Friday, May 25, 2018

Worth Mentioning - Love Makes Monsters of Us All

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Gary Busey, Nicolas Cage, ghosts, and ghostfacers.


There are few concepts more terrifying than the idea of a dangerous criminal lurking in the attic of a home while an unaware family lives out their lives on the floors below. When that concept is brought to the screen, one of the few actors who could make sure such a concept could reach its full unnerving potential is Gary Busey. Nobody wants Gary Busey in their attic.

In director Matthew Patrick's Hider in the House (such a simple, perfectly descriptive title), which was written by Lem Dobbs, Busey plays Tom Sykes, a man who endured a hellish, abusive childhood. When Tom was a kid, his only safe place was the small, enclosed space below the sink. When he was 15, he escaped from the torment of his parents by setting the house on fire, killing them. After that, he was locked up in Burley State Hospital for eighteen years.

Busey was 44 during the production of this movie, but he's playing 33 and really the age of his character isn't relevant, it's just something you realize when you put the numbers given together. Released from the mental hospital, Tom decides that he wants to live in a house, and rather than take the proper avenues to moving into a house, he just picks a newly constructed place in suburbia and builds himself a little room in the attic before the owners move in. Oddly, he chooses to build his room in a space that has a window, which seems like a bad idea - I would assume the owners would wonder why they can't reach that window when they go into the attic.

The house belongs to the Dreyer family, and they're pretty clueless. There are a couple times when there's a threat of Tom's presence in the attic being revealed, he has to kill the family dog and an exterminator to keep his secret, but for the most part this living situation works out for him. Even when young Holly Dreyer (Candace Hutson) spots him moving around in the house at night, her talk of a man being in the house is brushed off as being little kid nonsense. Tom blows it for himself when he becomes obsessed with family matriarch Julie Dreyer (Mimi Rogers) and starts manipulating situations so he can try to make himself part of the family.

First, Tom sabotages the Dreyers' marriage, which is already shaky because Julie's husband Phil (Michael McKean) is stressing out over finances and having an affair. Phil, you just had a huge house built for four people to live in and had a massive in-ground pool put on the property, and you're short on cash? Gee, I wonder where all the money went? Once Phil is out of the picture, Tom starts befriending the kids, teaching the bullied Neil (Kurt Christopher Kinder) how to violently defend himself, and begins trying to woo Julie.

Tom isn't the only weirdo who's interested in Julie, though. She also has to deal with having an intensely creepy and inappropriate Bruce Glover for a neighbor. At times you'll wonder which of these guys is worse, the Hider in the House or the Creep Next Door.

Hider in the House is one of those movies I rented on VHS as a young kid and then it has stuck with me for the rest of my life, even though several years have gone by between viewings. The title, the idea of Busey squatting in the attic, these are just things you can never forget. It helps that it's a really good, well made movie that's a little more detailed and smarter than you might expect. It's not just about a maniac emerging from the attic and terrorizing a family, it's more complicated than that. It takes a while to get to the overt terrorizing. Busey capably carries the film on his shoulders up to that point, with the rest of the cast offering great support, and then when he snaps it's scary in the way only Busey can be.

If you haven't seen Hider in the House, I highly recommend checking it out. If you have, I would be surprised if it hasn't lingered in your mind the way it has lingered in mine all these years.


"It's not a ghost story, it's a story with ghosts in it." That's how aspiring author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) describes the novel she's working on in director Guillermo del Toro's film Crimson Peak, and it's also the director letting the audience know that they're not watching the typical haunted house movie. While ghosts do appear to Edith at different points throughout the film, allowing for some creepy scenes here and there, this is most of all a thriller about a woman who gets into a bad relationship.

That relationship is between Edith and baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who had come to her father Carter (Jim Beaver of Supernatural) hoping he would invest in the construction of a machine Sharpe has designed to mine the red clay his childhood home sits on. Carter rejected Sharpe's proposal... and soon after was brutally murdered. Carter had tried to stop a burgeoning relationship between his daughter and the baronet, but once Carter is dead Edith goes all-in on that relationship, marrying Sharpe and moving into his childhood home with him.

That home is a crumbling mansion known as Crimson Peak, and Sharpe shares it with his stoic sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). It's pretty obvious to the viewer that something very strange is going on between the Sharpe siblings, we can be pretty certain that they have killed a few people over the years, and it's likely that Edith is intended to be their next victim. It takes Edith quite a while to realize this fact, though. And there is a ghost in Crimson Peak, but when the truth is revealed and we've reached the climax, that ghost doesn't matter much. It's people Edith has to deal with to get through this ordeal.

The movie is a bit long at 119 minutes and Edith wasn't a great heroine, but the story held my interest and I was impressed by the performances of Hiddleston and Chastain. With his scheming and switching alliances, Sir Thomas Sharpe isn't far off from Hiddleston's Marvel character Loki, and Chastain eventually gets to unleash and become a full-fledged horror character.

While the villainy of the Sharpe siblings is something Edith learns rather late in the film, I don't think it's really a spoiler to mention it because any viewer is going to know they're not trustworthy from almost the first moment they arrive on screen.

MOM & DAD (2017)

Starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as Brent and Kendall Ryan, a married couple with two children, writer/director Brian Taylor's Mom & Dad is a horror movie about the outbreak of an epidemic - and in this twisted tale, the epidemic involves parents being inexplicably stricken (and thankfully this event remains unexplained) with an irresistible urge to murder their children. When they're in the presence of their kids, they turn into raging, homicidal maniacs.

This movie had me guaranteed to see it as soon as it offered up the promise of getting to see a crazy Nicolas Cage relentlessly pursuing people with murder on his mind, and while it didn't have as much of the rage Cage as I was anticipating, and even though it ends with an unsatisfactory whimper, I found it to be quite entertaining... and at times unnerving.

Taylor is a filmmaker who likes to be over-the-top and irreverent, so I knew he would be willing to cross boundaries just to mess with the audience. Because of this, I was on edge during some scenes of Mom & Dad, hoping Taylor wouldn't really take things as far as he seems capable of. I was especially filled with dread during a scene in which a mother is handed her newborn baby - and in that moment, is hit with the murderous instinct.

In the midst of the madness, Taylor does take some time to let us get to know the characters. Some of this feels obligatory, but there does feel like there's truth to the moments when the parents discuss feeling overwhelmed by parenthood.

Mom & Dad isn't all it could have been, but it's good enough to sustain its 83 minutes. And it has a wonderful guest appearance by Lance Henriksen.


Played by Travis Wester and A.J. Buckley, amateur / inept paranormal investigators Harry Spengler and Ed Zeddmore are characters who show up on the television series Supernatural from time to time. They were introduced in a season one episode, returned in a season three episode, then made a cameo during a season four episode (and if they appear past season five, I haven't seen it yet). Harry and Ed are both amusing and irritating to me, with the lean being toward irritating - I would not want to watch these guys on a regular basis.

These guys and their investigation team, called the Ghostfacers, are clearly more popular with some Supernatural fans than they are with me, because at one time there was talk of them getting their own spin-off... and a Ghostfacers series sounds painful to me. Watching these guys in a single episode of Supernatural, where they have that show's regulars balancing them out, is already enough of an endurance challenge. Tuning in to see them on their own every week? That would get exhausting really quick.

Instead of a TV spin-off, the Ghostfacers got their own web series that coincided with the airing of Supernatural season five. The web series consisted of ten short episodes, adding up to a total run time of 31 minutes.

Over the course of the episodes, Ed and Harry lead veteran team members Kenny Spruce (Austin Basis) and Ed's adopted sister / Harry's love interest Maggie Zeddmore (Brittany Ishibashi), as well as new recruit Ambyr (Mircea Monroe), who was brought into the team solely because of her looks, into a theatre that's haunted by the spirit of a murdered actress.

It's fun to watch them bumble their way through the investigation, but when the 31 minutes comes to an end I feel like this is about all I ever need to see of a Ghostfacers show. I just don't like spending much time with these characters, who think they're much smarter and cooler than they actually are.

Those ten episodes weren't the only Ghostfacers material that was filmed, though. There was another episode shot to be shown at a Supernatural convention, a 5 minute short in which the Ghostfacers, minus Ambyr, meet the angel Castiel (Misha Collins). This episode leaked online a year after the web series and finds Castiel stopping by Ghostfacers HQ to inform them that they're part of an apocalyptic prophecy. That prophecy doesn't amount to anything, and the short really only exists to show the Ghostfacers and Castiel interacting for a few minutes. It's the sort of thing that really doesn't need to be seen outside of a convention - although, of course, fans who weren't at the convention will want to see it, too. I watched it, and I didn't even become a Supernatural fan until almost ten years after the convention it was originally shown at.

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