We finally made it to fall! I can at last turn off my air conditioner… mostly. It’s Los Angeles, what do you want? Anywho, the opening salvos of awards season have been fired, with some absolutely great films coming out (Ad Astra review coming soon), as well as some abject shit (The Goldfinch). We even have our annual way-too-early campaigns and predictions for nominees, in this case fans of Hustlers already stumping for Jennifer Lopez to get an acting nod. I haven’t seen the movie – nor do I plan to – but I honestly do believe it when critics say it’s the best performance of her career, because a) being a stripper is basically her natural state, and b) when the bar for your acting career is Gigli, pretty much anything is Oscar-worthy by comparison. I’m guessing the buzz will die down by the end of the year.
But now that we’re into October, the movie calendar is essentially split into two categories. On the one hand we get films that might contend come Oscar time next year, assuming they can generate excitement and maintain it, which can be tricky. This time last year, in successive weeks, everyone thought A Star is Born and First Man would dominate the Academy process. Instead, the former got the one award it deserved (“Shallow” is just a damn good song, and the moment in the movie was one of the singular great scenes of 2018), and the latter – thanks to some bullshit jingoistic posturing from Fox News – ended up with only a handful of technical nominations, winning only for Visual Effects.
The second major avenue, with specific emphasis this month, is on horror movies. Halloween (my baby nephew came out six weeks early on the holiday itself last year) is the ripest point of the year for terror, and sometimes Hollywood knocks it out of the ballpark. Other times we get Saw 4. But no matter where they are on the quality spectrum, rest assured there will be a LOT of options to get your fright on should you so choose.
Really, those two sets of fares dominate October, to the point that a lot of major studios don’t even bother with attempting to steal the box office with a blockbuster, unless it can be at least tangentially related to one or the other (if not both). The biggest example we’ll get this year is Joker, which given the comic book source and the It-influenced killer clown trend, already kind of checks the horror box, and it might even check the other, thanks to a lot of critical praise for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance in the title role. Could this be what finally puts him over the top on Oscar Night? It’s happened before, with the late Heath Ledger winning a posthumous Supporting Actor award for The Dark Knight in the same role.
But of course, we’re not really here to discuss what might be great. We’re here for the crap, the whole crap, and nothing but the crap. By my count, there will be 21 new movies this month, ranging from the potentially great (Jojo Rabbit), to the kooky fun (animated Addams Family), to the possibly shitty but I’ll still give it a chance (I’ve seen the trailer for Gemini Man so many times over the last three months, and I’m skeptical at best, but it’s directed by Ang Lee, so I can’t entirely dismiss it out of hand before I see it).
And then there are the six “films” (air quotes) I have for you today. Just like October’s fare is basically divided into two distinct camps, I figured it best to sort these into three categories, as there’s a pair of movies that fits perfectly into three shitty pigeon holes (with a little crossover… er… whatever the opposite of “appeal” is). So sit back, relax, and get your vomit bucket ready.
This is the October 2019 edition of “This Film is Not Yet Watchable!”
Category One: It Sucked the First Time!
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – October 18
Normally I do these listings in chronological order, but for the sake of our pairs, I’ll alter it slightly. Oddly enough, all six bits of probable shit come in the last two weeks of the month, but I’ll jump back and forth between 10/18 and 10/25 within each pair as warranted.
Anyway, while technically 2010’s Alice in Wonderland was the first one released, I’d argue that it was Maleficent that truly began the ungodly, horrible trend of Live Action Remakes from Disney (henceforth referred to as LARD). Carrying a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the 2014 retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the bad guy was a premise no one asked for and even fewer cared for. Still, it was the 4th highest-grossing movie of the year, and the largest box office take of Angelina Jolie’s career. Despite an Oscar nomination for the Costume Design (which other LARDs have gotten while still sucking, like Beauty and the Beast), the movie was crap and should have never been made. But thanks to its monetary success, we’ve been doomed to wallow in horrible quality and cynical nostalgia cash grabs for the last five years, and will probably have to endure another five years at least, now that there are planned LARDs for The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Mulan, and Lady and the Tramp already in the works.
One of the many baffling oddities of these movies is how much Disney likes to emphasize the “live action” aspect, even when it doesn’t exist (coughLIONKINGcough). Because despite casting actual human beings, this trailer looks more like a cartoon than the actual fucking cartoon, from the mythical creatures to the entry-level green smoke blasts to Jolie’s CGI bustline. It’s all just so nakedly pointless, and I wish beyond almost all things that the public would just wake up, stay home, and we could all put an end to this nonsense.
The Gallows Act II – October 25
Honest to God, if I hadn’t seen this movie, and its trailer, on the October slate, I would have completely forgotten that the original film even existed, and I’d have been that much happier for it. Manufactured by a fake viral marketing campaign, the first Gallows movie was released in 2015 with the “Charlie Challenge,” a completely made up social media fad cynically created to advertise this found footage jump scare-a-thon with theatre students getting killed by the ghost of a kid who was accidentally hung to death during a play. The movie was nearly universally despised, and by normal box office standards it was a flop. It earned only $22 million domestically (by comparison, the Downton Abbey movie made $31 million in its opening weekend alone earlier this fall), but the budget was only $100,000, so I guess it still counts as a profit.
Still, why bother with a sequel to a movie so hated? More importantly, for the few people who were duped into playing the “Charlie Challenge” last time around, it’s not like you’re going to fool them again. At least Lionsgate seemingly had the wherewithal to realize they weren’t going to get blood from a stone this time, and as such, the movie will mostly only be released on VOD services.
Category Two: It’s Wrong! You’re Wrong! The Whole Damn System is Wrong!
Black and Blue – October 25
Our second pair of deuces deals with corruption in arms, and the overly simplified lines drawn in the sand when it comes to “good guys with guns.” The first is Black and Blue – literally a bruise – which thinks it’s making some kind of point about blurring the thin blue line that separates law and order from the criminal underbelly, but really it’s just cliché after cliché.
The only real difference in the formula is that the film adds one more demographic into the mix to muddy the waters further. Over the last few years, there’s been a glut of movies about crooked cops or trigger happy cops keeping the black man down. Well now this time there’s a black LADY! And she’s the cop, too! And wouldn’t you know it, it doesn’t matter who we’re dealing with, because everyone’s a crook except for her. The whole criminal underworld AND the police will conspire to silence her for stumbling in on a murder with a bodycam on.
The whole world is against her! I wonder if she’ll find that every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners are saints! Maybe she’ll fall for a crook who turns out to be just the ally she needs! Oh, I hope she somehow overcomes everything and is recognized as the pure hero she is by both communities!
Hey, crooked cops and/or pimps and drug lords, could you shoot me before you worry about her? Thanks.
The Kill Team – October 25
I mean, what could possib-lye go wrong with such a subtly titled film? What is it with Afghanistan/Iraq war movies being all about indiscriminate murder? In The Hurt Locker, Katheryn Bigelow swept the Oscars with a boring story about a man “addicted” to war. A few years ago Clint Eastwood willingly sacrificed a lot of his remaining credibility when American Sniper had Bradley Cooper shooting “savages” for freedom.
Now we have this, which I’m just guessing won’t get the same level of prestige as its predecessors, but is equally as offensive. This time we have a group of would-be war heroes being led astray by a commanding officer with a murder boner, and oh look, there just happens to be one guy who’s not on board with that. I wonder if the whole movie will be about his humanity in not wanting to kill random people with beards just because. I wonder if that horrible soldier will get his comeuppance. I wonder if they’ll all expect to be treated as heroes regardless of motivations. I wonder if we’ll in no way have a movie that actually questions the motives and appropriateness of these post-9/11 wars that are still going on nearly 20 years later. I wonder if someone’s going to inappropriately and nonsensically wax philosophical about the noble cause of white guys killing non-whites for their government.
Call it a hunch, but I’m gonna guess… probably.
Category Three: Stabby Stabby!
Wounds – October 18
I really don’t know what to make of this. You have three really good actors (well, two really good actors and Dakota Johnson, at least) slumming it for what looks like a lazy horror trope-fest that just throws whatever viscera it wants at the screen in hopes that you’ll find cockroaches and blood splatter scary, or even remotely compelling.
This is a failing of a lot of modern horror films. Slashers can be fun. Even torture porn can be interesting in the right hands (i.e. NOT Eli Roth). But what so so so many of these movies fail to recognize is that you need a coherent plot and characters we can give a shit about before you disembowel them. If I want to see Zazie Beetz and blood, I’ll watch Deadpool 2. If I want Armie Hammer to be scared out of his mind, I can just watch him encounter the horse cocks in Sorry to Bother You. If I want to watch Dakota Fanning fail to act her way out of a paper bag, I’ll literally watch anything she’s ever done besides The Peanut Butter Falcon.
Having stars doesn’t matter. Having gore effects doesn’t matter. You have to have plot and character, or it’s all pointless. And that’s exactly what this looks like.
Countdown – October 25
The thumbnail for the previous trailer shows a dumbfounded look at a silly-looking smart phone that happens to have pictures of dead bodies on it. Well, STX decided to say, “Hold my beer” and go for something even stupider, an app that kills you.
It’s a premise so braindead you’d think it was conceived by Terri Schiavo. Even the lead actress in the trailer can’t bring herself to sound convinced. “Whatever’s happening to us… I think it’s… because… of this app.” It’s so stupid. To even utter the words is to drop your IQ by at least six points. As such, the actress (Elizabeth Lail of Once Upon a Time) can only be bothered to deliver them with a level of wood normally reserved for your back patio.
More to the point, this just seems lazy. For one, the idea of time literally running out and killing you has already been done before, in the much more intriguing In Time from 2011. But for another, why does every horror film like this have to just be jump scares and demons/monsters jerking victims out of frame for a brutal murder? It worked a couple of times in Asian horror films over a decade ago, and it’s been a wasted cliché ever since. Wouldn’t it be just as scary, if not more scary, for the people with this death app to simply drop dead when the numbers hit zero? Wouldn’t that be at least a bit more interesting to explore and create a world around? Instead, it’s just rotting flesh and claws coming to get you, same as it ever was.
DO SOMETHING NEW, YOU DICKS!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you agree with this month’s list? Do you still want to see any of them despite their inclusion here? Do you think there are even worse movies that didn’t make the list? Let me know!