FlixChatter: MALIGNANT (2021)

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Directed by: James Wan
Written by: Akela Cooper (screenplay)
Story by: James Wan, Ingrid Bisu

It’s officially spooky season! Okay, maybe it’s a little early to start carving pumpkins or hanging up fake cobwebs, but for me, as soon as September hits and the weather dips below 75 degrees, I go into full Halloween mode. To kick that off, I decided to check out the new James Wan horror film, Malignant, and while it was very different than what I was expecting, it was still a great way to start my favorite time of year.

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In Malignant, Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins having visions of violent murders following a traumatic event of her own. She quickly realizes the visions are not just in her head but actually happening in real life- and could be connected to a terrifying repressed secret from her childhood. 

Based on the few commercials I saw before seeing this movie, I never would have expected Malignant to be campy, but that’s the word that kept popping into my head the whole time I was watching it: the acting is melodramatic, there are lots of borderline-cheesy zoom-ins on characters’ faces and overblown musical stings, and the big reveal toward the end of the movie feels like something straight out of a 1950’s horror/sci-fi B-movie. It’s a unique combination with the modern setting, the dark glossy style we’re used to seeing in a lot of today’s supernatural horror, and the industrial score, but I liked the mash-up of styles. There are a couple moments where the camp feels unintentionally funny, but for the most part, it’s effective in keeping the tension high and bringing a new tone to a modern horror movie.

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Despite the camp, there’s plenty for lovers of modern horror to appreciate. The movie doesn’t shy away from blood and gore, and there are some very creative and shocking kills throughout the film- unsurprising, considering Wan is the writer/director who brought us Saw. Despite there being some especially violent scenes, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. There’s some CGI that feels a little dated in a big fight scene toward the end, and there’s a bit at the movie’s big reveal that looks a little silly, but overall the special effects look great.

Lastly, the cast is stellar. Annabelle as Madison and Maddie Hasson as her sister Sydney have excellent chemistry, as do George Young and Michole Briana White as cop partners Kekoa Shaw and Regina Moss. Ingrid Bisu as CST Winnie is funny, likable, and memorable despite having such a small role. And Marina Mazepa, the physical performer for Gabriel, must be made of rubber, because the way she contorts her body in this movie is impressive and horrifying. 

I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy the unusual tone in Malignant, and while I can understand that, I personally loved the blend of styles. It’s not like any other horror movie I’ve seen, and in the wrong hands, it could have felt like a bad straight-to-streaming movie, but with excellent writing, directing, and acting, as well as plenty of creative body horror, this might be one of my favorite new original horror films, and I’m already looking forward to watching it again. 

4/5 stars

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Have you seen MALIGNANT? Well, what did you think?

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FlixChatter Review: The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Review by Vitali Gueron

From producers James Wan, Gary Dauberman & Emile Gladstone and director Michael Chaves, comes the latest movie in The Conjuring franchise. Taking place in early 1970s Los Angeles, La Llorona (meaning The Weeping Woman) stars Linda Cardellini as Anna Tate-Garcia, a mother of two children, and a social worker who investigates child abuse cases for the city of Los Angeles. While investigating the disappearance of the two children of Patricia Alvarez (played by Patricia Velásquez), Anna finds Patricia’s children locked inside a closet with a large pad lock keeping them inside.

With help from the police, Anna finds the key to the locked door and find Patricia’s two sons inside. They are scared and tell Anna to keep them in the room so they’re safe. Ignoring their pleas, Anna takes the boys to the police for safety. While at a child services shelter, the two boys Carlos and Tomas sleep walk through multiple corridors until one stops, stares and points to a small mirror in the corner where both see La Llorona. La Llorona disappears from the mirror (which cracks) and then she reappears, grabbing Carlos. That night, Anna learns of the deaths of the two boys, who have been found drowned in a nearby river.

The significance of two boys drowned in a nearby river is that towards the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to a couple who are playing with their children in a field in 1673 Mexico. It is in that scene that we are shown that one of the boys sees his mother drowning his brother in a stream. The boy tries to run away but his mother catches him and appears to drown him too. Back in present early 1970s Los Angeles, Anna takes her two children, son Chris (Roman Christou) and daughter Sam (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), with her to the murder scene as she is a single mother and has no one to watch them. It is there that Anna sees and hears Patricia scream at her, accusing Anna of her boys’ deaths.

While the confrontation between Anna and Patricia is going on, Anna’s son Chris decides to leave their family car and investigate the crime scene. Chris hears a faint sound of weeping, as if a woman is crying behind him. As he turns around, he sees the woman, La Llorona, in a white dress approaching him. She grabs him and leaves burn marks on his wrist. Luckily Chris rushes back to the car and prevents La Llorona from reaching him inside the car before his mother comes back to drive them home. The next day we learn that La Llorona has travelled along with Anna, Chris and Sam to their house and she is now haunting them through various way; once when Sam takes a bath, the other time when Sam is walking outside by their pool.

Anna takes drastic measures and rushes, along with her kids, to church to see Father Perez (Tony Amendola), who relates the case to his previous experiences with his involvement in the case of the Annabelle doll (from the 2014 movie Annabelle which is also part of The Conjuring franchise) Father Perez says that while the church can’t help them in this case, he does refer them to a former priest named Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) to help them get rid of the hauntings. With Rafael’s help, Anna and her children prep the house with candles and other holy items, but La Llorona attacks the family and attempts to drown Anna and Sam in the pool. Rafael creates a holy barrier at the doors to protect the family, but Patricia finds Anna’s house and while blaming Anna for her sons’ deaths, she breaks the holy barrier, allowing La Llorona back inside the house.

Sam and Chris flee to the attic while Anna is trapped in the basement. Chris tried to push back at La Llorona by displaying her a necklace that Anna took off La Llorona, which makes La Llorona briefly assume her human appearance (and we see the same woman from 1673 Mexico, who drowned her own sons in the river.) With Patricia’s change of heart, she helps Anna find her children in the attic and La Llorona’s spirit is defeated when Anna stabs her through the chest with a cross made from a Fire Tree (the one that grew by the river where La Llorona drowned her children.) Although we do see that Anna is successful in destroying her spirit, we never quite get the sense that there aren’t any more spirits around and that they could come back at any time.

While The Curse of La Llorona is one of the “middle of the road” films in The Conjuring franchise. It lacks the star power of Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) but it also has that haunted house feel we love to see in paranormal movies. While most of the jumps scares are predictable, and sometimes even funny, Linda Cardellini’s performance rises above the rest and makes for one enjoyable fright. Michael Chaves uses the unstable camera to his advantage, making his audience feel ever so uncomfortable, especially in places that are meant to make you comfortable, such as the bathtub. Overall, while The Curse of La Llorona isn’t perfect, it makes adequate connection to The Conjuring Universe’s fine collection of paranormal haunting films.


Have you seen The Curse of La Llorona? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: AQUAMAN (2018)

I’m not the biggest comic book reader, in my younger years I’ve only read Batman and The Punisher comics. So, I’ve only learned about Aquaman from the show Entourage. During that show’s second season, its star ended up playing Aquaman and fans of the comic were hoping an actual film based on the character would be a reality soon. That’s over 10 years ago and now fans can finally see the super hero from the ocean make a splash on the big screen worldwide.

In a long and very cheesy opening, we learned how Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) became a super hero known as Aquaman. One day his father Tom (Temuera Morrison) found his wounded mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shore of the ocean. Atlanna told Tom she’s from an ancient city under the ocean called Atlantis, I didn’t really pay attention as to why she decided to come to the surface. Anyhoo, Tom and Atlanna fell in love and had a son and they named him Arthur. One day the army from Atlantis came and took Atlanna back to her home land.

Years later, Arthur is now a full-grown man and known to earthlings as Aquaman. The story took place after the events of Justice League. One day a princess named Mera (Amber Heard) came to the surface and asked Arthur to come to Atlantis and claim his place as the king of the ocean. She also needs his help to stop Arthur’s half brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) from starting a war that could wipe out everyone living on the surface of the ocean. Reluctantly, Arthur agreed to go with Mera and both must face many obstacles in order to save the world from a mad king.

Five screenwriters were credited with the story, yet the plot of the film is a very simple one. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and some of the dialogs were very cheesy. Now maybe that’s the goal of this film, many people have complained that DC films are way too dark and serious, so they’ve decided to make this one a very light and cheesy. Director James Wan took inspirations from many films including Star Wars, Avatar, Indiana Jones, Tron: Legacy, Batman Begins and countless others that I couldn’t think of right now. And that’s my main gripe with the film, I don’t mind when a director decided to copy other films, but I expect them to re-interpret it as their own. Wan decided to just copy films that I mentioned, in fact there were two sequences in the film that he stole from Tron: Legacy and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. His pacing is also a bit off, at almost 2 and half hours long, a lot of scenes could have been cut out.

Performance wise, Momoa is definitely the main draw. He looked like he had a great time playing the silly super hero and his charisma really help made this film watchable. Veterans such as Kidman, William Defoe, Dolph Lundgren and Morrison also looked like they had a good time in the film. Unfortunately, the other leads Heard and Wilson looked too stiff or bored in their respective roles. I didn’t really see any chemistry between Heard and Momoa, mostly because I thought heard just looked too stiff in the role. Wilson’s villain is another long line of one-dimensional superhero antagonist and he looked bored.

I think the only saving grace for this film is its beautiful effects, with limitless budget, Wan and his team did a great job of creating the underwater world. They also did a great job with the 3D effects, heck I thought this film might have been one of the best I’ve seen in 3D. I didn’t really hate Aquaman, it’s just too long and kind of a mess. With more originality in the script and action scenes, it could’ve a been a fun superhero film.

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So have you seen AQUAMAN? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Furious 7

Furious7 “I don’t have friends, I got family”

That line by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), the patriarch of the ‘Fast & Furious’ family, sums up the familial theme that runs through this franchise. I never would’ve thought that when I was still blissfully ignorant of the series prior to Fast & Furious 6. So far I’ve only seen the 1st, 5th and 6th movie before the latest one, and based on what I heard from those who’ve seen them all, this is one of those rare occasion where the sequels actually improve over the earlier movies. Yes, the franchise pride itself in being a big dumb action flick with preposterous car stunts, but the familial theme separates it from other action movies, and that could very well be the secret of its success.

Furious7_HanFuneralThere’s a direct continuation from this movie to Fast & Furious 6, as the comatose villain’s brother, Deckard Shaw, now seeks revenge against Toretto & his family. The beginning of the film shows them attending a funeral of a former family member that’s hinted at the end of the previous film. Even the villain is avenging a member of the family. I thought that the casting is pretty spot on as not only Jason Statham looks believable as Luke Evans‘ older brother, the fact that he’s famous in another car-centric actioner The Transporter makes his casting even more perfect.

Statham is always effortlessly bad ass and invincible in pretty much everything he’s in, and it’s no different here. He apparently could take out an entire hospital AND all those SWAT team all by himself. So he’s special ops or something, which means in his case he’s got superhuman strength who could withstand blow after blow from someone three times his size! The fight scene between him and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is practically hilarious – as is most of the fight scenes in this franchise – because I just don’t sense any kind of real danger to them.

Furious7_TheRockJasonStathamThe vengeance storyline is mixed with a heist plot to obtain a tracking device named God’s Eye and rescuing a hacker named Ramsey. Just like the Mission Impossible movies, the filmmaker just wants to one-up the previous movie in terms of its preposterous action. The sequence of the cars dropped from a plane down to Caucasus Mountains, followed by an equally ridiculous car/bus chase around the twisty mountain road is what you pay money to see this franchise! Seeing that scene on IMAX is really quite a thrill, it’s as close to being in a real amusement park ride given the immersive experience of seeing the stunts in such a huge screen.

Furious7_CarAirdropStuntman Spiro Razatos is really the unsung hero in this franchise as he’s the man responsible for some of the heart-stopping sequences, such as the bank vault scene in Fast Five. This article offer details as to how he pulls off the airdropD scene, it’s really his magnum opus of stunt work! To contrast the cool mountain scenery, the team then heads to the desert of Abu Dhabi. Of course the *mission* has to be something totally absurd. The owner of the flash drive they’re after placed the thing inside a $3.4 mil supercar that I’ve never even heard of: Lykan Hypersport made in Dubai by the first ever Arab supercar company W Motors.

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Yep, that’s the red car that Dom and Brian (Paul Walker) drove through two skyscrapers you’ve seen in the trailer. Trust me, the scene itself is even crazier than in the trailer! Brian Tyler‘s dynamic score perfectly complements the action scenes.

LykanHypersportNow, I’ve mentioned some of the best action sequences, but there are also some pointless fight scenes that overstay its welcome. One of them that come to mind is the fight between UFC champ Ronda Rousey and Michelle Rodriguez, it’s there simply just to fulfill audience’s expectation of a two bad-ass girls knocking each other out. Some of the fight scenes between Walker and Thai martial artist Tony Jaa also gets boring after a while. Pointless characters also drag the movie down, such as Kurt Russell‘s character and Djimon Hounsou’s who’s been typecast as a useless henchman in practically everything he’s in since his fine turn in Gladiator.

I do have to give props to how the filmmaker handle the tribute to Paul Walker, who’s a key cast member of the franchise. I knew before watching this movie that they weren’t going to kill off his character Brian O’Conner, which I think is a wise move on their part. What they end up doing is genuinely moving and heartfelt that it made me tear up watching it. It’s more of a celebration for the late actor than a somber farewell, incorporating the use of CGI as well as the actor’s own brothers Caleb and Cody as stand-ins.

Furious7_PaulWalkerOverall the movie is entertaining and fun, which is what one would hope for in a movie like this. The emotional scenes help elevate it a bit, but for the most part, you go see this movie for the ridiculous car stunts. But the ethnic diversity has also become part of the ‘brand’ of the franchise. It’s nice to see actors of pretty much every race represented: Black, Asian, Hispanic, White, and there’s even a Bollywood actor making a cameo this time around. Even the director James Wan is of Malaysian Chinese descent. Wan is new to the franchise, after doing mostly horror films like The Conjuring. I think his direction is ok, though I think I prefer Justin Lin‘s direction in the last two movies a bit more. In any case, the diversity pays off for the franchise, as according to THR, 75% of the audience in North America is non-White and it’s earned $384 mil worldwide in its first weekend, wow!

The movie is quite long though, I think cutting some of those unnecessary action scenes out would reduce the overlong 137-min running time. But it’s still mostly enjoyable to me because it’s more of a heist flick than a street-racing movie.

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Have you seen Furious 7? Well, what did YOU think?