Unfortunately Weird: Wild Mountain Thyme (2020)

Unfortunately Weird is a column for the kind of film that ends up being memorably weird, but in all the wrong ways.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I watched the film Wild Mountain Thyme, and it still hasn’t left my brain. This isn’t a fond experience I’m recollecting, a meaningful film-viewing, no. It is because my brain is still unable to process what it is I saw.

If you’re asking yourself “what am I watching?” with the frequency that I was, you know something isn’t right.

source: Lionsgate

For anyone out there who adores this film and finds it delightful I say- I am happy for you, enjoy what you enjoy, but, also, you’re probably not going to like what I say next.

What the hell?

This is one of the worst, most bizarre movie-watching experiences that I have had in a long time. However, I am still glad I did. This is for many reasons I won’t all divulge, but mostly because curiosity demanded that I do. You know what happened to the cat though, right?

Before I begin to explain (what is even explainable) about this film and what is unequivocally wrong here, I shall attempt to discern the plot. Thereby, bring some clarity to an otherwise strangely structured, confusingly off, motion picture.

We open to beautiful Ireland, narrated by Christopher Walken as Tom Reilly, the patriarch of one the two families at the heart of this “magical” story. We’re introduced to two of the most depressed kids ever, on nearby farms, before quickly moving to them as adults.

One is Rosemary (Emily Blunt) and the other is Walken‘s son, Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan). The two stars of the film have a clear affection for one another but are hindered by…something. Stubbornness? A strange experience when they were kids when one pushed the other? One might wonder, with this cast- along with the film’s writer/director John Patrick Shanley (Yes, director of Doubt, writer of Moonstruck, maybe go watch one of those) how bad could it be?

I haven’t even told you yet that Jon Hamm is in it.

Eye roll, sigh, head tilt… huh?

source: Lionsgate

So, these two bourgeoning romantic partners spend a lot of time throughout this film speaking in fast paced dialogue that borders on the unintelligible, and crosses into completely bonkers, while taking the longest route to an admission of love that I can recall. The plot wobbles awkwardly like a three-legged chair, and its as uncomfortable and ridiculous as one too.

What’s worse is that, despite having this strange desire to describe what I saw, I find it hard to completely convey the oddity that is Wild Mountain Thyme. There are so many moments throughout that are truly head scratching. If I was to compile a list of emotions felt while watching this movie the majority would fall under the confused, conflated and confounded side, and yes, I realize those are all synonyms of the same word, yet somehow this film adds layers to the meaning. Did you know you could be perplexed with such nuance?

I’m a romantic at heart, so I am always hoping that a film fulfills its intentions. I find no pleasure in saying that Wild Mountain Thyme does not.

There is so much talent involved here (both in front and behind the camera) that when the credits came I found myself slack jawed in awe that this was produced. In theory, maybe, this had a roadmap for success, in execution, however, it stumbles into meandering nonsense, hurried and ineffective.

A sweet Thyme, it was not.

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror (2007)

An appreciation review is for a film that I love that I feel hasn’t received its due! All in the spirit of giving films the spotlight they deserve! (According to me). Because film is subjective of course, but I hope to change your minds.

Disclaimer: Ironically, this also ties into Wonderfully Weird, because, let’s be honest, this isn’t a universally “got” film.

There are so many quotes from this film that I spew on a daily basis, so apologies (sorry- not sorry) if that happens often during this review. It’s just the ideal amalgamation of horror, comedy, and outright randomness that makes Planet Terror iconic.

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror
source: Dimension Films

A zombie (not really zombie, but zombie) government invented disease ravages local residents. Have we seen this before? Perhaps. In this delectably bizarre/hilarious way?

Helllll no.

“That Boy’s Got the Devil in Him”

Thank you Robert Rodriguez for this, and for a few others I might throw into the mix, to be continued) even if there’s plenty of his that I’m not as sold on. This first shot in the grindhouse combo unleashed a mess of guts, a random testicle storing/obsession (by the wonderful Naveen Andrews) of his victims, to Freddy Rodriguez’s honed “notorious” ability to kick ass as “El Wray” it is a ride. Not to mention an assortment of other acting gems like Michael Beihn (his on-going rivalry with brother Jeff Fahey’s for the ultimate BBQ recipe) and Rose McGowan with a machine gun/rocket launcher leg. To name a few. All of this may seem chaotic, and potentially not real, but it all really happens. It fits like a perfectly attached wooden appendage during an apocalyptic event when you need a leg.

Yeah, that’s Planet Terror.

This movie transcended a lot of previously used (sometimes abused) themes and made it original. At a time when one might wonder: how is this possible? Well, through a sense of obscurity, originality, and also, a healthy dose of throwback. The grindhouse appeal is a selling point, but the movie excels beyond the aesthetic, nostalgic touch. In simplest terms, it’s campy horror fun, with an assortment forced to come together (some overcoming their sordid pasts) to prevail over the evil looming here. 

“I’m Going to Eat Your Brains, and Gain Your Knowledge.”

One of my favorite aspects of Planet Terror, other than the humor that sneaks into every scene, some hilarious one-liners, is the style. If you’ve seen a lot of Rodriguez’s filmography, you know he’s got this in spades, but Planet Terror brings it to another level. It’s soaked in its grindhouse vibe, much like the other within the film duo, Death Proof. Another being The Machete movies, which came out of the wonderfully ridiculous trailers between the two films. Whether it be the gore or the sparks of the explosions, the effects and visuals pop. Also, props to the badass choreographed scene of Freddy Rodriguez‘s character fighting his way through a hospital ward and Josh Brolin’s creepy doctor. It’s exploitation, it’s throw-back horror, it is embracing the campiness with a wide-toothed, bloody grin. 

What do you think? Let me know!

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Recently, during our #BlindspotPodcast for Film Inquiry, Jake Tropila recommended a movie I had been meaning to watch for a long time: Only Lovers Left Alive. Why had I missed this? Who knows…life, time…all of the things considered in this newfound cinematic love.

This was a movie even referred to by my co-host as a “Kristy” film, which is exactly why I am taking the time to talk about how amazing it indeed is.

A vampire film, an existential contemplation on meaning and immortality, a funny, yet intellectual foray into the minds of humans (and our supernatural counterparts)= lovely cinema. There’s a lot to adore with Jim Jarmusch’s film, in a way you may not expect. I left the film satisfied and imbued with emotion, deep in thought, and self-reflection.

How’s that for a genre piece?

Tom Hiddleston (Adam) and Tilda Swinton (Eve) are amazing as the two leads. There’s a chemistry and yet a disconnect (in the most beautiful of ways) and I mean that in the sense that these two have been apart, and yet can be reunited with instant fire; it’s magnetic. A love story for many, many, ages. When Eve discovers that Adam is having a difficult time she immediately goes to his side. They’re forever entwined.

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive
source: Soda Pictures, Pandora Film Verleih

There are other terrific supporting roles from the likes of the tragically lost talent of Anton Yelchin to the amazing versatile Mia Wasikowska, to the incredible John Hurt. But, the real passion of this film comes from our leads and an imaginative almost lyrically profound story that is unlike anything that has come before. There’s a real appreciation for cinema, while also emphasizing on the admiration of the human experience.

Anytime someone can introduce a new facet to the “vampire“ sub-genre, I’m thrilled. It’s moody, it’s prolific, with the usual deadpan humor one can expect from this director’s cache, and Jim Jarmusch truly excels here, crafting an interesting character study that is also a blast to enjoy. While there’s a richness here within the narrative, there’s also an overall sweetness that prevails.

Jim Jarmusch weaves a lovely story here that mixes humor and sadness, highlighting intricacies while examining the simple moments of our daily existence. This is complete with music (some from Jarmusch’s band: SQURL) that truly sweep you off your feet. In fact, there are many times I felt like I was floating through this film, elevated by how artfully in tune it is. I believe this to be his best work, and it’s atmospherically encompassing. An intellectually inviting, endearing, and wonderful movie. And yes, there are vampires too.

Bonus!

What is your take? Let me know!

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

An appreciation review is for a film that I love that I feel hasn’t received its due! All in the spirit of giving films the spotlight they deserve! (According to me). Because film is subjective of course, but I hope to change your minds.

In the last decade of filmmaking few films have hit me as high (picture a carnival hammer hitting the top bell) on the horror scale as much as It Follows. I have suggested this movie to more people than I can count and the reasoning is simple: it’s one of the best, most original, and long-lasting cinematic encounters of the genre. Especially in recent history.

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

Some might classify this in its barest form (undeservingly so) as a thriller about youngsters spreading a curse through sex. Yes, if you want it to be defined in the most generic way, perhaps, but that’s part of the excellency here, it exceeds this notion, and while it may be a metaphor for unprotected sex and transmitted diseases, its nature is a much more prolific and terrifying one.

After Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, a haunting reality is passed onto her. Her only way out is to continue the process, further spreading the “virus.”

Apart from some of the creepiest imagery in recent movies, David Robert Mitchell‘s It Follows enlivens multiple horrific elements: being stalked (obviously), feeling alone and unbelieved, as well as internally deeply attacked, and the inevitable suffering. Though in this tale, our main protagonist has a support system, and while the others can’t always see the ghoulish followers, they sense (and sometimes see) the effect. What’s seen is truly chilling. Some of my favorite displays on-screen of fear incarnate.

It’s a gut-punch of a horror, of course, in a great way. Whenever I have shown this to someone I get giddy in their reactions. That’s because it is visceral and completely overwhelming. Exactly what you strive for in a film like this. It’s also shot with beautiful cinematography coupled with a score and feel that echoes more classic, retro horror. Monroe’s terror is thoroughly perceptible, a bona fide horror queen (soon to come another love of mine The Guest) where she’s also sensational.

For any fan of this particular genre: this is a must-see. One of the best, stylish, more recent horrors you’ll discover. It will creep up on you, and won’t let go.

What are your thoughts? Let me know!

Wonderfully Weird: Freaked (1993)

Wonderfully Weird: Freaked (1993)

Wonderfully Weird is a column that asks, how weird is it? Does it pay off? And sometimes- what the hell just happened? The wonder of film revolves around its ability to vary in perspective from one person to the next. This column is all about the asking- and by extension me, answering with my take. What’s yours?

Occasionally, I have random memories of a film I saw when I was younger. It was odd, obnoxious, had Bobcat Goldthwait as a sock puppet. (If you haven’t seen it, this is real.)

Of course, I’m talking about the 1993 bonkers, Freaked, directed by Alex Winter and Tom Stern, and written by Tim Burns, Tom Stern, Alex Winter.

The Premise?

Celebrity Ricky Coogin (Alex Winter) is hired as a spokesperson for an obviously seedy company. When he’s traveling to South America for said organization, his friend Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) and newly met Julie (Megan Ward) stumble upon what, some might say, is the worst kind of “Freakshow” roadside attraction you can imagine.

Wonderfully Weird: Freaked (1993)
Freaked (1993)- source: 20th Century Fox

Headed by Randy Quaid, what they fall prey to is a place that tests this chemical on people, creating them into an assortment of body horror mixed with some interesting practical effects, which has an array of stars as different attractions. They are all prisoners in this fever dream of a film. There are a lot of cameos, including Keanu Reeves and Mr. T, all in their various characters.

There’s no easy way to describe Freaked. Part dark-comedy, part low-budget horror, part… *brain is having trouble with a word that can describe*- at times the film borders on so outrageous that it makes you wonder if it should have ever been made. Then, there are situations where the feature ventures on a level of incohesive-ness that’s actually fun, and you find yourself laughing out loud. Some of the makeup and practical effects are pretty impressive, and some of the humor (when it isn’t only odd for the sake of being so) is quite clever. 

Is it amazing? No. Is it weird? Ah… hell yeah. Alex Winter as the arrogant actor who ends up quite actually getting a taste of his own medicine is just the jumping-off point for the narrative that unfolds. There’s a lot within the story that is nonsense, but it is entertaining and zany for a reason. If you can get past the intense tonal injection, and just let it roll over you- you might just have a good time. 

Regardless of your final take, Freaked, (and this could be because of some nostalgia-glasses my child self is still wearing) is a movie that is most definitely hard to forget. 

Appreciation Review: The Thing (1982)

Appreciation Review: The Thing (1982)

This is an opportunity to appreciate the more horrific things in life, especially when it comes to my favorite platform: movies.

How could I not start off this column with one of my favorite horror movies of all time? While this is hardly ever an easy thing to answer (in any genre) John Carpenter’s The Thing, always makes it to my lips. This movie not only left a cinematic impression, I felt it.

To this day, it is rare for a film to be as instrumental in my love for the genre as much as this movie. It’s one that I can watch repetitively, and believe me I do, and still find new things I adore each time. Isn’t this the gift of great cinema?

When you are approaching a remake it’s difficult to elevate yourself from the source in a way that brings in new fans and satisfies old alike. Carpenter managed to excel at this, taking the 1950’s version and making it scarier, tenser, and somehow even more memorable.

This is, The Thing.

The Thing (1982) source: Universal Pictures

One of my favorite elements in horror films, be it psychological, a creature-feature, slasher- what have you, is when the story takes place in a limited, if not a singular primary setting. There’s something inherently eerie about the isolation of this group of men in Antarctica, trapped by both weather and circumstance, forced to question their sanity and…ultimately, one another.

It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers but there’s an even smaller group potentially “infected”. How do you know if this… “thing” has gotten the others? How can you trust your friend, your co-worker, if it’s possible it’s some alien/entity trying to consume you (and I mean CONSUME, in some of the best practical effects/body horror/make up ever). It’s what all horror connoisseurs crave; a mysterious and evocative beginning, a steady burgeoning of tension, and enough left unexplained leveled with the right amount of terror shown.

Another element that The Thing has going for it is the casting. While Kurt Russell is a pretty household name, here, as pilot R.J. MacReady, complete with long hair and one of my favorite on-screen beards, he’s incredible. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the genius of Ennio Morricone‘s score. It’s a beautifully strange combination that matches the mixing of sci-fi and horror. It’s synth, it’s subtle, and yet it’s bone-chillingly apt. In fact, there’s nothing ineffective about the making of The Thing.

In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece of filmmaking, of suspense building and maintaining, and one of the most iconic horror movies you’ll ever see.