Thursday, January 31, 2019

Before I Wake (2016)

We decided to watch a horror double feature over the weekend. One film, The Open House was… well it was not very good. So we were hoping that this film would be a bit better. We had reason to hope, because we have enjoyed the work of director Mike Flanagan in the past (check out Hush or his version of The Haunting of Hill House). 


Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are finally able to become foster parents. It was a tough road for them after the death of their son Sean (Antonio Romero). But Cody (Jacob Tremblay) is a sweet boy who seems eager to fit in. He also has had some rough events in his life. His previous two foster families met with tragedy, including abandoning him.

At first Cody seems to be adjusting well, but one night Jessie and Mark witness butterflies in their house. Cody is obsessed with the insects, and becomes apparent that when Cody dreams, elements of those dreams manifest. Jessie wonders if she can see her dead child again, if Cody dreams about him. But they have something else to worry about: Cody’s nightmares. Because one vivid horror is going to become very very real.

Good Points:
  • Creates and sustains an atmosphere of dread and the uncanny
  • Very good performances by the whole cast
  • Manages to get under your skin with its eerie moments

Bad Points:
  • If you can’t buy into the overall premise of the film, you won’t get pulled in
  • The ending will leave some viewers conflicted
  • Looking for fast pace or gore, you’ll be disappointed


Flanagan delivers a solid creepy film. He uses the couple’s grief as a jumping off point for how they deal with the powers Cody seems to have. It turns into an interesting character study, while building up some really good dread and scares. The finale may leave some viewers conflicted by the ambiguity, but overall, the film was well worth seeking out. Reminded me a bit of The Babadook, and in a good way.

Scores(out of 5)
Visuals:  4
Sound: 4
Acting:  4
Script:  4
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Open House (2018)

So we decided to have a double feature horror film viewing this weekend. We had two flicks in our Netflix cue. One was this movie that sounded like a fun thriller by the description. But in the back of my mind, I remembered seeing that Chris Stuckmann had worked on a riff track for the film. I figured that just means this could be a “so bad its funny” movie, right?


After Logan’s (Dylan Minnette) father is killed right in front of him in a freak accident, he finds himself struggling with grief. His mother Naomi (Piercey Dalton) decides to move the two of them to her sister’s massive house in the mountains. She hopes that it will help them work through their sadness.

Unfortunately the house is up for sale, and the pair has to keep leaving the building because of the numerous open house events. Soon enough, strange things start happening around the place. The water heater is tampered with. Logan’s phone vanishes. Other lost items end up in different rooms. Could it be the odd neighbor Martha (Patricia Bethune) messing with them… or did someone stay inside the giant home after The Open House?

Good Points:
  • Lovely location shooting in and around Big Bear in California
  • Solid acting for most of the film
  • Martha was an entertaining character 

Bad Points:
  • Confusing editing drains all tension from the film
  • The score overplays its hand over and over again
  • The ending was very unsatisfying


This movie is a bit of a mess. There are elements of an entertaining and thrilling film at the heart of this, but the senseless editing, horribly overloud and obvious score and an ending that just leaves you exasperated add up to a bad film. But if you are in the mood for a movie for riffing, there are plenty of laughs to be mined. Want a good thriller from Netflix, check out Hush instead.

Scores(out of 5)
Visuals:  2
Sound: 3
Acting:  3
Script:  1
Music: 1
Direction: 2
Entertainment: 2
Total:  2

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Score Sample: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

So John Williams has composed music for films since the 1960s. His familiar sound really entered the public mind in the late 70s with Jaws, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, Superman and of course Star Wars. But if you listen to his material from before those milestones you can hear his distinctive voice in those scores too. Over the years Williams has evolved as a composer, adding more and more complexity to his music, but still managing to capture that Williams sound and the knack for crafting memorable themes.

All this to say that when someone asks me what my favorite John Williams score is, I get overwhelmed for a moment. So much music to pick from, and from so many decades and styles. With Jerry Goldsmith, I don't hesitate. But with Williams... And then I smile and say, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Now with it comes to the films, I'm in the "Raiders is the best one, don't even question me on this" camp. But Williams did the remarkable with his followup score. He took his main theme, because you had to have that, and then made sure to use it quite a bit. Compared to Last Crusade, which goes easy on using the main theme, Temple of Doom doesn't shy away.  It gives the whole score (and film) a more pulpy feel. I also love all the new themes introduced in the film. Sure Willie and Short Round are obnoxious characters, but they have some really great themes. Willie's theme is full of that old school Hollywood glamor. Williams uses both themes in counterpoint to Indy's theme on a number of occasions and to wonderful effect.

Then there are is the bold adventure theme used in the final third of the film, as Indy and his pals save the slave children. I love this theme, and it gets some great moments to shine in the score. Not to mention a myriad of minor motifs that pop up and play around in the score to add even more color. They are all distinct, they are all well stated (and restated so you recognize them) and they are all fun.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the John Williams score with everything I love about John Williams. It is in the middle of his late 70s to mid 80s style before he really started to add the layers and layers of complexity to his action music. I love it each time I listen to it, and you can't really go wrong with the End Credits which I'll present here. Enjoy!