was apparently very good – I hope to catch up with that one soon too). Flanagan is currently enjoying quite a bit of success with Netflix’s latest horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, which appears to also be well worth watching (I’ve seen one episode and enjoyed it quite a bit). So Before I Wake isn’t exactly the one you should seek out first, but it’s still a worthy watch. **1/2
- V/H/S/2 (trailer)
- Red State (trailer)
- The Sacrament (trailer)
- Apostle – A man travels to a remote island populated by a religious cult that has kidnapped his sister. Naturally, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Writer/director Gareth Evans is best know for his bonkers Indonesian action flicks The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2, though he did contribute a segment to V/H/S/2, and this movie more resembles that segment than his other work (though we are treated to a few glimpses of the ol’ ultraviolence and wincing gore). Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the mashup of The Wicker Man and The Raid that you’d really want to see.
It’s more deliberately paced than that would imply, a little bloated in the middle, and it takes some really strange turns throughout, such that I’m having trouble parsing my response. I should really enjoy this more than I did. There’s some nice bits of business in the beginning, as our intrepid (but drug addled) hero figures out a way to get to the island without being detected. It’s almost like a period spy thriller at times. Maybe that’s the issue. There’s so many disparate elements in the film, including the kidnapped sister spy plot, the religious cult angle, something supernatural about the island, a completely separate espionage subplot, a tale of star-crossed lovers; all interesting elements that never transcend the sum of their parts. It’s slow upfront, but picks up a lot in the latter half. Ultimately glad I watched and probably worth it for fans of really specific niches of horror (i.e. period horror about a cult on a supernatural island), but certainly not for everyone…
I can’t believe it’s been six weeks already. Next up is the big day on Wednesday, when we’ll engage in our typical Speed Round of short glimpses at all the other junk I watched during the marathon…