The Geektastics » It Came From Netflix A safe space to geek out! Wed, 19 Mar 2014 03:33:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 It Came From Netflix: The Moth Diaries (2011) /2013/11/02/it-came-from-netflix-the-moth-diaries-2011/ /2013/11/02/it-came-from-netflix-the-moth-diaries-2011/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 06:01:24 +0000 /?p=5005 The Moth DiariesThe Moth Diaries (2011)
Rated R (for some bloody images, sexuality, drug use and language)

Directed by Mary Harron

Sarah Bolger
Sarah Gadon
Lily Cole
Scott Speedman

Rebecca (Bolger) returns to her posh boarding school for the fall term and is eager to reunite with her best friend and roommate Lucy (Gadon).  The two girls reconnect with their usual group of friends – the rebellious Charley, level-headed Dora, love-sick Sofia, and sarcastic Kiki.  Rebecca is prepared to have the best school year ever, as she is finally starting to move past the tragic suicide of her lauded poet father, but her plans are thwarted by the arrival of a strange new girl, Ernessa Block (Cole).  Lucy begins spending all her time with Ernessa and her personality begins changing.  Rebecca, in an effort to determine what’s going on, becomes obsessed with monitoring Ernessa and sees strange, supernatural things happening around the girl.  As her friends are taken away from her one by one, Rebecca begins to slip deeper and deeper back into depression and no one seems to believe her strange stories.

TMD Class

Mr. Davies (Speedman) teaches his class about Gothic literature. It’s in reading Dracula and Carmilla that Rebecca starts to understand Ernessa’s true nature.

Based on Rachel Klein’s novel of the same name, The Moth Diaries was adapted and directed by Mary Harron, a well-regarded director who has helmed films like American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol.  Klein’s book was written well before Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, but the choice to adapt it as a film nine years after it was written seems like a cash grab to capitalize on the growing romantic vampire craze.  The movie never saw a theatrical release, but was shown “out of competition” at the Venice International Film Festival.

TMD Rebecca Running

Rebecca (Bolger) runs to intercept Ernessa from influencing her best friend.

When I saw the film was directed by Harron, I decided to check out the trailer, and was very intrigued.  It reminded me of a lot of the supernatural YA fiction I read as a teenager, particularly Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn.  The film is beautifully shot and has an atmospheric ethereal quality that is very visually appealing, but the story and the script don’t match up to the visual potential.

TMD Ernessa

Ernessa (Cole) seems suspicious only to Rebecca.

Adapting a novel into a two hour film is always a challenge.  The best adaptations convey the essence of what the author was trying to get across using key moments essential to the story.  This movie seemed like Harron was trying to cram everything from the source material into the allotted two hours, which gives it a very jumbled feel.  Because so many things happen, we never feel connected to any characters outside of Rebecca, so when her friends leave the story one by one, we don’t really care.  Had Harron cut out several minor plot points and kept the story focused on Rebecca’s growing obsession with Ernessa’s interference with Lucy, the movie might feel like it has a bit more structure and direction.

Some of the visuals are very well done, but the acting is surprising flat, considering the usually excellent cast, and the ending is extremely anti-climactic.  The movie did make me interested to read the book, if just to see whether the characters and the story were more fleshed out in the original source material.  Although the trailer makes it seem like the film has a lot of potential, the end result was an unsatisfying watch.  I’d recommend skipping this and watching Léa Pool’s excellent Lost and Delirious instead, which deals with much of the same themes, albeit without the supernatural slant.

IFCN Rating:


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It Came From Netflix: ATM (2012) /2013/07/08/it-came-from-netflix-atm/ /2013/07/08/it-came-from-netflix-atm/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 06:30:11 +0000 /?p=4409

ATMATM (2012)
Rated R (for violence and terror)

Directed by David Brooks

Brian Geraghty
Alice Eve
Josh Peck

Just in time for the company Christmas party, David (Geraghty), an accountant, loses the life savings of a client.  He isn’t in the mood for the festive celebrating, but his friend and coworker Corey (Peck) convinces him to stay by telling him it’s his last chance to ask his crush out before she leaves the company for a more lucrative position.  He finally works up the nerve to approach Emily (Eve) and offers her a ride home, but his romantic gesture is thwarted when Corey insists he also give him a ride.  Not only does Corey want a ride home, he decides he’s hungry and has to stop at an ATM because the lone restaurant open only accepts cash.  Once inside the ATM booth, the three see a hooded faceless man in a parka who watches them from the parking lot.  They debate about whether he’s dangerous . . . until he viciously kills a man walking his dog without provocation.  David, Corey, and Emily must find a way to escape the ATM booth before the hooded killer – or the cold – takes their lives.

This film was written by Chris Sparling, the writer behind the indie darling horror flick Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds.  In that film, Reynolds discovers he’s been buried alive by an unknown assailant and has a limited amount of time to escape before he runs out of air.  Apparently working under the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” axiom, Sparling went to the “trapped in a small space by a ruthless faceless killer” well again for ATM, albeit adding two more people and a slightly bigger box.  The problem is that this film is built on a very unsteady foundation of plot contrivances and dumb decisions made by the three leads.  ATM is also plagued by extremely clunky dialogue and a significant lack of chemistry between all three actors, but particularly Geraghty and Eve.

This is what film nerds call an “And Then” script.  The writer starts out with a basic premise and a “clever” ending, but no connective tissue, which forces him to search for a way to get from Point A to Point B.  It can be a great brainstorming technique, but if it’s not fleshed out enough, the final script comes out as a stilted timeline of events with no depth to them.  Not only does the killer go to extreme lengths to murder three random people, but the victims have ample opportunity to get away/get help and spend most of the time arguing instead.  The film is also about 20 minutes too long; five minutes could have been cut from the beginning and the last 15 minutes were completely unnecessary as they rehash what a smart audience has already figured out.  The kills were pretty standard and I found the killer more funny than scary, mostly because of this:



A film with only three people is a tough sell if those people are unlikeable and unsympathetic.  Ostensibly, Geraghty is the lead, but his wooden performance makes him unbelievable as the potential hero.  His interactions with Eve are painful to watch, particularly in the first act as they gamely try to flirt with each other while Peck whines about being hungry in the backseat of the car.  Peck, best known for his role as Drake Bell’s sweet, chubby step-brother in Disney’s “Drake and Josh”, is almost unbearable.  He was clearly cast as the douchey friend, but he was so grating I kept wishing the other two actors would push him out of the booth and let the killer get him.  Eve brings nothing to the story other than being attractive, which audiences of Star Trek: Into Darkness already know by now.  Margarita Levieva (Adventureland, “Revenge”) was originally cast and I would have really liked to see what she did with the role.

This never got into “so bad it’s good” territory and was definitely more frustrating than funny.  Unless you want to watch three stupid people stand in a box and argue, or you like screaming at your television screen, I would skip ATM and watch Buried instead.


IFCN Rating:

It Stinks

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It Came From Netflix: Night of the Comet (1984) /2013/04/06/it-came-from-netflix-night-of-the-comet-1984/ /2013/04/06/it-came-from-netflix-night-of-the-comet-1984/#comments Sat, 06 Apr 2013 06:01:20 +0000 /?p=3653

Night of the CometNight of the Comet (1984)
Rated PG-13 (for some violence and sexual situations)

Directed by Thom E. Eberhardt

Catherine Mary Stewart
Kelli Maroney
Robert Beltran
Mary Woronov

As the Earth passes through the tail of a very rare comet, people celebrate and camp out to watch the event.  After discovering that her high score has been bested, Reggie Belmont (Stewart) stays overnight at the theater where she works to spend time with her boyfriend and reclaim her crown.  The next morning, the two teens find the city abandoned except for the reanimated dead, one of whom attacks Reggie’s boyfriend.  Reggie reunites with her sister Sam (Maroney), who was unaffected by the comet because she spent the night sleeping in a metal shed after being abused by their stepmother.  The girls go to the local radio station, hoping to find the DJ who is still broadcasting, but the station is empty and the broadcast has been pre-recorded.  They meet up with Hector (Beltran), a truck driver who stopped in the town with his girlfriend for gas.  They were attacked and his girlfriend was killed by zombies.  When Hector leaves to locate his family in San Diego and the girls decided to hit the mall, where they are captured by the Think Tank group to be used as unwilling blood donors while the scientists look for a cure.  It’s up to Reggie to escape and rescue the few remaining survivors.

I had a lot of fun with this flick and was pleasantly surprised by how watchable it was.  Everything about it screams 80s in a really fun time capsule kind of way.  It reads almost like a very dark teen comedy with horror and sci-fi elements mixed in, and even has a musical montage where the girls raid the mall and try on expensive clothes.  The zombies are in the Return of the Living Dead vein; they use tools, talk, and make quips as they attack.  It’s clear that Eberhardt meant for the film to be tongue in cheek – there are several references to the cast’s previous films and humorous callbacks to the film’s plot, including a Red Dust poster on the theater door after the comet reduces everyone to piles of red dust.  I also really enjoyed the golden age sci-fi style voice over in the beginning of the film.

Stewart did a great job playing Reggie as a tough, no nonsense chick and I really enjoyed seeing a capable, independent heroine in a sci-fi/horror movie.  It’s also great to see B-movie/character actress Mary Woronov (probably best known for her role as Miss Togar in Rock ‘n Roll High School) as scientist Audrey White.

Night of the Comet is a well loved B-movie and was referenced in 28 Days Later (Jim sees an abandoned Mercedes in the middle of the road) and Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (the character El Wray is a nod to the ElRey Movie Theater where Reggie works and Muldoon calls for Lewis and Wilson, two members of the Think Tank group).  I’d definitely recommend this movie for cult and 80s movie fans.  It’s more funny than scary, and it would be appropriate for anyone over the age of 13.  Night of the Comet is currently available on Netflix Instant.

ICFN Rating:

Charmed By Your Creepiness

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It Came From Netflix: Jack Frost /2013/01/05/it-came-from-netflix-jack-frost/ /2013/01/05/it-came-from-netflix-jack-frost/#comments Sat, 05 Jan 2013 07:01:08 +0000 /?p=1841

Jack FrostJack Frost (1996)
Rated R (for violence and gore, language and some brief sexuality)

Directed by Michael Cooney

Scott MacDonald
Christopher Allport
Stephen Mendel
F. William Parker

Violent serial killer Jack Frost (MacDonald) is being transported to the electric chair on a snowy night when the prison truck collides with a tanker containing indeterminate “genetic material”.  The driver is killed and it looks like Frost will get away – until is sprayed with the genetic material, which seems to dissolve him.  In Snowmonton, Sheriff Tiller (Allport) is anxious for Frost to be executed.  He was the one who originally arrested the killer and the man has repeatedly threatened the lives of Tiller and his family.  Strange, violent murders beginning happening around the small town, reminiscent of Frost’s crimes, and it quickly becomes obvious that a malevolent snowman is perpetrator.

Jack Frost is in keeping with the grand tradition of cheesy holiday-themed horror movies, such as Santa’s Slay and Silent Night, Deadly Night. This flick starts out insane, which is always a good sign for a B-movie.  A seemingly-sociopathic uncle tells his neice (who has a super creepy high-pitched voice) a graphically violent bedtime story after the child asks for a “happy scary” tale.  We only hear their voices as the camera pans around a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments bearing the film’s opening credits.

The setting of the movie is a small, rural town called Snowmonton – the closest the writers could get to actually calling it Snowmantown, which I’m almost sure was the original name.  The film was clearly not filmed during winter, as it uses the worst looking fake snow I’ve ever seen.  We’re talking worse than cornflakes painted white!  There is a hilarious animated scene of snow fusing with human cells, in addition to the laughably bad monster.  Clearly a cloth puppet/costume, the “evil” snowman looks cute and friendly, other than a pair of pointy twig eyebrows.  Don’t let the cover art fool you, the snowman in the film doesn’t even come close to approaching that level of scariness. It’s mostly shot from behind, with MacDonald’s lines done in ADR (automated dialogue replacement), but when Jack IS shown talking, the mouth doesn’t open and it is operated like a hand puppet.  The snowman also changes size depending on the scene, which I wasn’t entirely sure was on purpose.

There are some really choice moments, including a kid who uses a snowman puppet to correctly build a snowman’s face. (Really?!)  The score includes several somber Muzak versions of popular Christmas carols, which would be right at home in the elevator at Disney’s Haunted Mansion.  The common horror tropes are all there – the cops are all but useless (they try to shoot at melted water) and there’s an obligatory teenage “getting ready to have sex” scene that ends in over-the-top murders.

Jack Frost is played by Scott MacDonald, who, in his human form, is basically a low-rent Bruce Campbell.  He even breaks the fourth wall and throws out quippy catch phrases á la Ash.  As snowman Jack Frost, he adopts more of a Chucky-vibe, with a raspy snarl and plenty of snow and ice themed puns.  MacDonald is an experienced character actor, frequently cast in the many incarnations of “Star Trek”, and usually plays an antagonist or villain, so he seems at home in the serial killer role.  Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie) has a small role, but otherwise the cast is pretty forgettable.

It’s obvious that the filmmakers were having fun making a campy horror flick and don’t take themselves too seriously.  That’s part of Jack Frost‘s charm and makes it infinitely more watchable than most bad horror films.  It’s easy to see why it’s now considered a cult classic.  There’s some definite Evil Dead references and it reminded me a bit of the Christmas episodes of “Tales From the Crypt”.  If you’re a B-movie fan, it’s worth the watch, especially around the holidays.


ICFN Rating:

Charmed By Your Creepiness

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