Posts Tagged ‘cult’

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Do not accept The Invitation.

Ignore the misdirection from critics, this is not an enjoyable experience.

In fact, I would nominate this as one of the worst dinner experiences captured on film.

The Invitation is a bizarre, boring mess developed from disjointed parts.

Within the first 5 minutes, there’s a casual mercy-killing of a coyote by someone with a tire iron after they accidentally hit it with their car on the way to a dinner party. That’s the type of movie you are in store for with The Invitation. A group of friends is gathering together in the Hollywood Hills for a dinner party hosted by Eden (played by Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (played by Michiel Huisman). Eden is the ex-wife of Will (played by Logan Marshall-Green), and they separated after their child died a couple years ago. This party is the first time these friends have seen each other in more than 2 years. Even with that excuse, none of these people seemed like actual friends.

I praised Goodbye World because that movie brought together a cast of characters and managed to make them feel like they had authentic interactions. In The Invitation, no one seems like they want to be at this dinner party. I don’t blame them, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there either. Despite several openings, everyone decides to stay and suffer through the unwavering awkwardness.

Tammy Blanchard

The obvious elephant in the room this whole time is the death of Will and Eden’s son, Ty. Eden appears to have moved on with the help of David and a spiritual help group called “The Invitation.” Will is visibly still suffering and the movie shows flashbacks to their once loving, wholesome lives when their son was alive. At the dinner party, the tension between Eden and Will is clear and they blow up during an argument in front of everyone. I would have quickly gotten the hell out of there. However, Eden and David make things even more awkward by showing a video of someone dying by assisted suicide with the help of “The Invitation.” Needless to say, their sales pitch was not effective.

Although I was intrigued by the mystery of the setup, that momentum was not maintained.

I almost fell asleep thanks to glacial pacing and heavy reliance on flat dialogue between fake friends. While the intention may have been to build tension, I was bored by the whole sequence of events because it felt telegraphed and removed any hint of mystery. You know exactly where this movie is going, which makes the destination extremely disappointing when they finally arrive there.

The Invitation is interminably dull and not deserving of its self-imposed “thriller” label.

Logan Marshall-Green

Logan Marshall-Green is Tom Hardy’s doppelganger. He makes a lot of shocked faces with various expressions of dismay in this movie. Alas, he is Not Tom Hardy. Michiel Huisman is easily most known as Daario Naharis from Game of Thrones. I don’t recognize Tammy Blanchard from anything, but she has a face that perfectly portrays crazy—which was used beautifully in this movie.

No amount of great acting could have saved The Invitation. Not Tom Hardy acted his poor little heart out. But it still didn’t change the fact that he’s Not Tom Hardy. Daario is basically Daario. He is a suave character with mysterious intentions. The psychological chess match between Daario and Not Tom Hardy is the only interesting, ongoing dynamic, and they didn’t know each other before the party.

Daario and Not Tom Hardy

Clocking in at 1 hour and 40 minutes, the Invitation is a painful watch. I wanted to abort this movie after the first act. Why is this highly rated? While this is a polished effort from Karyn Kusama, the writing from Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi was not up to par with Kusama’s directing ability.

As a result, the Invitation is like an evening with an ether rag over your face.

Don’t be fooled by the buzz, this is not a good movie. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Bewildered

2 out of 5 stars

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Faults is a fantastic, even-paced mystery that is phenomenally captivating.

This movie starts out as a dark comedy showing you the desperate nature of the lead character, Ansel Roth—played by Leland Orser. Ansel is a specialist on cults and he tours local hotels to give shitty speeches and hawk his hackey book. The opening scene shows Ansel trying to re-use a hotel voucher for a free meal and getting rebuked. It goes delightfully wrong as he has to be thrown out.

Ansel in Mirror

Ansel Roth is a man at the end of his rope. Not quite literally, but he does attempt to suck a tailpipe. Ansel is a broken man, and Leland Orser does a beautiful, masterful job portraying that sense. Leland Orser is a seasoned character actor who typically plays nerdy roles, but he excelled in this larger opportunity playing a complex character like Ansel Roth. Ansel is a failure. Both his marriage and career have failed. One particular case still haunts Ansel because he failed trying to help a family deprogram a woman initiated into a cult. He pushed her too hard and she killed herself.

As a result of his collective failures, Ansel has lost all motivation to move forward.

Claire and Parents

However, he gets a second chance when two parents—played by familiar faces Chris Ellis and Beth Grant—come to Ansel desperate for his specialized help to save their daughter, Claire. For the first time in the movie, you see a light turn on in Ansel’s eyes while he’s eating breakfast with Claire’s parents. Although he blatantly states that he no longer gives a shit, Ansel needs the money and the parents are willing to pay for the job. Naturally, Ansel hires two thugs, they all kidnap Claire from a parking lot, and they transport her to a hotel in a sketchy van. Clearly, these are not professionals.

Basically, the comedy comes to a screeching halt at this point (about 20 minutes in).

However, the lack of dark humor is made up for by a wealth of Mary Elizabeth Winstead—playing Claire. I’ll take that trade-off. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is one of our finest young actresses. She is an amazing talent with range, but she’s hasn’t had a true breakthrough role. I have no doubt she would have had an equally impressive performance as Brie Larson in last year’s Oscar-nominated Room.

Kidnapped

Claire comes off as a fragile woman. She is confused about the situation, but not her convictions. According to her parents, she has joined a cult and cut herself off from her family and society as a whole. Claire has joined a group that refers to itself as Faults. A fault is a fracture. From a fault comes a change. Claire feels intrinsically connected and called to this group. According to her description, Faults exhibits all the classic signs of a cult. It is Ansel’s mission to deprogram the cult’s teachings.

Ansel feels obligated to help Claire, but his main motivation is the money so he can pay off his debt.

Terry is his manager who self-published Ansel’s latest book, which he can’t give away. Jon Gries plays Terry in a very understated manner as a tough but effeminate photographer. Despite his job, he still manages to provide the character with the appearance of intimidation. Terry utilizes his close pal, Mick, as the muscle to force Ansel to pay. Mick is played by Lance Reddick, resident alien-looking motherfucker with a voice of gold who I’ll always remember as Desmond Mobay from Oz and Cedric Daniels from The Wire. These two characters are constantly interfering with Ansel’s mission to save Claire.

Ansel can only survive so long having his candle burnt at both ends.

Saying too much more would threaten to ruin the story as this movie transforms into an absorbing mystery to find out who this cult is and what the hell they are doing. Although Claire is the only opening into Faults, Ansel is the key to unlock the door. Can he succeed where he failed before?

Orser and Winstead

Riley Stearns deserve immense praise for pulling off this movie as both the writer and director. His vision came to life and became much more thanks to Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser. The interplay between the characters of Claire and Ansel is the core of this movie. A few minutes could have been snipped from the middle to tighten things up, but this movie deserves more praise.

Maybe I just personally enjoy the subject of cults more than most. It is a fascinating topic that Faults touches on and rolls around in—exploring why and how people are drawn to cults. In most cases, it is the cult of personality that lures people in like a siren’s call. In Faults, Ira is the name of the mysterious leader that we never see but their presence is felt anyway. The charismatic leader is often the introduction to make the brainwashing go down smooth. As people, we are very weak and open to this exploitation. While people love to single out Scientology, every organized religion is a cult.

You can all hate me equally for that true statement and sentiment.

Faults is a movie that belongs in your queue. Fortunately, this is still streaming on Netflix. Despite heavily relying on the mystery of unraveling the story, this movie holds up on a second viewing.

Just watch what you say about Faults, there some things we don’t talk about.

MEW Scream

4 out of 5 stars

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Trick ‘r Treat was formerly streaming on Netflix. That’s when I first encountered this movie a few years ago, but I recently stumbled on the fact that Trick ‘r Treat has evidently amassed quite a cult following. In the Halloween spirit, I revisited Trick ‘r Treat to try to uncover the reason for such love and adoration. I regret to inform you I am no closer to finding an answer after watching this movie again.

Although it has its moments, I don’t understand why so many people love Trick ‘r Treat.

Kids

What makes this movie specifically so special that it’s a tradition to watch every Halloween?

Trick ‘r Treat is an absurdist, entertaining horror anthology. The stories are cobbled together from different regions of the horror genre—ghosts, serial killers, slashers, and vampires can all be found. While jumbled, this movie avoids being categorized as a complete mess because the narratives are woven together in a circular yet coherent structure. Blood and guts (and lots of it) are central themes of the stories.

Some familiar faces also pop up in the various vignettes of Trick ‘r Treat.

Anna Paquin

Most notably, Anna Paquin is in a story where she’s a virgin dressing up as Little Red Riding Hood. Additionally, you should probably somewhat recognize Brian Cox (Captain O’Hagan from Super Troopers), veteran character actor Dylan Baker, and Leslie Bibb (Rachel McAdams clone) and her lovely face.

Even the fat kid (Brett Kelly) from Bad Santa shows up in a short little scene.

Dylan Baker

His cameo is complete with a “This IS My Costume” t-shirt while smashing pumpkins like an asshole.

If there is a star of this movie, it is Sam—played by Quinn Lord—a character who only reveals his face once. It is glorious and creepy. One of the common threads among these stories is Sam as this little kid can be seen all around town in his grimy orange onesie and creepy burlap sack mask with button eyes.

SamThe mystery of Sam is certainly the highlight of Trick ‘r Treat.

In the other stories, you see a principal with a secret dark side, some shithead kids pulling a prank at the site of a school bus massacre, slutty college girls trying to find a guy for their virgin friend, and a wife who can’t stand Halloween. I can’t recall encountering a character like Sam before. But I am heavily in favor of a feature length movie focusing solely on his antics during Halloween.

Every once in a while, a swell of hype surges around a horror movie. Whispers of how you need to see it start to grow into screams. For some particular reason, that appears to have retroactively happened with this movie. With the increased interest expanding the cult following, momentum has the point where a sequel is finally in the works. Hopefully that means more of our favorite little trick-or-treater.

Unfortunately, I think all the magic faded when the clock struck midnight. Trick ‘r Treat’s best quality is that it maintains an entertaining, breezy pace from start to finish. At a scant 82 minutes, this movie doesn’t overstay its welcome. A sequel is bound to test those boundaries beyond enjoyable limits.

I’m satisfied with the relative success and they should be too. Leave them wanting more.

Tricks and treats are abound in Trick ‘r Treat. Watch and enjoy at your own peril.

Staring

3 out of 5 stars