Movie Review: Innocence (2014)

(No Spoilers)This movie, officially released on 9/5, is much better than I thought it would be.

I know that’s vague.

This is a film for the Twilight, Vampire Academy, Beautiful Creatures crowd. And it starts out similarly to many other YA novels and flicks with a Plain Jane (in this case the “Jane” is Beckett Warner played by the adorable Sophie Curtis), a family tragedy (fridged parents everywhere!) and a move. It’s even raining in the first scene -there was no way not to think of Forks! 

As the movie progresses, Beckett remains reserved- logical for a teen who just experienced tragedy, but instead of being angsty and laying around in the grass; she makes friends with the snarky Jen (Sarah Sutherland, yes she is Kiefer’s daughter) and cute skater boy, Tobey (Graham Phillips). Beckett has friends! A girl who is a friend! She doesn’t just have haters that she’s better than! This is a bizarre thing to be excited about but it is actually very rare!

But things get strange for Beckett right off the bat. The school’s lavishly dressed staff and alumni all seem to rally around Beckett, either to help with her issues after her mother’s death or to hit on her father. Then she catches resident mean girl, Sunday, cutting herself and then Beckett almost gets squished during Sunday’s apparent suicide. After that, Beckett starts having nightmares and seeing ghosts. Her visions alert her to previous student deaths leading her to believe that there is more going on behind closed doors than “alumni book club”. Beckett becomes conflicted and doesn’t know who to trust. Meanwhile, the school nurse (Kelly Reilly, “Black Box”, Sherlock Holmes films) is lounging sexily around her apartment and adults everywhere are trying to keep her away from her new crush. 

This film is not without plotholes. You have to suspend disbelief to make it fit, but it’s good. Beckett isn’t socially awkward to the point of nonsense like Bella, she allows herself to be young and lash out unlike Katniss, her friends don’t just jump in and believe the crazy stuff she tells them like Clary’s friends. It’s like she’s a real teenager. She pursues Tobey. She even breaks into his house. Which I still don’t recommend, but it’s still less creepy than Edward watching Bella sleep. There’s no love triangle. The girls’ uniforms aren’t sexed up like the girls from Vampire Academy:

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or the Coven Clique from The Craft

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Beckett and Jen look and act like regular teenage girls without being reduced to boy crazy day dreamers or willed into impossibly cool and bad ass crime fighters. They share headphones, they make mistakes, their parents are clueless obstacles that have no idea what they are going through, they pierce each other. It actually had a little in common with Thirteen that way. And there is no “slut shaming“! There is a genuine teenage feel to this. And if you are into that sort of thing, you’ll dig it. 

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The film sets up for a while that Beckett’s problems might be in her head, it’s not till fairly late in the film that the sinister secrets are revealed. There’s a few clues here and there. It’s also a good metaphor about adults, envious of youth, setting unrealistic expectations but then coveting their potential. It’s good. 

It made me interested in the novel as well, I would love to get more into Beckett’s headspace. At just an hour and a half the film is really quick and there’s not as much time for suspicious suicide pacts and exposition. The audience also doesn’t get to know why (if any reason) Beckett gets an elaborate grooming while others had not. I would be interested to see if Jane Mendelsohn dove further into those aspects when writing the original novel. It’s not a series, which is too bad, really.

3.75 plaid skirts!

The Strain- Episode 3

We open with opera and Eichorst’s freaky face. He applies silicone, makeup, hair, dentures and contact lenses to blend in as a human. He tells his reflection that he is almost done hiding. 

Eph and Nora are trying to find out what happened to the bodies. No jumping to conclusions. Did another agency take the bodies to hide the autopsy results? Was the military involved with the deaths? 

One of the survivors, Ansel, is fighting symptoms, his gums painful and bleeding, his throat sore. He has pain in his neck and ringing in his ears. His spouse is upset, she is worried for his health.

Captain Redform is in an incubator, Eph makes promises he can’t keep about how they will find out what is infecting him. And it’s Nora who recalls “the old man they had arrested at the airport.” Abraham warned them. Not sounding so crazy now.

Jim from the CDC, who was involved with allowing Augustin to leave with the coffin, meets with Eichorst who tries to pay him. Jim demands to know what was in the box. Eichorst, obviously, won’t reveal and Jim says he is going to the police. Eichorst brings up Jim’s dying wife. Ohhh, the dying wife motivation ZzzzzzzzzZzzz…. Anyway, Eichorst says that he can get Jim’s wife into a limited drug trial that could mean her salvation on top of the money. Now Jim is entirely under his thumb.

Abraham is at his hearing for the nuisance charge of tresspassing. The judge is perturbed by Abraham’s sword cane. He plays for feeble. Nora confronts him outside, Abraham says that the survivors must be destroyed. Nora is freaked out.

Ephraim’s family drama hits the fan. Zach says he wants to live with his mom, every other week with his dad. “Because his dad has a really important job.” Eph lashes out verbally (out of earshot from his son) but the ex blames it all on him, but sh says it’s not too late. That Zach and Eph can be closer, but that he has to show it, not just say it. Then it’s back to work.

Gabriel is not into rehearsal or video shoots. Apathy.

The board of health dude is visiting the home of a child who was bitten by a rat at the mouth. He catches the patriarch smoking Cuban cigars. He says that rats like cigars too. “this place has changed hands 5 times in seven years and now you know why.” Outside he hears hoards of rats.

Jim’s wife gives him the news that she’s gotten into the drug trial after all. Ansel’s dog grows suspicious of him. Then he drinks beef blood. His wife catches him. RUN FOR THE HILLS.

Gabriel’s balls are falling off. His personal doc encourages him to go to the hospital but he’s scared he’ll end up on TMZ.

Abraham employs an industrious young techie chick to find the passenger list from the plane in exchange for a video game console.

Eph and Nora are with Redform who ominously says “He’s here.”

Zach is at home watching his dad save the world on his iPad. Then he goes down stairs to see his mom. His mom is tearfully flipping through a photo album. 

Eichorst kills someone. There’s too many people on this show.

Gabriel’s hair is falling out. One of his eyes is bloodshot. Then his dick falls off.

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Jim delivers news to Nora and Eph that his wife is accepted into the drug trial. They are overjoyed, but Jim cannot take the same joy; knowing how this came to be. Redform has escaped. They go on the search. Jim finds him in the basement eating raw meat. Jim alerts the others that he’s found the Captain, they rush in while the pilot attacks them, that tentacle thing coming out of his mouth. Eph bashes the vampire’s head in. But, now those at the CDC can’t deny that something truly bizarre is happening here.

Let us take a brief moment to acknowledge the stereotypes involved that allowed Eichorst to employ people to spread the epidemic. Augustin, a gang member, was bribed/blackmailed over his brother’s criminal record and his mother’s immigration status. However, a large demographic of Hispanics in NY are Puerto Rican. PR, of course, being part of the US. Why so many people forget this is baffling to me. Now, Augustin could be Central American of Cuban, I don’t know, I didn’t see that it was noted, if it was when Eichorst showed the documents then feel free to correct. But portrayals that lead to the equation: poor + Hispanic = illegal is problematic as all fuck. Because chances are they’d be Nuyorican. (And yes, I am pointing this out even though del Toro is Mexican, it’s still a stereotype regardless)

And then of course we have Jim’s dying wife. A wife invented so that feeble Jim would have motivation for betraying his title and dooming the US to vampirism. A wife that will do nothing else to advance the plot in anyway, if I had to venture a guess.

But on the good? Kelly Goodweather (Natalie Brown, 2004’s Day of the Dead) gets a bit more sympathetic. And Nora and Eph don’t have untimely makeout sessions. Wooo! 

But there are too many people on this show. And not enough Abraham. 

The Strain- episode 2

Augustin transports the “cargo”

Eph is at JFK, he finds his smashed up colleague. Did they say his name was Peter Bishop?! Nora sees that the same “white foam” that is separated blood proteins are all that remains. 

The attorney argues that they are not needed under quarantine. She works to try to get them sprung. Palmer is trying to get them sprung as well. Eichorst pays a visit to Abraham who is still being held at the airport. Eichorst refers to Abraham by the number he had tattooed on his arm at the concentration camp. Augustin returns home, tells off his lazy brother for bringing stolen goods into the house.

Eph and Nora try to find out why the quarantine is being broken. They say that a quarantine would “shut down trade” …there’s no way that’s accurate, but okay. They pay a visit to the pilot who tells them that the mysterious “box” was loaded on by “officials with badges”

Eph receives a text from his son while he and Nora are examining the parasites. He says that what they are working on Nora convinces him that he’s making his soon to be ex accurate, that his work is more important than his son. 

The rockstar and the lawyer are experiencing ringing in their ears, the lawyer is hiding that her gums are bleeding profusely. 

Eph’s wife says “I’m so glad you’re handling the emergency with the plane” while Matt is turning his office into a gameroom for Zach. Eph shakes the other man’s hand trying to keep peace just after her friend Diane tells Eph off for not remembering her name. She makes some biting comments implying that he’s self centered. Eph tries to talk to Zach about the custody hearing and that he wants joint custody. Then Eph is at an AA meeting. Trying to prove to himself and everyone else that he can be reliable… but he comes clean; that he is self centered, emotionally distant, that he’s upset about his situation, that he’s sarcastic and bitter. That he can’t lose Zach, because he’s all he has left.

Gabriel is having a foursome with three ladies but can’t get it up, he impulsively bites one, hard enough for her to drip blood as she exits, he screams at them to leave and laps the blood off the floor.

Pilot Redford is laid up, he says that his skin is crawling and he feels like he swallowed a razor. Eph sees the worms crawling under his skin.

The man who punched Eph calls him and says that his little girl came home to him. Alive. Eph thinks the man is seeing ghosts. He and Nora are heading to the morgue. Once they get there they find no signs of life… and that the body bags are empty, they find the ME’s smashed glasses.

Palmer goes to see “the box.” But it is empty except for the grave dirt. Then the master stands before him.

Gary goes to check on Emma. Emma’s becoming a creep. She says she’s hungry, then her hair starts to fall out. Gary, still in shock pretends this is par for the course and tries to get her to dry off. But she attacks him, a fleshy tentacle springs from her mouth and sucks him dry through his neck

Both Robin Atkin Downes and Robert Maillet (upcoming films Septic Man and Hercules) are credited as playing “the Master” I’, unclear as to who is under the hood. Eph leaving to have personal probs while vampires are getting loose really takes away from the suspense …but it is more realistic. This trope though, with the main protag as an addict/alcoholic… most people can’t do their jobs messed up. So Eph is the top of his field… how did he achieve this station while boozing? He doesn’t seem to make friends easily. 

Not enough Abraham. 

The Strain- episode 1

Considering all the weird ass things that have happened with planes recently, this is very… uhh… timely. On an international flight out of Berlin. A stewardess is preparing passengers for landing. She’s called to the front of the plane by the pilot, deals with a couple trouble passengers and gets to the front. The pilot is freaking out, says there is something alive in the cargo hold. The stewardess tries to calm him so he doesn’t incite panic, but then something hops through the floor.

A man that can’t have it all!!! Dr. Ephraim Goodweather of the CDC is late for his third custody counselling session. He and his wife are separated. His life is work. She’s started seeing someone. Matt, he’s an operations manager at Sears. Ephraim thinks of him as a manchild. His soon to be ex-wife says that Eph was never present enough, that he got straight A’s at his job but isn’t what she needs. He doesn’t want to give up on their marriage, but it gets all sorts of “this is what we’re talking about as his phone rings and he’s called to investigate the plane.

Old man pawnbroker, Abraham, gets a visit from two thugs looking to unload a stolen watch, they try to grab money from the counter but he grabs an arm and threatens to slit the criminal’s wrist open. The men flee and The old man sees the news about a plane from Berlin and he knows immediately that “it is him” and he goes downstairs to talk to a heart in a jar about it. He says he doesn’t know if he has the strength to do it all over again. The heart responds, beating. He asks it if it is hungry and pierces a finger tip, then he drips the blood into the jar. 

Abraham gets one hell of an entrance.

Ephraim complains to his hot partner (and former/current? lover), Nora, about how his counselling went as they suit up. They get on the plane and go through the lengthy process of searching the plane and examining passengers for clues as to what may have happened… when a handful of passengers start to wake up.

The four surviving passengers get quarantined as they decide what to tell families and the press. Attorney, pilot, rockstar …and a nerdy guy. Eph and the CDC find a huge coffin …with a latch on the inside. Elsewhere, Eph’s ex-wife, son and the new guy are watching the news. Matt tries to make light of it, Zack says, “Don’t worry. Wat ever it is, my dad will take care of it.” But he sends a text to his dad to ask if he’s ok.

Eph smiles as he texts back, reassuring his son. His partner catches him and gives him a pep talk before he addresses the public, they hug and he kisses her hair. Which is sweet but also leaves his colleague alone inside while the CDC packs up the cargo. He thinks that he hears something and goes to investigate.

He encounters a shrouded figure with bloody extra limbs that claws his neck and sucks blood through those extra arms. The man is emptied of his blood, gets his neck snapped and skull cracked in.

Completely different manner of death than everyone on the plane..

Elsewhere an old man enlists the help of a Hispanic thug (and wanna be boxer) to drive cargo out of the airport. The man has provided a truck and security badge. In exchange for this errand, the old man says that he will clear the other man’s brother’s criminal record and take care of his mom’s “immigration status.” 

206 passengers are dead and they don’t know why.  One of the parents punches him in the face. Soon to be ex watches from home.The victims have no red blood cells, white foam appears in their veins. blood proteins have been separated. 

As they are trying to find what became of the coffin, the medical examiner is examining the organs and we see bunches of those tiny worms writhing around inside. The examiner drops a heart full of a swarm of worms as they try to get under his glove. suddenly, the deceased pop up around him and attack him.

The coffin escapes. Augustin calls his mother to check in on her. The old man who hired him tells his cohorts that the cargo is safe and that those on the plane will return home to their loved ones.

And they do, we see a young girl from the plane, Emma, whose father had punched Ephraim  return home to her father alone.

Corey Stoll is incredibly cast as Ephraim. In the same way that I think Halle’s role on “Extant” is amazing at challenging domestic gender roles (Halle’s Molly doesn’t have a life centered around family or pregnancy, she thinks of her career and her own immediate safety/health) Ephraim is a good father but can’t seem to “have it all” with a demanding job and stable home life. 

Creepy parasites that turn people into vampires and the CDC comprises main characters? Well, that’s very V-Wars

Ephraim’s partner is a cliche. Men and women are never friends. She’s a spicy Latina. I imdb’d it and she only appears to be in 3 eps. 

David Bradley (Abraham) and the creepy effects are what really does it for me here.

Penny Dreadful- Episode 5

“Closer Than Sisters”

The pace slowed down considerably with this episode. 

The entirety of the episode takes place in flashbacks to Vanessa’s childhood. The ENTIRETY. For a show with as large a main cast as Penny Dreadful has this is quite bizarre. No monsters. No vampires, no werewolves. No love triangles. No Dorian Gray.

Which means that I have to wait and see what happens with Dorian and Ethan. This show has sucked my in. As soon as I watch; I want more. This show is typically intense with multiple plotlines and motivations intermingling.

So this Vanessa-centric, nostalgic exposition was… different.

Vanessa and Mina were neighbors who grew up separated by only an open gate and a hedge maze. We see them first as children imagining who they will marry, frolicking on the coastline and brushing each other’s hair. Vanessa’s crush on Peter. Until one fateful night. The young Vanessa was out in the hedge maze and she caught her mother having sex with Mina’s father, Sir Malcolm. This breech of her innocence causes her to act out in other ways, stealing and other instances of “girlish mischief.” 

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As they grow older Mina meets the kind of man that they dreamed of growing up while Vanessa’s budding relationship never blooms. He tells Vanessa he is going off to Africa. Vanessa knows he’s too weak, but she loves him for his weakness. Peter pushes her away. Just before Mina and her officer with the grand mustache are to be married, Vanessa encounters him in the halls and they flirt over taxidermy. Then they have sex. Mina finds the pair while her soon to be husband is pounding away at her BFF and she casts both of them out of her life. 

Vanessa confronts her mother about her infidelity with Sir Malcolm but when Vanessa gets to Mina’s yard she is faced with Sir Malcolm. He doesn’t let her pass and slams the gate. Vanessa collapses.

She treated first for what appears to be epilepsy and then she is taken in for psychiatric treatment for psychosexual fits. Treatments like ice baths and heavy narcotics… but nothing seems to work. The possession continues. Her mother finds her humping the air (Vanessa envisions Sir Malcolm) and faints. Peter comes to visit just before a trip to Africa and Vanessa predicts his death. 

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Years later, Vanessa is visited by Mina on a beach. Mina says that she forgives Vanessa saying that her suffering has been penance enough. Mina tells Vanessa about her new husband, Jonathan Harker. But once she lets it slip that Vanessa saw her father being unfaithful, Mina reveals that the Master has told her a lot. And then Vanessa visits Sir malcolm and tells him what Mina has revealed to her.

So let’s talk about it: Women’s sexuality demonized. Literally.

The loss of Vanessa’s innocence leads to her morality spiraling down the drain. Which isn’t supernatural mumbo jumbo. The young Vanessa sees that the adults around her are hypocritical in their religious and pious appearance, that they are sinning and she youthfully acts out. But then as an adult she is jealous of her friend and so she seduces her fiance. This act leaves her open for demonic possession. 

Slut shaming at it’s finest that Vanessa’s betrayal leaves her the property of Satan.

Other than that? 

I’m glad I have incorrectly assumed that Sir Malcolm raped Mina. It appears as though at the seance it was a young Mina’s essence who inhabited Vanessa (or possibly still Peter) but that the “her” was Vanessa’s mother. I hope. Possession is very confusing. 

This episode was comparatively slower to all the other episodes thus far, but it was so bizarre and captivating that it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it. Eva Green can easily carry a scene and I have to give her props for some of the insane things that she pulled off there. 

I am concerned.

What I am concerned about is this:

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Now, I wouldn’t be bothered if Vanessa’s love for Mina is romantic more than platonic. But I will be bothered if Vanessa had sex with Mina’s fiance not because Vanessa was jealous of Mina for having what she envisioned but that she was jealous because she wanted Mina. I don’t need a “conniving lesbian homewrecker” plot. It’s preposterous.Hopefully I am just being paranoid. Tropes make me suspicious. Also, I hate to say it -because I don’t mind a “strong female character would do anything for true love” plot, which this would be if Vanessa had an interest in Mina that was romantic, but can girls just be down for their friends sometimes? I hope.

V-Wars #2

This cover:

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I hate it. It looks like a cheesy direct to DVD horror flick. It took me forever to “see” that vamp in the corner left so it appeared to me at first that the woman in the center had her hand down lipring vampire’s pants. Who ok’d this?

A reporter is held hostage by vampires, they’re saying that she doesn’t care about the truth, that she just reads lines. He tells her that vampires aren’t getting due process, that they’re Americans too. He thinks that someone is diverting attention on purpose. He throws around stats proving that humans are more violent.He wants her to tell their side of the story. Yuki Nitobe has to decide whether or not to be their spokesperson. She’s released and calls Luthor (the man from issue 1 who was an expert on vamps, his family turned) . She confesses that she doesn’t like the ratings queen that she has become.

The next day Yuki meets with a vampire named Kyra who has been badly tortured by humans. This scenario happens all the time, “We are the new minority. People are afraid of us and they hate that they are afraid.” That would be reasonable except for that vampires are dangerous and bloodthirsty. Not Kyra, Kyra is a quaker and abstains from violence even as she is being beaten and raped. 

The go to The Red House: a church/cult for vampires to worship and form community.

The black vampire who looks mostly human uses the phrase “One that, like me, can pass” Holy fucking shite with this appropriated garbage. 

Yuki and Martyn go to stop a terrorist plot. Luthor is also there along with homeland security. But when they arrive, it’s not criminals or terrorists, just an abandoned dwelling full of squatters and vagrants, but homeland security open fire while Yuki and Martyn watch in horror. The news reports it as if Homeland busted a volatile terror cell, except for Yuki who asks viewers to question what evidence or weapons they had to show. It nearly costs her her job, but she has a solid contract and great lawyers. Kyra thanks her, but then they are attacked at the Red House. The whole plays explodes. “No one saw anything.” 

She and Luthor drink their problems away and then she goes back on air and proclaims that she is always on the side of truth and she will make sure that the responsible party -no matter who they are- is dragged into the light.

31 Horrifying Days: Day 18- Fright Night (1985)

A teenager, Charley Brewster (played by newcomer William Ragsdale) is watching horror flicks and trying to coerce his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) into having sex with him. She relents and agrees when he becomes distracted by someone moving in next door. They have what appears to be a coffin. The new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon, who returned for the 2011 remake) is charming, handsome …and has fangs. 

Charley figures this out after peeping on Jerry’s date with his binoculars. There are so many times where an immature nerd boy with binoculars has intruded in on some shit: Twilight Zone, the Simpsons when Bart broke his leg and Disturbia to name a few. Mind your neck! 

Anyway, Amy decides that Charley is an immature nerd boy and not worth her virginity. When he shows up telling her about the creature of the night neighbor, she assumes it’s a ploy to get her back. He tells his mom, he tells the police and when everyone thinks he’s a damn idiot… he enlists the help of Amy, pal Evil Ed and a horror host named Peter Vincent to vanquish the bloodsucker.

Jerry is not fucking amused. He sneaks in through Charley’s mother’s window (as a bat. a vampire shapeshifts into a wolf later which makes no sense to me, but whatever). He offers Charley a chance to forget about him and just let him be. Or else. Or else he’ll kill Charley’s mom and turn Amy. Ohhh snap.

All the women as potential fridging victims?

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But what I do like is that Charley feels the need to protect his mom. Lot’s of media with teenage protagonist have the parents written out, usually in some tragic backstory to explain why their child is galavanting around at night acting like frigging Van Helsing and they just could not even be bothered. Charley gets a little of that in that his mom is divorced (hence, he’s “the man of the house” and the protector). 

When they confront Jerry together initially the others had the intention of proving to Charley that Jerry was not a vampire. He drinks “Holy water” and isn’t harmed by crosses. But Peter Vincent notices that Jerry has no reflection. The cross didn’t work because the weilder had no faith… and the Holy water was tap water. Who thought he’d be a real vamp? Once Jerry knows they are on to him he turns “Evil Ed” and sends the boy to do his bidding. Mission #1 Attack Peter Vincent: Mission FAILED. Peter maims him with a cross. Mission #2 Find Charley’s mom: Mission FAILED. Charley’s mom is at work. 

Meanwhile, Jerry chases Charley and Amy. The couple duck into a club. While Charley calls for help, Amy is seduced on the dancefloor. She happens to bear a strong resemblance to Jerry’s lost love (because every vampire is Dracula). And he abducts her. 

Charley and Peter partner up and break into Jerry’s house, they take on a guard and Evil Ed in wolf form. Charley gets taken and brought to Amy… who is turning into a vampire. Peter concludes that she can turn back into a human if they kill Jerry by dawn.

But was it scary? Nope. And Amy was annoying and Charley was stupid. 

Jerry was the quintessential suave vampire next door. The movie would have been better if he seduced Charley’s mom and then Marcy from “Married With Children” saved her along with the kid who looked like Ferris’s friend and the Giles prototype. Because hundred year old grown men who look like 40 year old men dirty dancing with teens is fucking gross.

The effects were really 80s. They were really good for the 80s. 

It’s directed by Tom Holland, who would later direct Child’s Play and Psycho II

I understand why people like this.

But I didn’t really like it.

I gave an extra .5 for ugly vampires.

3/5

And I know I’m going to get hate for that, but the cool parts weren’t played up enough and the characters were fucking wack, with the exception of Sarandon who nailed it as Jerry.