Tag: tyler posey

Alone


Alone (2020)
★ / ★★★★

There comes a point in “Alone” when it stops being about survival and it becomes about dating. By then it is crystal clear: It is a movie made for Tyler Posey fans who thirst to see him in various states of undress—lying in bed, hanging out in the living room, taking a shower in the rain—not for horror fans who wish to lay eyes on gore by the bucketloads and appreciate intricate cosmetics, to experience carefully calibrated suspense and jump-out-of-your-seat terror, to get excited by the dazzling creativity sashaying on screen. It cannot be denied that this is a toothless and boring zombie picture, a manufactured product to be avoided at all cost.

Consider it to be an American version of Cho Il-hyung’s “#Alive” in which Matt Naylor, the writer of this film, had a hand in helming the screenplay. The parallels between Cho and director Johnny Martin’s films are staggering. A young man finds himself stuck in an apartment following a mysterious outbreak that turns people into hyperactive cannibals. (Translation: modern zombies that can sprint and climb.) When food, water, and his sanity run out, the protagonist finds a last-minute reason to live after seeing a fellow young woman in an apartment right across his balcony. But what “#Alive” excels in, even though it is not a consistently strong picture, is that it maintains the idea that it is first and foremost a survival story. This American version not only winks one too many times, it makes kissy faces, too. Want a selfie with that?

At some point, we are supposed to believe that Aidan (Posey) is so desperate for food that he chooses to break into a neighboring apartment despite the dangers possibly waiting in the vents and hallways. But when finally facing a cupboard that contains food, he takes the time to pick and choose which ones to take with him. It defies common sense. To be convinced that Aidan were actually starving, he would not be shown reaching ever so slowly into the cupboard with his gentle hands. The hands would be manic, out of control, as if possessed by an evil spirit wanting to lash out. Aidan would be shown breaking into plastic wrappers with his teeth like a rabid dog.

The editing would be convulsive, possibly choppy, as if to reflect a reawakening of all senses. The sound design would jolt us into paying attention—perhaps causing us to flinch because the noise may attract the attention of the undead lumbering about on the other side of the wall. Close-ups of our protagonist’s demented eyes would be prevalent—reminiscent of red zombie eyes when their teeth sink deep into warm human flesh. Sharp filmmakers with coy sense of humor might even wish for us to appreciate the orgasm a character experiences after licking a scoop of peanut butter off his unwashed fingers.

But that would look “ugly,” you see, unappealing—perhaps even gauche or inelegant—in the eyes Posey fans. He must look handsome even when his character has not had anything to eat for days, drinking only alcohol for a similar amount of time because tap water had been shut off.

Common sense is a funny thing in horror films. When a horror picture is firing on all cylinders, the occasional lack of this critical element can be overlooked so easily. But when the work is dead awful, as the case here, the viewer cannot help but to nitpick at every little thing. This is what unbearable boredom does; attention must be directed toward something because the brain is not meant to shut down. This movie strives to turn off the very thing that keeps us alive. Do not let it.

Truth or Dare


Truth of Dare (2018)
★★ / ★★★★

Horror movies can transcend silly premises, but they have to be willing to go to extremes in order to elicit strong responses from the audience. For instance, Tom Six’s “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” sounds like a one-note joke that involves three people being connected from mouth to anus, but when one truly looks at the film, it is sick, disturbing, and so concerned with the most minute details, the material—as a whole, not just its provocative images—ends up being lodged in our brain somewhere. It drenches us in a particular experience that we feel dirty by the end of it. “Truth of Dare” is an example of an underachiever. It never takes off from its one-note premise.

Perhaps it is because the intention is to deliver as commercial a product as possible. After all, most of us have played some version of truth or dare at one point in our lives so the picture must be accessible. As a result, the truths and dares are too frivolous to be taken all that seriously; each one revolves around either the threat of damaging one’s social relationships or an injury that can be solved by a quick trip to the emergency room. And because the characters get a choice, or some semblance of it, of choosing either option, the tension that is required to build deflates about every other scene. It does not provide a breathless experience; in fact, it allows the audience to breathe too much and too often because there are stretches here where pretty much nothing of importance happens.

I enjoyed the young cast of potentially doomed pre-college graduates (Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Hayden Szeto, Sam Lerner) even though more than half of them are unable to translate their techniques that prove to work on television into something more subtle and cinematic. Line readings and intonations are rather predictable, at times bland, but there is an energy or enthusiasm about them that is consistently watchable. Perhaps if the screenplay by Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Chris Roach, and Jeff Wadlow had been elevated, these performers might have been inspired to tap into more interesting interpretations of their characters.

Somewhere in the middle of its soap opera-like truths and dares, I began to wonder if the picture might have commanded more intrigue had truths and dares been grander, actually willing to be as sick or twisted as possible. If the writers had been more ambitious, free from pressures of commerciality and getting a PG-13 rating at all costs, the picture could have been a different beast entirely. In an alternate universe, the movie, I think, might have worked as a statement piece about exhibitionism in our modern world for the sake of nourishing one’s self-importance or desperation to achieve evanescent fame or celebrity status. When a concept is fun or universal, sometimes a horror movie is required to become more than a genre exercise.

Still, as is, “Truth or Dare,” directed by Jeff Wadlow, is just another generic horror film that no one will remember past the year of its release date. It is neither scary nor thrilling, just a nice and safe entertainment for about a hundred minutes. The characters do not say or do anything thoughtful or surprising; they simply are meant to react to the supernatural conundrum they find themselves in. Within the film’s self-drawn confines, at least it does itself a favor by taking itself seriously enough because no one else will.

White Frog


White Frog (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

Despite its good intentions and the messages it wishes to impart about tolerance and acceptance, “White Frog,” written by Ellie Wen and Fabienne Wen, is, at best, a mediocre experience. What weighs it down considerably is a most television-like quality in script, direction, and photography. Just about everyone talks the same way, the next big revelation is no revelation at all as long as one can read between the lines at the most elementary level, and the lighting is almost always so bright that it appears and feels as though we are watching a sitcom.

The story revolves around a teenager named Nick (Booboo Stewart) who has Asperger Syndrome (AS). Aside from his big brother, Chaz (Harry Shum Jr.), no one else, not even his parents (BD Wong, Joan Chen), understands or connects with him. When Chaz dies from an accident, Nick feels very isolated. Hope comes in the form of Chaz’s friends, especially Doug (Tyler Posey) who recognizes that Chaz would want them to make his brother feel included. It is no easy task, however, because none of the four (Gregg Sulkin, Manish Dayal, Justin Martin) really know how to interact with someone who happens to have AS.

The picture has a flair for the melodramatic and so moments which involve a character feeling hurt and verging on tears will certainly tug at one’s heartstrings. Yet despite a screenplay that prefers to hammer the audience over the head with every single point it wishes to convey, Stewart has a way of drawing the audience in a more subtle manner. He employs his character’s significant difficulties in interaction and communication with a very closed body language.

Being successful at this type of performance is key to the overall believability of the character and story. We lean in a little closer when he has something to say. When he says something that comes across very direct or rude, we consider what he really means. When he is confronted and says nothing at all, we wonder what is going on inside his head through the minute ticks and detailed facial expressions. It is a solid performance in a film that strives to do a lot but is not very good at achieving them.

Conversely, the worst performance goes to BD Wong—which surprised me. Wong is completely miscast in having to play a strict and religious father. The performer neither has the stature nor presence to convince us that he is domineering. Thus, the more confrontational scenes between father and son command no gravity.

On the contrary, I caught myself flinching at the awkwardness of the performance, almost breaking into a laugh because Wong has such a light to him that hugging instead of hating him is the more appropriate response. Perhaps lighting him a certain way or shooting him from a different angle might have helped to create a more intimidating presence.

Perhaps the most beautiful element in the film is how Nick eventually connects with Randy (Sulkin), one of Chaz’ friends. Initially, Randy is sort of a jerk toward the aspie, equipped with ostentatious red car and devil-may-care attitude. This relationship is central to the film’s themes of tolerance, acceptance, and trust so it most curious why it takes too long for these two equally interesting characters to find a strand of commonality.