2021 Movie Reviews: Army of the Dead / The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It / A Quiet Place Part II

Nothing great this week.

Army of the Dead

Zach Snyder seems to possess a weaker understanding of the human condition than maybe any other filmmaker working today. I mean, it’s almost impressive. One dimensional characters (not even, sometimes) speak at each other about nothing for long stretches of time, usually interrupted by thunderously loud, uninspired flashes of CGI zombie tigers or undead Vegas showgirls cosplaying as characters from Mad Max: Fury Road. The movie is equal parts boring, tacky and lightly entertaining, but 50 minutes of mildly amusing nonsense is not worth a 2.5+ hour commitment of what proves to be more or less a shitty remake of Snyder‘s first success, Dawn of the Dead. Watch 2004’s Dawn of the Dead instead of having to see Dave Bautista, Tig Notaro and other somewhat talented actors struggle to bring life to this thing. It’s DOA and after an hour or so, it really starts to smell. Grade: D+ (In Theaters and Netflix)

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

What a step down from the previous two Conjuring movies, hell, what a step down from the last Annabelle movie. This satanic panic 80s murder mystery promises to be a lot more fun and engaging than it ends up being, with maybe the strongest opening scene of any of the Conjuring-extended universe movies. There’s this kid from Haunting of Hill House who is possessed and contorting his body like fucking Jim Carrey in The Mask. All this shit is flying around, and the Warrens (The Wilson + Farmiga Dream Team) are trying to perform an exorcism. In a moment of desperation, the young step? dad begs the demon to infiltrate his body and not his step son’s. No one sees this transfer of demonic energy except for Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) who proceeds to have a near-fatal heart attack and fades away into a coma. Possessed by a demon that no one besides Coma Ed knows about, the young step dad murders a comically obnoxious co-worker who is grabbing his wife’s ass and loudly shouting. Now that’s an opening! After that, this threequel slides into a whole unironic storyline about the dangers of Satanism and the growing army of Satanist children that will fracture our relationship with Jesus Christ…….ughhhh. It also becomes really trite and forced from a narrative perspective, losing all the haunted house fun of the first two installments and simply becoming another mainstream horror film aimed at a group of people with a collective IQ in the double digits. Grade: C+ (Streaming on HBOMAX and In Theaters)

A Quiet Place Part II

I wasn’t really much of a fan of John Krasinski’s original A Quiet Place. I appreciated the novelty of a mostly silent horror film, but I thought it had no distinct visual style of its own, which for me, is absolutely crucial for a horror film. Horror films are about scaring the audience, and in order to do that you need to create the proper atmosphere. A Quiet Place was shot like a Pepsi commercial, and for the most part, Part II is shot like one too albeit a few beach or nature sequences that hint at some kind of visual personality. What I enjoyed more about the sequel is that it executed suspense much more effectively. Chalk it up to Krasinski just having more directorial experience this go around, but there were some sequences that really made me lurch towards the edge of my seat. The acting is also pretty flawless here with the only somewhat weak performance of the original film (Krasinski) being pretty much wiped from the slate. Emily Blunt, Honey Boy‘s Noah Jupe and new addition Cillian Murphy are all fantastic, but Part II belongs to Millicent Simmonds as the deaf daughter. She has the best arc of this installment and she completely owns her screen time. I think the biggest thing keeping me from liking this more was the fact it really had no story and its climax was basically a redux of the original. In my opinion, Krasinski should have made just one Quiet Place movie, combining elements of both this and the original and giving it a somewhat extended runtime of roughly 145 minutes. As it stands, we get too much of the same to really distinguish this one from its predecessor. We do get an almost offensively underutilized Djimin Hounsou, though. Glad Krasinski gives him five whole lines of dialogue, guess that’s all they needed to meet the Academy’s new diversion of inclusion requirements. Grade: B- (In Theaters)

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