pat healy

TGoF’s Top 5 Films of 2014 So Far

cheapthrills_posterSometimes around the months of June and July I think it’s fun to take a look back at the movies I’ve been able to see so far in the year. For one, it’s fun to take a look back and see if there’s anything that’s gotten better over time since I watched it and stuff that’s soured on me since. Then as you are about to see I like to take the five that I feel best represent what I’ve enjoyed at that point in the year and see how my taste leans- basically if I’m picking up what Hollywood is throwing down or are the indie filmmakers still pumping out under appreciated gems. Lastly at the end of the year I think it’s fun to revisit this list to see if my picks held up for the whole year or if the year is simply front loaded with movies that make you appreciate the end of the year flicks that much more.

Every year I predict that the list will end up being a mixture of Hollywood dazzle and indie resourcefulness- but it usually depends on just how active I’ve been in keeping up with heading out to the theater or being lazy and resorting to On Demand viewing. I tend to spend equal amounts of time renting movies On Demand and trying not to be a cave dweller by leaving my humble abode to spend time amongst other people to enjoy movies which is why my mid year list tends to show some love to both big budget and ultra low budget films. I’m a sucker for super hero movies, raunchy comedies, heady thrillers and mixture of quirky indies/bizarre black comedies so my lists tend to drift from your typical film snob- but that’s a good thing right? (more…)

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Movie Review: Compliance (2012)

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I deal with my fair share of gullible people on a day to day basis- granted the extent to which they are gullible are innocent enough especially nothing that might irrevocably shatter their perception and outlook on life in general. I am fully aware of the true events that Craig Zobel’s film COMPLIANCE is based on and regardless of the accuracy of the events as depicted I still had a hard time believing that anyone could be this foolish. My judgment comes more from a place of perception about the characters and their lack of common sense and decency than it is a damning view of the film. COMPLIANCE is equal parts frustrating and fascinating even if I don’t see it having a whole lot of replay value.

Based on true events where a man calls up a fast food restaurant pretending to be a police officer and asking to speak with a manager. Once he has the by the book manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd), on the line he tells her that an employee, Becky (Dreama Walker), is being accused of stealing money from a customer and that she needs to bring her in back for questioning. Once Becky has been detained in the back the officer continually takes advantage of Sandra’s stressed demeanor and the fact that the store is in the midst of one of their busiest nights. The officer insists that he will be sending a unit to deal with the matter as soon as possible, but until then Sandy attempts to assign guard duty to a series of employees as well as her fiancé to watch her while the officer orders them to carry out a series of increasingly disturbing and degrading acts on Becky with the excise that it’s all standard procedure.

At first the questioning all seems on the up and up and reasonable enough, but the more bizarre the requests get on the other end of the line the more you have to assume no one could be dumb enough to follow the orders. If this were not based on actual footage and records this would have been ridiculous for entirely different reasons. The fascinating aspect here is the way that the man on the other end of the phone played by Pat Healy never flinches and plays perfectly to Dowd’s character’s strict adherence to procedure even if at times she’s blinded by the stress of running a busy restaurant. Healy always has a comeback and a reason for why he’s asking someone to do the act which has different responses from the people choosing to obey or disobey the order.

The frustration comes from how you view the character’s hesitant submission to the requests. The stranger the orders get the more confused the characters act which triggers the automatic response at least from me that wonders why in the world you wouldn’t make one decision that would almost immediately snuff the scam out. However, since there is record of this you can’t simply write it off as some sort of sick commentary about our unflinching efforts to comply with authority.

I do have to question the relevance of the film in general even with as well made and performed as it is. The film doesn’t bother to tell us how everything ended up, leading me to believe that it’s not really looking to inform people who don’t know the story. The story has been covered in the news and certain less graphic footage can be viewed in any number of locations so there was never any pressing need to see this behavior in detail. So as far as I can tell aside from saying that this is based on real events and the ending tag about all the other incidents this serves little but to dramatize this specific instance- which in and of itself is not ground breaking or entirely relevant. The most telling line of the whole film comes towards the end when a character literally says, “This has happened more than once? You’ve got to be kidding-” or something to that effect. Those lines are indicative of how I imagine almost anyone who watches this will feel.

Everything I just mentioned now leads me to wonder what entertainment value if any COMPLIANCE actually has. I mean most blood redded human males aren’t opposed to seeing a cute girl naked, right? Well the entertainment is sucked right out of it when none of it is consensual and increasingly less consensual requests are asked of her. Everything about this poor girl being naked is degrading and I found nothing entertaining about her losing every shred of dignity. I don’t want to get up on a soap box and beat the point to death because if the film strives for some sort of emotional resonance it’d be an entirely different story. As is COMPLIANCE is more concerned with detailing the human condition and instinct to blindly follow figures of authority without raising questions and just how foolish it can be.

Entertainment value aside, Zobel’s direction is really something to behold as he uses the camera in a respectful manner during the really uncomfortable sequences and captures the depravity of Healy’s character perfectly. The performances are all top notch, but I was particularly fascinated by the way Healy plays the perpetrator of the prank call and the facial expressions he gives while giving orders are deeply disturbing and anger inducing. You can argue up and down about how unrealistic COMPLIANCE is and how you would never fall for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that these are events that did actually take place. In the end the biggest question one has at the end is did the quality of the filmmaking really justify a retelling of this story. From my end the answer is yes and no. As high quality entertainment COMPLIANCE is a total failure, but also a film that doesn’t aim to deliver a fun experience. Instead as an exploration of human indecency, view of authority it excels. COMPLIANCE is tense and disturbing and is a film I have no desire to watch again anytime soon.

Rating: B+

Movie Review: The Innkeepers (2011)

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Slow burn horror is something not too many directors find attractive when getting out there to make an impression. Nowadays, remakes trump originality and in your face brutality is the quickest way to gain attention. Both of these have their ups and downs in terms of quality and in the meantime Ti West is taking the reigns as a director showing tremendous skill at creating tension and dread without flashy effects or a chaotic pace. No, West has shown a tremendous ability to make horror that rivals old school methods by letting the setting do all the work and cranking the more in your face horror at the end and going out with a bang and THE INNKEEPERS continues that trend.

THE INNKEEPERS is a lot like West’s previous effort, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, where for the first two thirds of the film features characters wandering around their environment while letting the visuals set up all the tension but also using loud noises to break up the silence here and there. This time though the film follows two employees of a hotel on the verge if closing and during the last weekend they hope to find proof that the hotel is haunted.

Right off the bat THE INNKEEPERS has a much cleaner visual style than THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL which was purposefully made to look like an old horror throwback. West’s ghost story though, is a lot like his previous film in that it is extremely slow moving. The better thing about the slow burn style here at least is that there is more than one character to follow for the majority of the film. The scenes when there is only one person are the ones where something genuinely creepy is going down or about to go down.

My liking between THE INNKEEPERS and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL in many ways flip flops. The beginning hour or so of DEVIL was a little draining for me before the ending just exploded with all the crazy in your face music and disturbing nature of the final moments where THE INNKEEPERS never really bored me during the first hour or more but the ending didn’t feel quite as crazy and satisfying. I enjoyed the banter between the two leads, Sara Paxton and Pat Healy just as much as I did the scenes of them either together or separately recording EVP’s in specific areas of the hotel. The two have great chemistry together which makes the buildup that much easier to sit through.

West’s composition of each scene creates a character all in its own. The camera work is great and lends to the flow and tension of the scene. Besides that though the scares in the film have immediacy to them that make some of the later scenes even creepier and unsettling. It is the creepy scares that make the film rather than the faux jump scares that come from stuff like a phone ringing at a cartoonishly loud volume or things popping out of the dark. There’s one specific scene that I found so creepy that I backed it up to watch it again- it involves Paxton’s character sitting up in bed and I won’t explain further. The way the long hallways are staged just look fantastic and the slow reveals of frightening images waiting in the shadows are phenomenal. One last standout is an intense scene with Paxton and Healy as they attempt to record EVP in the basement where they were explicitly told to never go- the tension builds masterfully and is accentuated by Healy’s reactions.

With THE INNKEEPERS Ti West is making a welcome habit of giving horror a familiar but very welcome breath of fresh air. His style of extremely patient filmmaking is something that I personally admire partially because of how effective it presents scares, but also because of the restraint it takes to not throw everything at the wall to see what sticks and forcing ideas that just don’t work. It’s not an enviable task to take the slow burn approach in a time where watered down horror is what makes the big bucks and I applaud West for carrying that torch. THE INNKEEPERS has a tremendous score to accompany the more light hearted first half of the film but also highlights the more sinister and creepy final act that isn’t quite as satisfying as THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, but still better than most modern day ghost stories.

Rating: 8/10