The texture of a film like “Hostel” takes place on the assumption that the journey could be one of adventure and slight mystery before turning it into a cage of horrors. “Yummy”, a Midnighter that was supposed to play SxSW 2020 this year and was acquired by Shudder, has some interesting ideas. It starts off with a bang almost guaranteeing a rock n’ roll splatter fest set in a plastic surgery hospital gone wrong on the back roads of Eastern Europe’s crumbling facade. The humor initially has possibilities especially with the pre-credit sequence but just a simple path of that black comedy is not enough since it keys into a straighter line as the film goes on. The film by trying to be tongue in cheek takes itself almost too seriously. The plot follows a man and his girlfriend as well as her mother who are going to this “cheap” hospital to get some work done. The girlfriend is getting a breast reduction which the film tries to turn into the running joke of the piece. The boyfriend is a med school drop out who is awkward and gets sick at the sight of blood. The girls in the hospital are all beautiful but in a plastic way which is an interesting paradox whether this is just where the film was shot or it was a play on the beauty myth overall. It is never quite clear though this idea seems part of it. The aspect of beauty against the decay is striking.
The story devolves into a more simple approach with the reality of the “virus” per se which is vague in so many ways. Of course the flash point is caused by those from outside which begs the question why it would have never happened before. The characters are unique enough in their idiosyncrasies (like maybe a backwards “Poseidon”). The orderly plays to a trope but turns out to be more diabolical which is not altogether unexpected. The actual side effects of what is going on to the people seems to change over the course of the film. Shots at many times are done more for the fact they look cool or at least passable. One scene that functions like the “Jurassic Park” inlay in the cooler works well for what the viewer thinks will happen. The rabbit hole it goes down slaps back at slick fantasy horror scenarios. While not unique per se, it definitely would have gotten cheers at the Lamar in Austin. The eventual resolution works beautifully because it is just that direct. While the idea of what might be befall this world of the movie is insulated, the intelligence of the characters as well as their losing of limbs and digits regularly makes one feel that their fates were sealed long before.
By Tim Wassberg
The tendency of perspective and perception is a idiom in movies that usually paints to a metaphor of whether or not a character is guilty of the actions he or she supposedly committed. in “You Should Have Left”, the essence of the Id is a big texture with the characters, male and female. Like writer/director David Koepp’s earlier “Secret Window” with Johnny Depp, it is about reflective insanity that can both be deconstructive but also freeing with certain characters. Kevin Bacon has been known to subvert genre more than a time or two so it can be tricky what angle the character could actually take which is part of why the film works as much as it does. The aspect of such a big age gap with his character and his wife Susanna (played by Amanda Seyfried) works when you understand the mechanics of the story and why that needs to be. It is a bit of a stretch maybe but they both make it work.
The mechanics of the movie are effective. The story is not about any big reveals but it is also not about making it easy to discover what is going on. The production design and the efficiency of structure is quintessential Blumhouse but also Koepp efficiency and 90s style thriller. Making a genre film and on a low budget ultimately depends on the director. Sometimes it can make certain directors really make it work like “Upgrade” by Leigh Whammel. “You Should Have Left” is an apt film but it is neither exceptional nor bad. It is effectively entertaining and a film that definitely has re-watch value, not because there are new aspects to discover but because the mechanics are smooth. Seyfried gets a bit of a thankless role but there is a almost a proxy irony that filters through the story with her. Avery Essex who plays their young daughter is extremely precocious but also an effective actor beyond her years…and yet sometimes one can see her acting.
The film also uses its location to remove the viewer from their comfort zone. The location that fills in for Wales is undeniably remarkable if the location manager managed to do what is seen seamlessly with very few stock shots if any. On the essence that this is a Blumhouse production, it is not necessarily terrifying or filled with horror as one would think but it is a effective concept that can be made to fill a structural base, like “The Purge” or “Happy Death Day,” That is the brilliance of a piece like this and the Blumhouse model because it forces the filmmaker to make it work at a studio level with the budget of an indie. But, as usual, it is always about the right ingredients.
By Tim Wassberg
One of the bigger movies that was been pushed in a certain way since the COVID-19 crisis is “Artemis Fowl”, a children’s story which Disney approached hoping for it to be another franchise. The film which has been done for awhile was ready for release last August seemingly shifted with the Fox/Disney merger. But the pedigree of director Kenneth Branagh persevered through. The reality that sometimes Branagh can find the balance but only when there is enough tragedy of a human moment drifting in the story. The mid size film tends to work well. Even “Thor” suffered a bit from its own weight versus say when it git to Ragnarok. But starting something is always difficult. However it also seemed like “Jack Ryan” would have been a slam dunk but that failed as well. When we spoke most recently for “All Is True” which also had Judi Dench in it as it does here, there is a sense of time. That feeling happens once here but it is almost external of the actual story with an implement of CGI. It is a moment involving Office Short (played with wonderment by Lara McDowell). The music, effects, emotion and poignancy work all together. It is a well executed scene, very small in certain ways because of what it sets up but so poignant. “Hamlet” had those moments in spades. “Murder on The Orient Express found that balance as well. Here, the spectacle of the chess game being played by Artemis Fowl later doesn’t give you the ability to get to accept him and know him. It feels hollow. The book differs greatly but it simply drops you into his adventures without a set up. The film needs to provide that which it does in a build of book ends which is meant to push into other sequels. However “Artemis” suffers from the same problems as ” Wrinkle In Time”. It’s audience is in between the lines of what people want to see. Ferdia Shaw plays Artemis adequately but there is no feeling of soul or stakes. As a result motivations, even those of Officer Sort (who is the strongest character by far) seem unbalanced.
“Artemis Fowl” as a book seemingly gauged it a little older and shifted the advancing tension. Within the movie there is two main locations and they don’t come off very dynamic. Josh Gad plays Mulch, a big dwarf with obvious secrets. It is a showy role but it seems like Gad was playing outside the box but with a bunch of crayons while not exactly inside the lines. He lowers his voice and is covered in hair but the ad libs (or maybe just the actual dialogue) just don’t quite hit whereas on “Orient Express” it felt right. Another interesting side frame happens in the way Judi Dench inhabits her role as Commander Root. At times one got vibes of Dennis Hopper in “Waterworld” especially in one shot when she is flying an approaching ship. Sometimes plot needs to move along. Sometimes there needs to be a one liner. Sometimes scenery need to be filled or chewed. Reluctantly in bring up the abhorable “Cats”, one of the better spots in that was the regality, the emotional tenderness and the command Dench’s character had in that movie especially at the end. Here she is supposed to be all encompassing but some of that signature charm and slight of eye with Dench would have worked wonders. All in all there seems to be alot of opportunities missed here.
It is not a fault of the book which took a completely different path. If it had been done that way, it might have had similar problems to say “Sahara” which tried to drop the filmgoer into Dirk Pitt’s adventure mid tier. Those books had such promise but the screenplay and story structure was not built right. The nut of book to film is sometimes tricky sometimes to crack”Pirates Of The Caribbean” was lucky in that the ride establishes it but Jack was dropped into that as a character and flourished. Yet “Haunted Mansion” has that mythology and yet was not been able to find that angle. “Artemis Fowl” is a misfire in that way as well. There are small moments and Short as a character and even Butler, Artemis’ bodyguard, get it right but everything around them, character, story and all, do not quite fit together right. On Disney+, this will be good new content and makes sense as a content move because in a movie theater this film would have stumbled (much like the recent “Dolittle”). The effects are well done but again, it is done for beauty and not as much for a sense of purpose. Some of the visuals are wasted on the small screen though. The time stop is a neat trick but with so much possibility as well as some of the other technology. “Artemis Fowl” doesn’t quite know its audience and its audience doesn’t quite line up here either. It plays too young while not playing older much like a more expensive version (sorry) of “Agent Cody Banks” with mythology thrown in. It had tinges of “Tomb Raider” from a male perspective in the book but misses the mark here.
By Tim Wassberg