Mary Poppins Returns
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Vampire films are almost always chock-a-block with tropes, but this one doesn't have even a drop of originality.
A promising premise -- vampirism "manageable" through 12 steps -- winds up being a suspense-free thriller with a lot of pretty actors covered in fake blood.
I think it should be obvious that vampirism and its lore has been an endemic part of horror, really, since its creation. To say that there's been countless adaptations and variation on the genre from people as unlike one another from Jim Jarmusch to Stephenie Meyer to Anne Rice would be an understatement. I find that, sometimes, some people are a little bit too strict with adherence to vampire lore. I mean, really, people should be able to do whatever they want to in order to tell their story. There was a lot of criticism, as an example, for Twilight not adhering to the fact that their vampires function normally under sunshine. That doesn't bother me, like at all, since that wasn't the first time that's been done nor is it gonna be the last. The stupidest thing about that was, though, that Edward (lead vampire) actually twinkled in the sunlight. Holy shit, talk about idiotic. I mean, again, make the changes to the lore that you want, but twinkling? Are you serious? That's neither here nor there, I guess. I suppose I should start out by saying that, genuinely, I was surprised to find out that this was a vampire movie at all. When I saw the trailers a while ago, I don't think they made any mention of that at all. I mean as far as I remember, they may have done so and I just didn't notice. I just thought that this movie would be more a mysterious stranger forcing his way into this family and manipulating Ellie against her children. And there's definitely some of that here, of course. But when I saw Christopher's fangs early on in the movie, I thought he was just a regular dude believing that he's a vampire. But, nope, he's an actual vampire. I was definitely very pleasantly surprised about that. Having said that, I'll just be upfront with you guys, as I always am of course, but this movie was just no good in the slightest. We'll definitely get to it, but the third act was, quite frankly, horrifyingly bad. Just horrible. Anyway, the film tells the story of Ellie, a pill addict, trying to start over in a new place and a new job with her teen son and daughter. Her son is a troubled teen, acting out at school, as a result of the experiences he's gone through with his mother, he's not trustful of her and, it seems, that every time she makes a commitment to stay sober for any length of time, she falls off the wagon. She goes to these addicts' anonymous meetings, I'm assuming. One night, after a run, she comes across one of the guys from her meeting, who offers her pills. She takes these pills and, for one reason or another, Christopher (the vampire) kills the guy who gave her the pills and turns Ellie into a vampire. I have literally no idea why he did this. Maybe the idea was that these pills were gonna make Ellie overdose and die. But there was no indication that she was about to overdose at any moment. She was just stumbling around, tripped and hit her head on her car door. That's about it and Christopher just chose to turn her. Maybe he saw a weak woman he could manipulate, but I don't know where he got that from. I suppose that's neither here nor there. This is when the movie switches to be about Ellie's transformation and her growing bloodthirst. Kyle, upon seeing his mother's strange behavior, believes she's taking pills again and he's had about enough of it. This is where the film's issues start to make themselves apparent. Firstly, it's a movie about addiction and replacing one addiction with another. Then it's about Ellie's transformation and her resisting the urges she has. Later, it switches to Kyle and his reaction towards everything that's going on as Christopher, at his mother's behest, stays in their house to help her with the transition. Christopher being, honestly, kind of an annoying dick and trying to take over Ellie's life. Not to mention the family dynamic with Kyle, listening to his girlfriend's advice, sticking with his mother through thick and thin. I don't know what this movie wants to be, literally, at any point whatsoever. There's no narrative focus, it's just what the movie wants to be at any given time. If they want it to be about Ellie's transformation, then Ellie will take all the focus and her children will barely be seen. But if they want it to be about Kyle and his dedication to the family after, originally, not wanting to deal with his mother's issues, then I'll be about that. Or if they want it to be about Kyle's 'feud' with Christopher and Kyle trying to find a way to successfully kill Christopher, then fuck all else. Everything in this movie happens in a vacuum. Nothing else matters when they're heading down one path at that particular point in time. That path is no longer useful, they move on to another one as if the one they had just gotten off didn't even exist. It's a really poorly structured and constructed movie. Not to mention inconsistent and the editing, oh my god, the editing is just awful. Sometimes things happen and, honestly, I don't even know how they came to be. There's a moment, near the end, where Ellie uses her powers to push Christopher away from her son (from the hallway to the wall of a nearby room) and I literally have no clue as to what happened or what Ellie did to push Chris away. Did she sneeze on him? I don't know and the editing is to blame for that. That's not the only example where the editing was disorienting or ineffective, but it's the most egregious example. Let's move on and talk about Christopher as a character, shall we? This guy is so annoying, to the point that I didn't think he was an effective villain. I have nothing against James Ransone, he's a perfectly solid actor, but his portrayal of the character left a lot to be desired. He's trying so hard to be a cool, sexy, mysterious vampire and it just fails miserably. I'm reminded of these magicians like Criss Angel, who try to be rockstars at the same time as they're magicians and it just doesn't work. Nothing against magicians, of course, but it's a dorky profession. So trying to be all cool and shit while you're doing magic tricks is just a douche-y thing to do. And that's what comes to mind when I see Ransone's performance here. He's trying way too hard to be dark and cool and all he reminds me of is if Johnny Knoxville had a younger brother. His performance just doesn't work here and, honestly, the characterization isn't even great to begin with. But, in my opinion, this is more a case of the actor just not working out. If this is the type of character you want, then cast someone who's more natural and subtle at being cool. In many ways, this plays out like a more serious Fright Night, without any of Fright Night's fun qualities, of course. The movie really fails to provide appropriate thrills. Ellie kills some people, but the movie really doesn't show any gore whatsoever. Like it's almost scared of being too violent. And, in a movie like this, where nothing has any rhyme or reason, the least you could do is give us a good amount of gore. Here's the funny thing, in the climax, which we'll get to shortly, Ellie and Christopher have a fight. But, idiotically enough, you don't see a SINGLE SECOND of that fight. Kyle and his sister, Amy, are outside in the hallway standing in front of the room where the fight is taking place. The doors are closed, so all you hear are the sounds of the fight and the furniture, dressers and shit just moving all around the room. This is why we can't have nice things. The thing is that this scene, if handled correctly, could have been the best part about this movie, but they literally held back on the one thing that would have given this miserable movie some entertainment. Perhaps miserable is overstating the point, but this is just a bad movie and I wanted at least ONE positive to talk about. But, nope, there's nothing. This brings us to the third act and how awful it is. The problem with it is the fact that there's so much shit to resolve in a really short time span. Ellie finally stands up to Chris after she finds that he threatened her son, but by this point, Chris had already taken Kyle and thrown him off the second floor of the house to the floor. Ellie knew how uncomfortable Kyle was around Chris and Chris was, essentially, a threatening presence in her son's life (and her daughter's, of course, but she's out of the house for parts of this). The problem isn't that Ellie stood up to Chris, it's that what was the final straw for her was not even close to the worst thing the guy ever did. It's so inconsistent with the character that Ellie had become that it's, quite frankly, moronic. And it's not like Chris was being secretive or going behind Ellie's back to be a dick to her son. He was upfront about it. And she just, out of the blue, decides that nope, she's not gonna allow this anymore. It shouldn't have gotten this far in the first place. But, again, it's just stupid because there's no conflict of interest that arises within Ellie. She's not shown thinking about the fact that, maybe, having Chris in the house with her is wrong. She just does it. Anyway, so there's less that 20 minutes left in the film when Ellie stands up to Chris. She wounds the asshole and Kyle cuts his head off and, finally, dispatches of Chris. Then, somehow, someway, Kyle's girlfriend makes her way to his house. Why'd she go to his house, honestly, I have no clue. How did she even find his house? Kyle never told her where he lived or, at least, there wasn't a scene where he told her. There's a few scenes with Kyle and his girlfriend, couldn't they have just had a throwaway line, so, at least, there's some sort of reasoning for how she knows where he lives. We don't even have to get into the reasoning for her actually going to his house, since she doesn't know he's in danger. Anyway, she's accidentally murdered, Ellie offers to bring her back to life as a vampire. Kyle thinks about it and runs away with his sister to the basement, where he then pushes her out of a window and tells her to run to safety. Cops come and Ellie kills them by ripping out their throats. Kyle then comes back to where his mother is at and there's some sort of attempt at a reconciliation before she tells him to kill her. He refuses and there's a struggle and, somehow, Kyle gets cut and is bleeding out. I honestly have no idea how this happened which, again, speaks to how bad the editing is. His sister came back and stabbed her mother with the wooden stake and told her to leave while she begged her brother not to leave her. And then the movie ends with Ellie, seemingly, at another addicts anonymous meeting talking about her children growing up. And then the movie ends. Seriously, this all happens in the span of less than 20 minutes. It might not seem like much, but that's only because I didn't go as in-depth as I probably could have. There's so much they want to do in less than 20 minutes that it's just an absolute shitshow. And, the thing is, that there's probably a decent movie underneath all the bullshit. It just needed more gore, more consistent scripting, better editing and pacing, because there's an hour of material in the last 15 minutes of the film. As much as I disliked Temple, which I reviewed last week, I feel that this is a considerably worse movie than that. Because Temple, while offering nothing of value, was never as actively bad as this movie seems to be. Everything that coud go wrong did go wrong in this case. I'm not saying that this is the worst movie I've ever seen, nor is it even close, but it is, so far, the worst movie I've seen this year. It's a really fucking bad movie and, sadly, it didn't need to be as bad as it was. Please, just don't. Don't.
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