This Week in Geek (24-30/10/16)

Buys

My friend Justin Guitard came out with his last volume of the YA series "Voilà pourquoi cette fille n'est pas ta mère" (Why That Girl Isn't Your Mother). Read all about it in a couple weeks.

"Accomplishments"

Well, it's Halloweek Day 5, and yes, I made sure all my media intake this week was horrific.

At the movies: When the director of Oculus, Mike Flanagan, was offered the by-all-accounts useless Ouija franchise, my ears perked up. And indeed, Origin of Evil is a movie that has no business being so enjoyable! Flanagan turns back the clock 60 years to give us a 60s-esque experience (right down to the now useless cigarette burns) with a good creep factor and low jump scare count, some humor, and a very satisfying extrapolation of Ouija lore based on the original edition of the "game". I really loved Elizabeth Reaser's character, a single mom making ends meet with fortune telling, though arguably, her daughters are the real stars. This is a movie with excellent replay value, full of nice details to catch on subsequent viewings, from a directorial interest in door frames to the story's connection to the Apollo program, going through tributes to horror films of the era and the Franco-German origins of the Ouija brand. And if somehow you were a fan of the first one despite its apparent lack of quality, yes, there's a connection... stay until after the credits.

DVDs: In Spring, a young man tries to get over his mother's death by taking an open-ended trip to Italy, where he meets the love of his life. But is she some kind of monster? A romance first, the horror element creeps in during the second act with odd images and moments that make you uneasy and playfully set up a network of what you might call red herrings, except they're really misunderstandings. Essentially, the film continually leads you to the wrong conclusion, but all those clues do mean something. Once you know what's going on, a second and even third viewing will make you see those moments in an entirely new light. That "solution" is interesting, I don't think I've ever seen it before, which is a feat unto itself, and leads the film down a philosophical road that's a closer to cousin to Richard Linklater's Before series than to your standard horror fare. And the directors really do make the best of that exotic location; the film looks gorgeous. The DVD has a very good directors' commentary, a fun two-hour making of that allows cast and crew to film behind the scenes moments with their phones, a few deleted scenes, and a wealth of amusing mini-films made on set. The entire package makes it look like the shoot was a lot of fun.

The Boxer's Omen answers the question "What if Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain had been a kung fu/horror mash-up?". This thing is NUTS. Or more probably, I don't have the Buddhist context for this slimy fight between good and evil. At its core, it's the story of a boxer who needs to take revenge on his brother's crippler and takes on the powers of his twin from another life, a powerful lama under threat from evil sorcerers, a tale that takes place in Hong Kong, Thailand and Nepal. But while the take on magic is pretty interesting, we spend too little time on coherent story and entirely too much on surreal imagery. Between animal puppets, freaky lighting effects, the occasional animated SFX, and lots of disgusting slime/bug/guts stuff, The Boxer's Omen sometimes looks silly, sometimes revolting, but you can be assured you'll see things you never thought you ever would, and probably some you wish you never had. It's fun on that basis, but rather relentless about it. The DVD includes a photo gallery.

The Babadook is first and foremost about depression and dealing with overwhelming loss. The monster is a manifestation of that, existing in a space created by magical realism, if anywhere at all. It's the story of a woman whose husband died taking her to the hospital to have her baby delivered, and now raises the child "responsible" alone. And he's a difficult boy. One night, she finds a creepy children's book on the shelf and accidentally inflames his imagination and her own with the dark figure of Mr. Babadook, who soon comes knocking. Lots of good scares, but the horror works best on a psychological, rather than manifest, level, and a lot of the details about what's really going on play in the background, reward the perceptive viewer, and allow for discoveries on subsequent viewings. The production design is striking, aping the book's aesthetic and color palette without calling too much attention to it. I'm quite stoked that we're getting so many richer, deeper horror films lately.

And a shout-out to our own Art-Girl who I just saw in a Halloween-themed pole-dancing showcase along with many impressively athletic women; she was in the cute Ghostbusters number that delighted the audience. Good job!

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