Playing Catch-up: An Ode to an Awful Summer, Volume 2

I’ve returned once again with another post as part of an earnest effort to help this summer redeem itself. Try as I did, I unfortunately came up empty-handed thanks to several regrettable Redbox ventures and a monumentally disappointing first viewing of one of my most anticipated films of this year. Enjoy, and as always, feel free to comment and/or call me a buffoon.

Hobo with a Shotgun (dir. Jason Eisener)

Putting aside the obvious homage it aims to pay to 70s-era grindhouse cinema, Hobo with a Shotgun is an unmitigated disaster. Gleefully gory and crass as it may be, the laughs begin to wear thin as predictability leads to disgust, leaving me to wonder just why Rutger Hauer seemingly gave the production his all. Now I’m not saying that these recent, ultraviolent throwbacks to the genre’s originators have no place in Hollywood: I’m just saying that other individuals have approached similar projects much, much better.

Insidious (dir. James Wan)

Frequently lauded by my circle of friends as one of the best horror films to come along in recent memory, Insidious manages to live up to the hype, even if that’s not saying much. Tacking a subtle twist onto an otherwise straightforward haunted house creepshow, Wan and screenwriter Whannell churn out some genuine scares that peter out as the film gradually becomes less and less interesting with each supernatural encounter. Relying more on creepy imagery than blood and gore to achieve its intended effect, Insidious is an admirable, “old school” horror flick that tastefully does what it can in light of failing to make me care all that much for it.

Wrecked (dir. Michael Greenspan)

Unlike that of its spiritual predecessor Buried, Michael Greenspan’s Wrecked fails to convey the sense of urgency that made the former so appealingly tense and nerve-wracking. Realistically, the production would’ve functioned better as a short film, but the powers that be felt the need to exhibit Adrien Brody’s ability to crawl through the woods while writhing in pain for entirely too long. All things considered, Brody’s performance does carry the film when it begins to drag, and if I had things my way, the ongoing existential crisis and unfortunate reality of his character’s predicament would’ve been emphasized in an effort to reassure us that his struggle for survival wasn’t in vain much earlier on.

The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick)

Alternately challenging and mesmerizing, to say that Terrence Malick’s latest isn’t a true testament to the auteur’s abilities as a filmmaker would be downright blasphemous. This aside, and as much as I genuinely tried to enjoy everything it had to offer, I simply failed to establish an emotional connection with the central family that would’ve otherwise solidified The Tree of Life as a best-of-the-year contender. Ridiculous, I know, but this partial distaste can be attributed to my notorious ability to pick a film apart until there’s nothing left to criticize. Maybe it’s because this was my first experience with a Malick film, but I will give it one thing: The Tree of Life is most certainly a beautiful piece of filmmaking that questions the nature of our very existence in an unparalleled fashion.

Fright Night (dir. Craig Gillespie)

Remakes nowadays are all agreeably unnecessary, yet it’s hard not to acknowledge the ones that stand out on account of a director’s creative touch. Having not seen the original, I had no idea what to expect from Fright Night, but I assure you I left the theater pleasantly surprised. A consistent sense of humor coupled with some predictable spooks and an excellent use of 3D technology reassures us that some people actually do care about maintaining the source material’s integrity.

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