Quickie 11 – Venom (2018)

or “Me and My Shadow (Demon)”

I’d like to start this short subject symposium with what the kids call a “shout out” to Ross, Official Tomb Club Member No. 326, who took the AT&T approach with my Upgrade particle (partial-article *wink*). He reached out and touched me about my thoughts on how my new favorite revenge-movie-of-the-week compared to the similarly schizophrenic big screen debut of one of Marvel’s most iconic ’90s “bad boys”. His actual words were “I got a heavy ‘What if Robocop was more like Venom’ vibe from the trailer? Is that accurate at all?”, but we’ll get to that. Rather than spoil the surprise, I apologize to Hard R for not responding, and here’s to hoping this makes up for it. And if not? Tough shit! All Tomb Club fees are contractually non-refundable! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!

Notorious for being a high ranking honcho of Spider-Man’s sinister super-powered scumbag stock, Venom’s solo silver screen sally forth not only ignores Eric Foreman’s role a la Spider-Man 3 eleven years earlier, but also ignores the friendliest of friendly neighborhood wall crawlers all together! Yep, thanks to Sony’s abysmal effort with Amazing Spider-Man 2, they were forced to share custody of Peter Parker’s proxy persona with Disney for some of that sweet sweet Marvel money. This deal allowed Mouse House to finally inject their single most popular character into the MCU and prevents Sony from making any more live-action Spidey clusterfucks for the time being without Marvel’s approval, while Spider-Man: Homecoming gave the character his first case of positive publicity since that time Doc Ock debuted his nipples on a global stage!

“Eye, lungs, pancreas. So many snacks, so little time.”

Since Hombre Arana’s MIA, out titular terror’s origin abandons everything from the funny pages and instead embraces the tale tabled in the Fox Kids ‘Spider-Man’ cartoon circa Season One. The alien lifeforms (to be known as “symbiotes”) are brought from their meteor tour bus to Earth from outer space courtesy of a research vessel piloted by space jockey John Jameson, none other than Daily Bugle butthole J. Jonah Jameson’s son and the man-who-would-be-Man-Wolf! Uhm, pardon me hanging my fanboy dong out like that. I didn’t realize my cosmic zipper was down. Speaking of, let’s get back to the celestial discharge!

Jameson’s journey wasn’t your basic NASA exploratory endeavor, however, but a private pursuit of the San Francisco based Life Foundation. Founded by a fountain of charisma named Carlton Drake, the overzealous philanthropist has put his vast resources into the LF to put horseshit like cancer back up the anal canal of the equine it came from! The safe bet is that Drake’s only into it for the profits rather than the aphrodisia of humanitarianism, but even if so, at least he’s giving sufferers a chance at a better, longer life. Sure, he’s doing so at the cost of potentially hundreds of homeless human guinea pigs’ lives, but without enough toxic waste to turn them into CHUDs employed by the city to keep down the sewer rat populace, what else are you gonna do to bring down their numbers? Exactly.

While the LF begins experimenting on abductees with their new intergalactic acquisition, mild-mannered reporter and self-appointed savior of society’s “little guy”, Eddie Brock, is determined to expose Drake and his brood for the murderous motherfuckers he knows they are. A transplant from NYC after an unspecified “incident” basically resulted in his ejection from the Big Apple like a figurative trespassing worm (finding a worm in your apple is better than finding half a worm in your apple…), things are going pretty good for Mr. B in the home of the Golden Gate. He’s engaged to Single Female Lawyer, has a successful investigative journalism show with his name plastered on it, and is loved by the downtrodden for whom he fights. And all of this despite his bizarre “where the fuck did you say you’re supposed to be from?!” accent. Seriously, Tom Hardy, are you auditioning for the lead in a Woody Allen biopic? I mean, sure, it isn’t nearly as jarring as it was hearing it for the first time in the reveal trailer(s), but I lived in Brooklyn for a decade and can’t place where you’re supposed to be from.

While snooping around Life’s labs courtesy of a rebellious employee who finally found their ethics (it probably fell behind the refrigerator), Brock runs afoul of one of the symbiotes, ends up ingesting it via osmosis, and has to escape the facility with an array of newly found strength and agility that he didn’t have previously. Now bonded with one of the entities (calling itself “Venom”, because they apparently speak the Edge Lord dialect of English on their home planet…), Eddie’s in for a wacky Odd Couple adventure as the pair learn from each other, grow with each other, and bite off a few heads along the way! It’s truly the Milo and Otis of our time.

My problems with this movie are few and far between, but they’re also significant enough to taint my overall experience with a modicum of “meh”. Design wise, I’m sad to see Venom without his big white arachnid-influenced insignia. It makes sense, given the absence of Spidey from his invocation, but why not slap it on anyway and pull some Man of Steel goofiness, like, “On my planet, this means ‘spleen eater’.” Or, if you’re allergic to corn (I’m allergic to Korn, myself), have Brock comment that it looks like a spider and Venom just blows it off as “I don’t know what that is…”. Either is better than just looking at a big black mass of nothing!

My other major qualms came in the guise of the carnage (*nerd wink*), the big baddie, and our (anti)hero’s subsequent battle against it at the finish. The acts of violence are still very R rated, especially regarding the symbiotes’ penchant for human organ meat and villain Riot’s excessive out lashings of hyper slaughter. The problem is that the resultant viscera is straight G, and it doesn’t stand for “gore”. The population of San Francisco are seemingly devoid of blood (presumably because their veins are full of juiced wheat grass?), as not a drop of the dark dark crimson splatters the screen in any instance. Good for laughs, bad for immersion. Speaking of Riot, the antagonist is so poorly built up that you almost expect him to collapse in on himself with the slightest sneeze. After spending the first two acts traveling across the planet to get to San Fran in little more than the briefest of segments to remind us that he’s still out there somewhere, there’s no characterization beyond “Riot’s a really bad ass super killer death machine that Venom has ZERO chance of stopping!” and I struggle to call it two-dimensional when I can barely warrant a single dimension to begin with.

Appropriately enough, my final gripe comes from the finale. The basis for the pair’s (well, quartet’s, technically) final showdown feels way too “superhero” after the lower-key, more morbid tone of what came before it. It’s a big deal action affair that plays out in a predictable step-by-step sequence that even gets so lazy as to throw in a “We’re not so different, you and I” speech, which was hard enough not to scream at the screen for during my pair of viewings of Upgrade, let alone the very next fucking day. Uggh.

Everything else? Liked-to-loved it! Though Brock isn’t the hard-ass vindictive psycho that he was in the comics and cartoons, nor is he the jealous little sociopath whiner that he was in Sam Raimi’s rendition, this new “social justice warrior” hero version that’s willing to risk his own happiness to advance his myopic crusade offers the type of redemption and growth storyline that Marvel’s characters are better known for. The banter between Eddie and Venom is fantastic, as the fish-monster-out-of-water alien gets to know his new host and vice versa, and carries a camaraderie that was lacking in the more teacher-and-student relationship between Upgrade‘s Grey and STEM. I do have to wonder, in both cases even, what story-based reason would make sense of both heroes conversing verbally with their guests when keeping it to a mental exchange would’ve saved them the trouble of looking like maniacs around others. But, I know it’s a “because, movies” thing, so I don’t need to harp.

The CGI is mostly fine, though shows its weakness at times, mostly in moments of Venom trying to jump out of Eddie’s face to scare people. Nothing that dragged me kicking and screaming out of the moment though, so no big deal. The action sequences were great, with the motorcycle chase sequence from the trailers being my personal highlight! Venom was a much needed success for the Sony camp and even if the man-spider and the space-ink never cross paths, I’m okay with that. Not something I’d give more than a rental or two, but far from being something I regret dropping a couple of dollars on. Hopefully next time they take the cue from Fox and go for that capital ‘R’ with the sequel though, because I have an unease in my internals at the idea of a PG-13 pairing of Venom and Carnage…

And so, to answer Ross’s query, Upgrade is kinda like RoboCop possessed by Venom, minus all of the super space mucus powers… meaning it’s more kinda not. I see it more along the lines of the Crow being resurrected inside of the Matrix to hunt down the replicants that killed his wife while the literal crow spirit Miyagis him telepathically… if that makes any sense.

Moral of the Story: “Have a nice life.” is the legally mandated valediction of the city of San Francisco… That’s the only reason I can come up with as to why EVERY FUCKING CHARACTER IN VENOM SAYS IT!

Final Judgment:

Three Man-Wolfs out-of-Five

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Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

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Quickie 10 – Upgrade (2018)

or “The Crow (T. Not-a-Robot)”

As I sit here typing this, we face imminent burial alive under a potential 2′ of snow. Times like this, I miss the shifting dunes of the Old Kingdom. As much as I never enjoyed blowing sand out of my nose a dozen times a day (I was going through a whole mummy wrap a week at its worst), right now it’s colder than Rosie the Robot’s twat outside and my hog is going wee-wee-wee all the way back into my pelvis! Blaaaaaaaaart!

I’m 3 degrees below 0 from enacting a vengeful dropkick of doomsday proportions upon Khione’s ice block of a backside if she doesn’t chill the fuck out. Speaking of the world’s clumsiest segue, today’s nooner of a reviewner is all about vengeful vigilantism with heavy sci-fi spice, and I’m not talkin’ ’bout a ‘Dune’, my dear Willis.

“Your memories are filled with ones and zeros, pal, and our memories are filled with every fuck-up we’ve ever made ”

The time is, THE AMBIGUOUS FUTURE! The place is, AN UNSPECIFIED CITY! In an era where everyone and their Uncle Peabo has embraced the advancement of convenience through science and law enforcement drones fill the air like boiled onion stink, Grey Trace (Tom Hardy’s non-union equivalent) is an anachronism. A traditional mechanic, he’s one of a dying breed of people who still fix things, create things, control things, and wank things with his own hands. Even Asha, his wife, pokes fun at her man’s antiquated ways from the luxury of her self-driving car. Wait, “Asha”? Exactly how much Asha are we talking about? A brimful, perhaps? Somebody get Cornershop on the phone! I need an official ruling on this!

Asha is a big(ish) wig at Cobalt: a tech company that specializes in artificially enhancing humans with prosthetic pieces and other hardware upgrades (we have a title!). Sadly, corporate sabotage is the likely cause of a hit on the Traces, which sees poor Grey paralyzed from a shot to the neck while he’s forced to watch poorer Asha’s final labored gasps for life as her lungs empty out through the massive ballistics wound in her chest. 3 months later, our dead-from-the-neck-down hero is discharged from hospital and sent home, only to discover fifty shades of irony now that the man whose major character trait of loathing servile automatons is entirely reliant on them. Oh, and his mom’s there too. After all, as Norman Bates taught us; a boy’s best friend is his mother!

Eron Keen, a pseudo Elon Musk-esque recluse genius (complete with underground lair!) who hired Grey to restore a Trans Am for him prior, gives our protag the opportunity to be whole again. His miracle offer comes via his latest creation, an Artificial Intelligence system called STEM that would control his body’s functions per his commands. Basically, his brain would still be the boss and his body parts still the workers, but STEM would be his nervous system’s middle management. Grey also has the option to take a coffee break and let the AI operate entirely autonomous, coming in especially handy when his Death Wish style vigilante campaign to locate and annihilate the bastards who murdered his wife and ruined his life… hip-hop hooray, ho?

It’s less-than-intimidating that Fisk, the leader of his nemesi, looks like Kip from Napoleon Dynamite mid mid-life crisis (having hit the gym and gotten contact lenses, purportedly to embark upon his dream of being a cage fighter), but the rest of Grey’s pain crusade is all kinds of violent fun for everyone!

It wasn’t until after watching it that I discovered Upgrade was written and directed by Leigh Whannell, frequent collaborator/friend of James Wan and one of the guys partially responsible for about 80% of the gross domestic box office for horror in the 21st Century, including the Insidious quadrilogy (or tetralogy if you prefer your prefixes Greek flavored). If this movie is any indication, the Aussie would be better suited sticking to the realm of grimy sci-fi body horror! Albeit not immensely original in and of itself, Upgrade is an amalgamation of elements distilled from a veritable killer’s row of science fiction’s darker side. It’s RoboCop, Blade Runner, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Frankenstein, Tetsuo: the Iron Man, Johnny Mnemonic, and The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag all in one!

Everything isn’t all double-fudge brownies and scalp massages though, and I’m not talking about the plot holes (most, if not all of which are tied up in the finale). To use a cliché, as much as I found lead Logan Marshall-Green to be a “revelation”, there are moments where Grey stumbles over the fine line between nervous and goofy when under instances of interrogation. Not frequent by any definition (unless you’re using the Bizarro World dictionary, I guess), but jarring nonetheless. Additionally, though I’m sure its a social commentary device on Whannell’s part, I’m tired of the “it’s fucking 1984 around here and the cops STILL can’t accomplish anything!” trope. Granted, the only other option fertile enough for a “choose your own revenge” tale is “rampant corruption”, but I’ll take crooked cops over Keystone Cops 60% of the time, every time.

Though Upgrade positively reeks of “future cult classic” perfume, there may be greener pastures in its future. Its ending being left wide open as the definition of “sequel bait”, talk of a follow-up has been bandied about. It doesn’t hurt that, being a modest $3 million affair, it managed to make back FIVE times its budget during its big screen run. In this case, I would assuredly welcome The Further Adventures of Grey & STEM into my home, even if for just a one-nighter. I wish I could say I’d like to change my “hit ’em and quit ’em” ways, but I lie to you fine fucks enough already.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do my stretches and juggle medicine balls in preparation for the army of snow golem minions this storm will bless me with. Hit the music!

Moral of the Story: “You see the future, I see ten guys on the unemployment line”. Well, I see half-a-dozen mercenary assholes being maimed in a campaign of ultraviolence, so I guess it’s all different strokes for different folks now, ain’t it?!

Final Judgment:

Four CrowboCops out-of-Five

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Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

Quickie 09 – Revenge (2017)

or “Jennifer’s Bodies”

I’d heard nothing but praise about “Revenge” prior to it landing on my cosmic scales of judgment. Lauded as a stellar, powerful, intense French r&r (rape & revenge) feature, plural positive plaudits praised it as an empowering experience for victims of sexual assault too, which…is kind of the whole point of these movies, right? I mean, if you’ve never known the catharsis of the sub-genre, sure enough this would be a big deal, but what separates Revenge from its peers?

“Little, juicy, peachy ass! It’s like a little alien coming from another planet!”

Our victim/heroine/revenger is an American girl (far from as Tom Petty used to define them) named Jen. She’s recently become the barely legal side-piece for French rich boy Richard Not-Branson (who has a really weird idea of what aliens look like, as the quote above will tell you), and is brought via private helicopter to his secret vacation home in the middle of the ever ambiguous “the desert”. They engage in overly choreographed movie intercourse, as you do when you’re carrying on an affair, but two of Dick’s hunting buddies show up unannounced the next day. The pair are early for the boys’ annual hunting weekend and bring with them a dampering on the whole “the naughty things we do in privacy” thing. In fact, said pals weren’t even aware that Monsieur Moneybags had extracurricular strange, noted when Stan (the obvious sex pest of the pair) makes a joke about whether French Guy Pearce is having marital problems.

Rolling a little TOO well with the unexpected intrusion, Jen goes into party girl mode and makes the mistake of flirting with Stan THE OBVIOUS RAPIST-TO-BE who probably has a list of restraining orders against him taller than he is. The unavoidable catalyst for the movie’s namesake occurs the next morning while Richard has pardoned himself to acquire the trio’s hunting licenses, leaving her alone with Stan and Dimitri. Stan’s aggressive declaration of his expectations toward the slender siren don’t go as he planned (because, again, HE’S BEEN RADIATING GROSS RAPE VIBES SINCE HE FIRST LOOKED AT HER!), things take the stomach churning turn that the warning signs all posted was around the corner, and everything goes to shit.

In true “boys club” fashion, Richard attempts to cover things up for his locker room cohort (and save his own ass from the probable fallout in his home life), ultimately ending up with Jen being left for dead in the unforgiving wasteland. She’s not though, otherwise the movie’s title would make no sense!

As far as that aforementioned element that sets Revenge apart from the rest of its friends on the figurative video store shelf? It’s far less exploitative of the female of the species (of whom I hear is deadlier than the male), foregoing any manner of titillation during her violation, keeping the actual act off screen for the most part, and leaving potential pervs hoping for a spank bank deposit instead overdrawn with a lack of funds. In fact, despite putting an emphasis on Jen’s blunt displays of confidence in her own sexual appeal, there are not actual R-rated displays of her bare naughty bits at any point. Instead (and this is likely going to turn away further potential rape-fantasizers), it’s Dick’s dick and bared backside that get the explicit screen time allotment here, folks! Don’t get too excited though, meat marks, cuz his phallus never makes it past flaccid. I’m sure this isn’t normal for him, though. With all the stress of trying to murder and dispose of his mistress, you can forgive him such erectile dysfunction. At least, that’s usually the excuse I use at such self-esteem crippling intercourse interruptions.

Beyond the subject matter, Revenge is shot very nicely for the most part and utilizes the unusual beauty and color palate of its barren surroundings to its benefit. Director (and writer) Coralie Fargeat has a great eye. Maybe even two! I did have to slap my head more than once during a few “that’s not how things work!” moments, though. Also, the movie could’ve used another run through the editing suite to clean up a handful of immersion breaking continuity errors, a big one being the old “massive wound changes sides between shots” mirror botch.

Speaking of, the gore has moments of straight up artistic utilization, but the usually appreciated practical effects suffer sorely during close-up moments. The gallons of synthetic sanguine spillage were sadly not enough to distract me from the impression that everybody’s skin was made of foam rubber. If you opt to watch it, you’ll see what I mean.

A salient-without-being-salacious addition to the sub-genre, Revenge”\ is a mostly-solid r&r movie more than worth a watch, and a fun feature to troll any unsavory MRAs in your life with!

[Krix’s Komments:] This is an ugly movie with a beautiful veneer. The locations are striking and the shots of it (and actors within it) are well framed. But that’s part of the formula for these movies: ugly things happening to beautiful people in beautiful, remote locations. The desert is a great choice for a movie like this, not only because of how its climate can vacillate dangerously between extremes as time passes, but it acts as a visual survivor metaphor. Jen manages to survive the initial rape, the violent attempted cover up, and the journey back through the harsh wilderness where she enacts her vengeance. She deals with environmental extremes and emotional ones simultaneously, her final task still ahead of her as she finds her way back. As with all of these movies, she’s confronted with the reality that while she is avenged, she’s never really made whole despite her efforts. I was surprised at how non-exploitative this movie was, given the history of the genre. There are some great corridor shots in the final act, and at no time does Jen deliver any lame one liners meant to make her sound “tough” for the trailer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with bad one liners in movies, but they don’t really work too well in movies like this. They just come across as trying way too hard. Anyway, if this genre doesn’t make you uncomfortable, give this one a try. There are some silly moments, but it’s technically solid (outside of the rubbery body parts) and doesn’t revel in the sexual violence, which is refreshing.

Moral of the Story: Blaming victims is bad enough ethically, but if you need further reason not to do so, remember that victims can become revenge beasts at any moment! Especially if they get their hands on some peyote.

Final Judgment:

Three-and-a-half RapeX Anti-Rape Devices out-of-Five

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Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

Quickie 08 – Mom and Dad (2017)

or “The Midlife Crisis Massacre”

The new year means new resolutions, and if you’re like many others trying to assuage unwarranted guilt, you probably vowed to make an effort to spend more time with your family in 2019. Tonight’s twisted tale of torment and terror courtesy of Brian Taylor may convince you to abandon that aspiration sooner than later!

If you don’t recognize the moniker I won’t penalize you, but Taylor is one half of the pairing behind the “Crank” movies and has worked previously alongside Nicholas Cage on “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” which, despite the psychotic pedigrees present, went over about as well as that time my alcoholic uncle thought it would be funny to piss in my cousin’s NES. He wasn’t laughing the next morning when the video rental store made him pay up $60 to replace the Friday the 13th cartridge that was in it at the time. His membership card then got scissored harder than one of the new pledges at the Submission Sorority, so I hope you’ve all learned something from this.

“I used to think my parents getting divorced was the hugest tragedy of my life, but ironically, that shit doubled my chance of survival.”

Speaking of the evils that adults do, Mom and Dad is an extreme entry into the “kids vs. adults” horror sub-subgenre, sharing shelf space with classics like Parents and Rabid Grannies. Given that Taylor’s prior productions are about as disassociated from the term “subtle” as the English language will allow, spoilers aren’t exactly going to, you know, spoil anything as the synopsis will tell you all you need to know.

One perfectly perfect day (in every way), for no a-parent (PUN!) reason, a suburban community’s parental populace flips their fucking lids and begin violently assaulting their own offspring! To be fair, some instances aren’t assaults so much as they are cases of extreme negligence, but whatever the fatal means of abuse, these mothers and fathers have turned into Child Protective Services’ worst nightmare. It’s not unlike The Happening, except their suicides are of the extroverted kind! Savvy? Surely.

Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair play one such pair of parents, both struggling with their own mid-life crisis when they become overwhelmed by the sinister urge to join the progeny purge. It’s up to the couple’s daughter Carly (a 14-16yo whose tiny school uniform skirt gets REALLY uncomfortable to look at from certain camera angles *barf*) and footy-pajama-ed “why the Hel isn’t this kid in school?!” younger son Josh to either kill or be killed in the perfect “survival of the fittest” film for family movie night!

The Evil Dead Bride and I really enjoyed this movie. Cage’s manic bi-polar performance as a middle-aged man already on edge now pushed to utter psychotic break down is just what the man does perfectly, and the nearly deadpan performance by Blair’s wife-mother character plays off her manic mate magically. Taylor’s kinetic “music video” style rubs some the wrong way, but given the perilous pace the picture builds up to, it’s a style that fits the flick tonally. Lots of fun for childless anti-procreation types like ourselves!

Oh, and Robert Cunningham? Love that dude. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to date a guy like his character, Damon. I wish I’d been that cool and capable in high school, damn it.

Moral of the Story: The SAWZALL® saws all. It says it right there in the name!

Final Judgment:

Four Boxes of Plan B out-of-Five

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Enjoy the review? Hate the review? Have a movie you’d like to see judged in The Tomb? Fill out the feedback form! Never has it been easier to make contact with a deitic being!

All materials found within this review are the intellectual properties and opinions of the original writer. The Tomb of Anubis claims no responsibility for the views expressed in this review, but we do lay a copyright claim on it beeyotch, so don’t steal from this shit or we’ll have to go all Farmer Vincent on your silly asses. © October 1st 2013 and beyond, not to be reproduced in any way without the express written consent of the reviewer and The Tomb of Anubis, or pain of a physical and legal nature will follow. Touch not lest ye be touched.

Quickie 07 – The Conjuring (2013)

or “The Amityville Jump Scare”

Well, if you’re reading this then you’re one of the survivors of the year that was 2018. It’s now a new calendar and with said calendar comes the annual attempt by people to shed aspects about themselves, or at least modify to improve their sense of self-worth. One extremely popular resolution people make is to exorcise more, so why not start off 2019 with one such topical movie!

And no, I did not resolve to make less idiotic puns, so go ahead and sandbag me! I like the sound of crickets! Shit, it’s my second most used sleep machine sound behind “chainsaws being plunged into cadavers”.

“Being haunted is like stepping in gum: sometimes you take it with you.”

As big a deal as The Conjuring has been since its release, I didn’t bother to put eyes to it until last year. I’ve always felt James Wan’s stuff was overhyped ad nauseam, especially when it came to Saw and Dead Silence. When you’ve got a vault of 2000+ movies you’ve yet to watch, you tend to let movies weighed down by pre-installed negative bias fall so far down the back burners that it ends up lost behind the stove. But, having recently cleaned out behind my stove, I figured why not drop an afternoon and throw together a Quickie. Open wide now, as I pour my frothy concoction down your throats like the hungry little bird babies you are!

Ed and Lorraine Warren are real-life, globally recognized, “paranormal investigators” whose spooky adventures have catalogued all manner of wacky supernatural happenstance that spits in the face of both god and science. They’re basically what you’d get if you combined scripts for ”Hart to Hart” and ”Friday the 13th: the Series” into a paper shredder and hired a tweaker on airplane glue to tape them back together. The Conjuring takes the tried-and-true Amityville formula and turns it on its head (or turns its head around like Regan MacNeil’s) by redirecting the focus from the story’s victims and instead making the ghost busters the main event. Though this seems like a modestly novel idea, it’s also how James Wan turns what would’ve been a one-off movie into an entire fucking franchise in today’s spin-off happy blockbuster culture that the Marvel Cinematic Universe hath wrought.

This particular tale adapted from the Warrens’ archives doesn’t take the easy route and attempt to carve its own simulacrum of the infamous Amityville house that spawned 40 years (and counting) of “everybody and their Uncle Fester” making their own in-name-only renditions of. Instead, we follow the couple (played by far more attractive movie counterparts, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) as they unfold an even earlier case, this one from the crumb in America’s beard – Rhode Island.

Oh wait, I’m sorry. Cue the Vincent Price voice; “Rhooooooooode Iiiiiiiiiiislaaaaaaaand!” **small burst of thunder** (Actually, that was my stomach. I haven’t eaten since the annual Lauren Bacall Bacchanal last week.)

Like any haunted house flick (I don’t care how many times they refer to it as “demonic possession”, by Osiris’ uni-brow, this is a haunted house movie!), it all starts with a family moving into their new home. The place is colder than a Republican’s heart and stinks of Satan’s unwashed tidy bowl, all of the clocks stop at 3:07 a.m., one of the kids finds an “ominous in an ‘inhabited by the soul of its previous owner’ way” music box, they uncover an “ominous in a ‘likely filled with Kandarian demons’ way” secret basement, and their movie issued family dog refuses to enter the sinister structure before winding up dead the very next day. Things only escalate when their own…personal…poltergeist levels up to jump scares and moderate physical abuse, terrifying them and prompting them to seek help. Who ya gonna call? Well, if you put 2 and 2 together, my money’s on 4.

Eddie and Quiche surmise that the catalyst of the chaos is a pissed off devil worshiper named Bathsheba. Seems that a century earlier, after her husband caught her sacrificing their week old daughter, declared Beelzebub to be her Valentine five-ever, then self-lynched in their backyard! People, this is why couples should live together for at least a year before getting married. Divorces are complicated enough without finding out your spouse has been cheating on you with the Christian embodiment of all sin.

WitchiePoo also hexed the entirety of their property (I guess demons function under local zoning laws?) so that any mothers who tried to live there would become her vessels through which she could sacrifice further children for Old Scratch. Her Cloutie’s Croft ended up subdivided, but several bizarre murders of children by their moms in the immediate area seemingly didn’t set off any alarm bells until the Warrens came along. Go figure. Anyway, fortunately for the Perrons, her hell-born powers and spooky special effects magic are no match for some first semester Latin, some holy hydration, a scalp massage from a medium, and mandatory maternal affection for their offspring. As Father Huey Lewis used to preach, the power of love triumphs over all. Technically, the Lord of Hell is ultimately undone by a literal day at the beach. Blart.

Despite its heaps of critical praise, the best I can say about The Conjuring is that it’s competently shot, well acted, and its special effects are up to par. On the opposite end of the entertainment spectrum, it’s also about 25 minutes too long and brings nothing new to the proverbial table. Throughout the movie, a demonically influenced dolly named Annabelle causes unrest for the Warrens’ warren and their young daughter (not the smartest idea to keep your collection of heretical curiosities in your fucking home!), conjuring little more than an obvious setup for the American Girl doll from Tophet’s toy box to get her inevitable spin-off. Her introduction in the prologue would’ve sufficed with a quick cameo in the end. SHE DIDN’T NEED HER OWN FUCKING SIDEBAR!

There are also numerous flashbacks to an exorcism gone bad that really fucked Mrs. Warren up that will probably end up as kindling for a prequel, so even without the benefit of IMDB and a 5 year head start, the sequel seeds being planted here are big enough for the rest of the movie to trip over.

But, hackneyed haunted house horror liberally peppered with generic jump scares a-plenty and lots of loud sounds and screaming can scare modern audiences to the tune of a $300 million box office, so what the fuck do I know?

Moral of the Story: Paranormal investigators make the best realtors! Unless of course you’re looking for a place around Salem’s Lot. They don’t believe in vampires.

Final Judgment:

Three Perfectly Adequate Realty Signs out-of-Five

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