What I’ve Seen: Dark

dark-netflix-s

Dark, a ten episode Netflix Original Series from Germany.

Brief Summary:

In 2019 a man hangs himself, leaving his son a letter to not be opened until after a specific time and date. The son, after a few traumatizing months in the nuthouse, returns home and heads to school to meet his friends. The same week a boy goes missing. Oh, and this town lives in the shadows of a power plant. When the son and his friends go to the caves where the boy’s drugs are, the youngest of the group disappears. The families are fractured and the search for the missing children unfolds, not where, but when…

What works:

Aside from the obligatory Stranger Things missing boy & weird town vibe/comparison, what really makes Dark amazing is the cinematography and the camera work. This town is eerie as sin and everything within it is creepy. The drone shots of the forest and the cave that is the crux of the story is beautiful, but also dour. The music hits all the creep factors at the correct moments. The constant rain. The setting really is the outstanding character for this series.

That said, I loved the characters – all three timelines worth! (Get to that in a moment) These characters, kids to adults, are so layered, so broken, so normal, so beaten its amazing. There is so much drama, that I hated then loved characters from episode to episode. I yelled at them for their actions, like literally yelled at the screen. Sighed heavily at decisions. That is what makes great TV! Each actor was great, even the minor side characters. The casting was spot on and each actor/actress nailed their roles.

Sidenote, I watched the German version with subtitles, I would suggest doing the same. I personally hate dubs but I think you truly lose the heart of the story if you don’t have it in German.

Holy crap how amazing was the time-travel aspect of this show? I mean it was simply awesome! The fact the show was such a sllllllllloooooooooooooooow build really helped it. You have mysterious strangers knowing things, three timelines, missing children, murders. All across 66 years. Like serious cyclical events happening. It was just downright great, I don’t know how the writers kept their stuff together, but it was flawless. As a viewer, we didn’t know what the heck was going on, which made the mystery all that more gratifying to follow. Even all three timelines (2019, 1986, 1953) had their unique aesthetic to them, just great stuff all around.

One more note on the slow burn aspect. I know most people, especially in the current era, we want instant gratification. We expect to know things quickly. But I thought the slow burn approach to this story was the perfect route to take. When the man hanged himself and left the note, the viewer doesn’t know what’s in it until episode three. That made the mystery worth it. Then we learn the truth about the time-travel, wow. That wouldn’t work if it all happened in the first episode. The luster would have been worn off.

This part might turn off viewers, but I absolutely adored the ending. Even if Netflix doesn’t make a second season, I think the ending was perfect. It doesn’t matter if there are so many cliffhangers, I think that was the point. I want to know who Noah is, what’s with the chair, what he says to Bartosz, when did Jonas go, does Ulrich get back to 2019? Like those are all important questions left open, but the point of the story was the cyclical nature of time. Is there fate or predetermination? Can we change that? Those are the basic questions asked by the show. I think the ending left it open for viewer interpretation and that, in my humble opinion, is brilliant!

What doesn’t work:

Really the one thing that is a bit flawed about this show is the giant cast of characters. Since it is only ten episodes, some characters get lost in the shuffle and their plots are weak (aka older emo son and rebel daughter). The problem is with three timelines and all these characters at different ages, juggling all of them is hard to do. Yes, the show did a great casting job that it is easy to see the transition of who is who over the time periods (moles, destroyed ears, other character traits), but there are so many characters to remember that it can be tough. It never would work if it was a weekly regular TV show.

My only other qualm is there were times when characters kept secrets from others. So the cheating part of Ulrich’s plot was fine. The cop and her husband’s marriage due to the husband’s gay preferences was fine. Those secrets are great story-telling. But there were times when the cop and Ulrich had info that could help solve each other’s case but they danced around the subject and didn’t say what they knew. I get it for drama aspects, but after a few times, it grew annoying. Like just tell them!

Rating:

5 out of 5.

This show was fantastic. Every episode drew me further and further into this world and I didn’t want it to end. I can be happy with the ending if it stays this way. But I also want more! It was dark (intended), layered, genre-bending. I loved it, nothing more can be said about it.

What I’ve Seen: IT

download (1)  IT by Andy Muschietti

Brief Summary:

Based on the Stephen King novel (and updated to take place in 1988-89), the movie follows seven teenage kids as they are haunted by a strange creature – It. It takes the form of multiple fears for the children: sometimes as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a Leper, a headless boy, among others. It is an ancient evil that comes back every 27 years to feed, mostly on young children, by use of their fear. After the seven friends – the Losers Club – all realize they have seen the creature, they come together to defeat it.

What works:

One thing Stephen King does well, is create believable friendships of children (see Stand by Me). If you have ever read the book IT, then you know the Losers Club are excellent characters, they feel real, they talk like real friends, you care about them. The 1990 TV miniseries, you didn’t feel that, but in this movie, damn you definitely feel like these kids are actually friends. From the snappy dialogue – boasting and roasting, to the in-fighting of teenage friends, this group feels so realistic, I found myself naming my friends at that age in their roles. The child actors were so into their roles, it didn’t feel forced at all and the movie stood taller because of it.

Pennywise was creepy AF. Tim Curry will always be Pennywise to me, but that is because I was growing up when that TV miniseries came out. He creeped me the hell out (still does), but Bill Skarsgard more than ably fills in as the clown of evil. In fact, he is much more creepy than Tim Curry, much more evil, more childish, more brutish and all around terrifying. I usually don’t get scared in horror movies, but he definitely gave me some goosebumps.

The jumps & scares. I hate torture porn (like Hostel & the Saw movies after the first one). Don’t like it and don’t think it is scary. I love horror movies with slow burns, ratcheting up the tension, playing on fears. IT does this to a T. Every scare was well-placed and felt real, especially relating as a teenager. Those things would have scared the piss out of me and I found myself jumping a few times when the scare came. But the best part was because of some the absurdity of Pennywise. The herky-jerky movements were amazing and really sold the terror of the scene.

The absolute best thing about IT was the humor. I already mentioned the kid actors being awesome, but they were laugh out loud sometimes. It made the movie fun. Really fun. And then the theater would laugh at itself after the scares because we all agreed it was fun. And to top it all off, the rock fight was just a blast, I don’t think a scene made me laugh as hard as the start of it in quite a long time.

What didn’t work:

I found very little I didn’t like with this movie. The only thing I could nitpick is the one scene where Pennywise did his dance. I know that scene was humorous and gonna make a popular gif, but it was a bit out of place for me.

Rating:

5 out of 5

I absolutely loved this movie! When I saw they were remaking IT, I was ecstatic, I loved the book and I still enjoy the TV miniseries. I eagerly waited for more to come out and the marketing of this movie was fantastic – there were red balloons all over Austin, TX the day of release. This movie scared me, made me laugh, and all around was such a fun time, I can’t wait to see it again.

What I’ve Watched: The VVitch

The_Witch_posterThe VVitch via Prime.

Brief Summary:

Taking place in the early 1600s, a Puritan family is ousted from their community due to their faith. Taking up residence near a foreboding forest, the family settles and builds a farm, though the crops are failing. When Thomasin, the oldest daughter, is playing with the newborn child, it is abruptly taken from her without her understanding how. The child, taken by a strange older naked woman murders the child. Thomasin is accused by her mother and twin younger siblings of witchcraft. Her family being tormented by the eerie world around them pushes their faith to the test. And their survival in a harsh land.

What works:

Holy eff this movie is creepy in all the right ways! This isn’t a standard horror movie at all. There are maybe only one or two actual moments of jump. It is a slow burn, and it is the world the characters live in that makes it scary. I truly loved this form of story, the cheap thrills grow old after a while.

The biggest thing that makes it creepy is the music. I mean seriously, this music is so eerie that it was a power unto itself. The guy created a hodgepodge of instruments together and called it the Apprehension Engine. (for real, check it out online) The music is so profound and dark that each scene is magnified because of it. And the slow burn of the story goes hand in hand with the music.

One really cool tidbit (and could really turn off casual viewers) is that the characters speak in the literal language of the time. They say “thee” and “thine” as well as an array of other phrases that aren’t commonplace anymore. It really made me pay closer attention to the world than I would have if they used modern English. I thought it was brilliant. It was also great the director only used natural light, which made the night scenes all the more frightening.

Anna Taylor-Joy was amazing as Thomasin. There was an air of the unknown in her performance, but it was so grounded that it made her believable. She is devout in her faith, but everything happening to and around her family shakes that belief. While I loved the father and mother (both Game of Thrones alums), it was Thomasin’s movie.

Add in the fact that the witches were so damned creepy, it was excellent.

What didn’t work:

Nothing. And I mean that. This movie was flawless.

Rating:

5 out of 5

I don’t know how this movie didn’t get more press or attention. It was absolutely scary on every level. I don’t get scared all the easy from movies, but this one definitely had me on the edge. The world was so perfect that after 5 minutes I forgot it was a different time period altogether. And the ending was just so creepy and vivid. I loved this movie!