Tag: finn wolfhard

The Addams Family

The Addams Family (2019)
★ / ★★★★

This adaptation of “The Addams Family” is dead in the water. Clearly lacking imagination, surprises, and energy, it appears that screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Pamela Pettler have little to no understanding of what makes the Addams special. (I’m not convinced they were aware that the source material was meant to be a satire because this movie seems reluctant to take risks.) Yes, every member of the clan is in fact a caricature, but each person is not given a brand of humor or even (a black) heart. Instead, the movie relies on puns throughout its entire ninety-minute duration and it is stuck regurgitating one expository sequence after another. Content-wise it is boring and so are its visuals.

The animation is truly ugly to look at—like some cheap knockoff Dreamworks animation. Take note of the Addams mansion: it looks just like any other abandoned haunted house in a generic animated film. Cue the dark clouds and thunderstorms. It is supposed to be big, palatial even, but we see no more than five rooms. And in each room there is nothing especially memorable—not one macabre figure or creepy painting. Instead, the film busies itself with delivering unfunny visuals that it forgets to establish a believable atmosphere.

Not even the character designs are inspired. You look at Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) or Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard) and see animated models wearing clothes. Their eyes, postures, or the way they move command no personality. When in action—like Wednesday being whisked away by a tree branch or Pugsley maniacally throwing explosives at his father—observe how their expressions are devoid of even the slightest changes. It’s like watching mannequins… only mannequins appear to look creepier the longer one stares at them. These models look like first drafts that require further revisions in order to become alluring in a darkly comic way. I don’t think children would find the characters enticing in the least.

Its plot is also forgettable: Reality TV host Margaux Needler (voiced by Allison Janney) wishes to sell houses, but since the Addams mansion is such an eyesore (she prefers bright colors like pink and yellow), she takes it upon herself to remodel their gothic home free of charge. In order to be liked by their neighbors, Morticia (Charlize Theron) and Gomez (Oscar Isaac) welcome the obnoxious homemaking guru into their home. In a nutshell, the movie attempts to impart lessons regarding acceptance—that it is all right to be weird or different. But it comes off as trite and disingenuous because the material fails to show examples of why negative stereotypes or prejudice can be harmful or flat out wrong. The movie offers not one heartfelt scene. It is because it possesses no emotional intelligence.

I think films like “The Addams Family,” directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, should not be shown to children because it has no entertainment value, just emptiness and noise in order to pass the time. Here is a strange family ostracized by their community. And the Addams are also guilty of self-isolation. Why not explore these ideas in meaningful ways? Aren’t the writers adults capable of complex thinking? Instead, the material inspires its viewers to watch passively. The bar for animated pictures has been raised considerably over the past two decades and what this work offers is simply not good enough.

The Turning

The Turning (2020)
★ / ★★★★

Henry James is turning in his grave because the latest adaptation of his novella “The Turn of the Screw” is brazen in sucking out the compelling human elements of the story and leaving the scraps to be modernized in a most uninspired, boring fashion. Carey W. Hayes and Chad Hayes are credited for supposedly writing the screenplay, but not only did they forget to bring original ideas to table, they have forgotten completely to give the film a third act. It ends so abruptly—offering no conclusion whatsoever—that the viewer is forced to wonder if the writers and director Floria Sigismondi actually cared about their project. It is offensive and a disgrace.

It is also a shame because Mackenzie Davis is quite watchable as Kate, a woman hired as a live-in governess in a massive estate that, as of late, has been plagued by mysterious deaths. Initially, it is Kate’s job to take care of a gifted little girl, Flora (Brooklynn Prince), but soon her brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), comes home from boarding school. Davis’ expressive eyes is fit for a role like this because Kate is required to investigate various areas of the dark, creepy estate on more than a handful of occasions. Those eyes, too, must relate to the children she is responsible for—even though at times her warmth is not welcomed.

The usual ghostly presences in the corner, our heroine walking down a corridor followed by a jump scare, creepy crawlers, and strange noises from nearby unused rooms are executed with minimal energy or glee. But because the setting is quite beautiful, particularly the foggy grounds of the estate—the maze, the stables, the fish pond—I didn’t mind so much; I found my eyes glued to the screen anyway because I imagined on occasion how it must be like to live in house boasting a hundred rooms but only four people around. I appreciated Flora’s loneliness; she is an orphan, her previous tutor left without saying goodbye, and her brother goes away for school. Before Kate, it is only her and Mrs. Grose (the committed Barbara Marten), a longtime servant of the Fairchilds who is wary of strangers and the children, specifically Flora, leaving the estate for whatever reason—even as simple as getting ice cream or doing a bit of shopping.

On the one hand, the work aspires to be just another haunted house movie—and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I preferred this approach. On the other hand, it introduces the possibility that the supernatural goings-on may be happening only in Kate’s mind. After all, her mother (Joely Richardson) is committed to a mental institution. (We are supposed to believe she is clinically insane due to the unwashed hair, lack of eye contact with her own daughter, and the fact that she cannot help but to create art—so reductive.) It fails on this level because the screenplay is not written sharply enough so that the paranormal happenings that unfold around the estate could have, for example, scientific or evidence-based explanations. Since it does not provide room for reasonable possibilities, like the script, we go on autopilot.

“The Turning” should not have been released because it is not a finished work. For a more effective adaptation of James’ novella, consider watching Jack Clayton’s “The Innocents.” It is superior in every aspect, including its approach in introducing the idea that perhaps the governess’ mind is fractured. There is genuine suspense in the late-night investigations and we become convinced there is powerful evil in the house. By comparison, “The Turning” is a cheap play thrown by people who pretended to read the novella when in fact they simply glanced over SparkNotes last-minute and called it a day.

It: Chapter One

It: Chapter One (2017)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Superior horror pictures attempt to pummel their audience into submission, whether it be in terms of providing consistent, well-earned scares or delivering an inescapable sense of foreboding through carefully calibrated atmosphere. Rarer still are those that employ both. These approaches do wonders to the latest interpretation of Stephen King’s “It,” this time based on the screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman, as it provides the requisite chills to render the viewer wide-eyed from terror and yet remain most curious as to what might happen to the young spirited protagonists and whether they would find a way to rid of the evil that plagues their small town.

Credit to the casting by Rich Delia for finding seven performers (Jaeden Lieberher, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff) who not only fit the ‘80s milieu but also effortlessly embody how it is like to be an outcast. Here is one of the strongest cast in horror films in quite some time. Each person is able to carry his or her own when it comes to both gasp-inducing encounters with Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård) and moments of dramatic gravity designed to highlight each young teenager’s backstory. To top it all off, every one of them conveys a specific personality and temperament. By the end of this chapter, we appreciate each individual character and we know why he or she is a critical piece of the Losers Club.

Notice how its scares command range. Inferior horror movies tend to rely on one trick—jump scares, for example—to get a reaction from us. On the other hand, observe how scenes unscrew and unfold in this particular work. It is patient, willing to take its time for tension to take root before getting to the punchline. And when it finally gets to the punchline… sometimes it goes on. We grow uneasy or are rendered off-balanced because lazy horror films that many of us have gotten accustomed to simply move onto the next scene once the scare is revealed. Certain images that stuck with me are those of Pennywise laying or standing still when his victim has found a way to escape. I admired how the camera manages to capture a personification of evil and how willing it is to show us one of its faces.

In horror pictures, I think it is so important to establish a sense of mythos, especially when the story involves a haunting in house or a small town. It is a way of engaging us and making us want to know more about a specific story with a specific setting, to care about what is going to happen next. Although the material does not drill too deeply in Derry’s questionable history, given that it is in fact the first half of the whole piece, it provides the necessary seeds for further exploration. Images shown in books and newspaper articles are appropriately strange and creepy. When the historian of the group sits in the town library to peruse old pages, I found myself wanting to join him and read up on what they are up against.

Teeming with effective nightmare imagery, “It: Chapter One,” directed by Andy Muschietti, provides an unsettling experience. It is so confident in supplying comedy right next to moments that may likely go horribly awry, vice-versa. The result is an exciting, thrilling, and unpredictable picture—one that has solid replay value. Here is a great example on how to make a mainstream horror film without the unnecessary and cheap flourishes that overrun disappointments within the genre. It understands that the genre requires a high level of craft.