Friday, May 22, 2020

Worth Mentioning - Feel the Shake

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. 

'80s teen comedy, 2020 horror.



I saw actress Ami Dolenz in a good number of films when I was a kid, including Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, but one that completely passed me by was director Stan Dragoti's comedy She's Out of Control. I hadn't heard of this movie until thirty-one years after it was released.

Nineteen at the time of filming, Dolenz plays fifteen-year-old Katie, one of two girls being raised by widower Doug (Tony Danza), the other being her younger sister Bonnie (Laura Mooney). When Katie is first introduced she has an extremely nerdy appearance, but with the guidance of Doug's girlfriend Janet (Catherine Hicks) she gets an extreme makeover while Doug is out of town... and the first outfit we see after the makeover is ridiculous, so provocative that it would be inappropriate if Dolenz wasn't older than her character, but still comes off as inappropriate when we see the character wearing it. It doesn't help that the reveal of her new fashion sense is accompanied by the Frankie Avalon song "Venus", in which he's asking Venus to send "a little girl" for him "to thrill". Creepy. And that's not the only moment of the camera creepily objectifying Dolenz.

From that point on, Katie starts going on a steady stream of dates with a parade of different guys. She dates more people in her fifteenth year that most people date in their entire lifetime - making Doug so worried that he has a mental breakdown over the course of the film and seeks professional help from a very questionable source, Wallace Shawn as author Doctor Fishbinder. He is so preoccupied with Katie that it distracts him from his job trying to keep a radio station afloat and causes trouble in his relationship with Janet, while he gets too involved in Katie's relationship with young rebel Joey (Dana Ashbrook of Return of the Living Dead II).

Then future Friends star Matthew Perry shows up as the worst suitor of the bunch.

She's Out of Control was written by Seth Winston and Michael J. Nathanson, and I can understand to some degree while it didn't catch on the way other teen comedies of the time did; it's a teen-oriented film told from the perspective of a worried father, and I figure teens would rather have seen the story told from Katie's perspective. There's also the fact that the movie received very bad reviews when it was released. Siskel and Ebert both gave it zero stars, with Siskel even saying that this movie made him consider giving up his job as a critic. Their negative reactions went way overboard as far as I'm concerned. This is a harmless movie that - aside from the stray creepy moments - provides some fun and chuckles. And now it has the added benefit of the '80s nostalgia factor. I'm glad I finally saw it, after decades of not knowing it existed.


Directed by the duo of Bradley Fowler (who also wrote the screenplay) and Wesley Alley, The Voices is a film that kept me wondering and guessing where the story was going throughout, and it ended up going in directions that I was not expecting at all. I want to say it's a positive thing that Fowler and Alley were able to surprise me in the way they did, that the movie wasn't what I thought it was for most of the running time, but in this case I'm not sure it was a positive thing - I didn't see where The Voices was going because getting there required a leap in logic that I was reluctant to take.

The film stars Amanda Markowitz as Grace, a young woman whose engagement to a guy named David (Brendan Sexton III) has just crumbled because she caught him cheating on her. To recover from the shock of this, and to focus on the school paper she's writing, Grace goes to visit her sister Catherine (Victoria Matlock) at the isolated cabin Cat retreated to after getting divorced and losing her daughter in a custody battle six years earlier. Cat inherited this place from their parents, and the death of one of their parents in particular is important to the overall story. Grace and Catherine's mom suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and committed suicide when the girls were very young.

Grace is writing about paranoid schizophrenia, and she hasn't been at the cabin for long before she begins to suspect that Catherine also has the affliction. In addition to staying up all night to speak to herself in a British accent, Catherine has a tendency to start saying things that make no sense... and this would have been a lot more unnerving if Fowler and Alley had just let these nonsensical lines flow out in the middle of conversations without drawing any extra attention to them. Then we'd be baffled and wondering, "Why did she just say that?" Instead, every time Catherine starts saying something random, the camera tilts and there's an accompanying sting on the soundtrack, like the directors are yelling in the viewer's face, "Isn't what she's saying weird?"

While Grace worries about Catherine, she also starts worrying about herself, because she begins to experience strange things as well; she's plagued by nightmares, and after discovering that she's pregnant she starts seeing a little girl lurking around the house. It's like she's hallucinating the image of her future child, an element that made me think of A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child.

The filmmakers were lucky to have Markowitz and Matlock involved with this project, as the actresses were tasked with carrying almost the entire film on their shoulders and both of them did great work in their roles. Other cast members didn't have a whole lot to do; Sexton only has a few minutes of screen time, Juliana Sada is the odd little girl Grace keeps seeing; and Lin Shaye shows up as a "vagabond". Shaye's presence is a major selling point in the marketing for this movie, but she doesn't play a prominent character. She's basically the doomsayer, the Crazy Ralph, and also appears in one of Grace's nightmares. The Vagabond could have been cut completely and it wouldn't make much of an impact, but it is always nice to have Lin Shaye around.

One problem with this movie is that the majority of its overly long 96 minutes focuses on just Grace and Catherine at the cabin, and the scenario starts to get old and repetitious. Grace sleeps, has nightmares, talks to Catherine, eats dinner, goes back to sleep. The character starts to feel a bit stir crazy, and I was feeling stir crazy myself while watching the movie, waiting for something major to happen. Eventually major events do start to occur, building up to one of the most unsatisfying endings I have seen recently.

The Voices has some strong acting, but it's not interesting enough to sustain its running time and it ends in disappointment.

The review of The Voices originally appeared on


The Hulu streaming service releases a new feature film in the anthology series Into the Dark a monthly basis, and every movie in this Blumhouse-produced series is somehow related to a special date in the month of its release. Into the Dark got 2020 started with the New Year-themed feature Midnight Kiss, which happens to be an entry in my favorite sub-genre of horror: the slasher.

Midnight Kiss was directed by Carter Smith from a script by Erlingur Thoroddsen, and what sets it apart from most other slashers is the fact that nearly all of the characters are gay men. The story centers on a group of guys who spend every New Year's Eve / Day at a country property. For years, that group consisted of Cameron (Augustus Prew), Joel (Scott Evans), Zachary (Chester Lockhart), and Ryan (Will Westwater), and they were joined by their straight female friend Hannah (Ayden Mayeri)... and over time, this bunch repeatedly swapped partners. Cameron and Zachary slept together, Hannah slept with Ryan, Ryan slept with Cameron and Zach and Joel, Joel and Cameron were in a serious relationship for a while. Things were getting so mixed up between them that Joel created a game, the Midnight Kiss Game. The idea is that they would all go out and find a stranger to kiss at midnight, and if things went well with this stranger they would get to keep the interaction going until sunrise. Then they would return to their regular lives.

Now it's about to become 2020 and the party is on once again. Cameron, Joel, Zachary, and Hannah head out to the country property - and this time they're accompanied by Joel's fiancé Logan (Lukas Gage). Ryan has bailed on the party this year, but what his old friends don't know is that Ryan has been murdered by the bondage mask-wearing slasher who has been sending them mysterious notes that say things like "Never Forget Me" and "Be My Midnight Kiss". 

That slasher proceeds to knock off more characters, and in between murders the characters do exactly what you expect slasher characters to do: they party, they have sex (casual and otherwise), and they give the viewer glimpses of gratuitous nudity. Hannah has the least amount of fun; she expects to find a man to have sex with when she goes to a gay bar and is disappointed when no one is interested in her.

Midnight Kiss is pretty entertaining, with intriguing characters, unexpected moments, and some brutal kills. Prew did a great job as the survivor type character Cameron, and the supporting cast did good work as well. My only issue was that it felt a bit slow in the second half. I suppose that was an attempt to be creepy and atmospheric, but just when I felt like the movie should be getting more exciting, since this is the stretch of the film when the killer really focuses on knocking off people at the country property, moments were starting to drag a bit. The slasher turns out to be a slacker.

But overall, this was a good movie and a nice way to kick off a new year of Into the Dark. 

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