March 8, 2014

Weekend Double Feature- After the Dark (2014) & Wicked Blood (2014)

We got hoodwinked by these movies. Bamboozled. Duped!

We thought they'd be Horror-ish, or at least Thriller-ish, so as to fit into our creepy purview, but we were wrong.

Wicked Blood is at least a Crime Thriller, and a good one at that, so it fits in well enough with the things that we watch around here, but After the Dark... well, that one is just a silly morality play that literally never leaves the classroom.

Spoilers ensue below, so beware.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1928340/
Going into it, we thought that After the Dark (aka The Philosophers) was going to be a Post-Apocalyptic Thriller involving some schoolkids fighting to survive, or something to that effect. We were wrong.

What we did get with After the Dark, was a movie about a bunch of students sitting around in a classroom, playing what amounts of a deeply philosophical game of "What if?"

A Teacher basically tells his class to pretend that the world is about to end via atomic bomb, and to imagine that there is a shelter that can keep 10 of them alive for a year. He then asks them to decide who would get to enter the shelter and survive, who would be left outside to die, and why. The try the experiment again, using scenarios involving an erupting volcano, and a pending bombing of a small island.

In the classroom.
Sounds like a pretty interesting premise, right? Well it is. After the Dark is a really well-made movie with a great premise, and it's populated by a bunch of talented young actors... but the story is just so lame and silly that none of those good qualities resonated with us like they should have, had the movie been anything more than a bunch of "what if" scenarios.

After the Dark is not about survival at all, it's about a Teacher riling his kids up because he's a pouty bitch. Nothing really happens in the movie save for a bunch of kids sitting around in a classroom, engaging in discussion. Sure, we the audience get to "see" the imagined scenarios play out on screen, but knowing that none of it is real just robs it of any sort of impact.

We don't know these characters, aren't invested in them, so how in the world are we supposed to be enthralled by them sitting around and talking about the end of the world? I'm definitely oversimplifying the main plot in some ways by saying "sitting around and talking about the end of the world," because at its heart, it's also a story about a jilted lover. Yep.

To us, this movie felt like it was trying to be the Young Adult version of 12 Angry Men. Had the director stuck with that format- the kids just sitting around engaged in heated debate- it may have worked a lot better. Making the decision to add in the "action" scenes, and show us what they are all discussing/imagining, just made it all feel superfluous.

We don't mind movies that twist and turn, or think outside the box, but we do mind a movie that feels disingenuous in its mechanics.

Still in the classroom.
As for the philosophical/moral aspects of the film's plot, here's how I'd play this hypothetical game: "I enter the shelter, along with any of my loved ones who are with me, and anyone who tries to keep me out gets their heads caved in." There's no morality about it. It's survival. Of course everyone wants into the shelter so that they can live, survival is a base instinct shared by all humans. All I'm saying is that there's not going to be some dumb-ass group decision that keeps people out because they are "less important" or some such shit.

If you're going to go with a plot like that, at least make it unfold during an actual Apocalypse of some sort, so that it feels as if it has some weight to it other than "Why do you like him better than me? Waaa!" Because that's what the entire thing was about; a jilted Pedo-Teacher using hypothetical situations to mess with the young girl who dumped him, and the younger, more appropriate boy, that she dumped him for.

Right.

Well give this one a few points for its technical merit, and the fact that the actors did a good job with the material that they were given, but it's that very material keeps this movie from being anything but a frustrating exercise in "None of this shit is happening, but if it was, boy would it be intense!"

If you're expecting this one to be a Post-Apocalyptic movie of some sort, just skip it, because it is not. If you're down with a group of kids Role-playing the Apocalypse, then this may just be your thing. In the end though, After the Dark is a well-made mess of a film that tries to be too lever for its own good.

After the Dark is available on VOD now, and on Blu-ray/DVD on May 6th.

D

Nope, still in the classroom.


http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2761578/
Where After the Dark left us cold, Wicked Blood warmed things back up again, and made us feel a lot better about our Double Feature gone wrong.

Wicked Blood is the story of a Hannah Lee; a smart young girl that is surrounded by nothing but skeevy morons, thus is living a lonely life. So alone is she in her level of class, that her only escape is to play chess.

Her Sister is a bit of a bitch (and a slut); her lovable (but pathetic) Uncle is a Meth cook (and user); and her other Uncle (Frank) is the Crime Lord of their small, podunk town (and he's also an intimidating, dick.)

When Hannah Lee gets tired of Uncle Frank's crap, she devises a plan to save her family from the whiskey-tango hell that he's got them all living in. Of course, given her hobbies, it all plays out like a crazy game of chess... only with higher stakes! Yes, it's all very dramatic.

"Check and Mate, bitch!"
What we liked most about Wicked Blood was that even though it was a fairly "generic" Crime Thriller, the talent involved in the movie made it feel like anything but.

Abigail Breslin is a star on the rise, and she's great here as the smart, plotting girl who turns everyone's life upside down. Sean Bean is Sean Bean, so he's always awesome. James Purefoy is an actor that used to rub us the wrong way (not exactly sure why), but who has grown on us in recent years. His character here only served to make us like him even more. Lew Temple was really good here as the sympathetic Uncle, who despite being a bit of a loser, really loved his kin, and tried to do right by them as well as he could. Really nice work here by him.

And when did Alexa Vega change her name to PenaVega? We get why she did it, but it just sounds so odd...

She is way to young for you, dude!
We were really pleased to see how the plot played out in this one; it so could have been a generic mess, but the twists and turns that it took worked, and worked well. Keep in mind when we say "twist" in reference to Wicked Blood, we don't mean some crazy, dramatic reveal, only that the narrative went in some interesting directions.

Best of all, without spoiling anything, was the way that Wild Bill's character arc played out. We were totally waiting for his story to end up being a repeat of some tired old cliche', but it was really nice to see it play out in a different way.

Wicked Blood is a solid little flick, that while not being as "Horror" as we'd thought it was going to be, ended up being a pretty enjoyable watch for us. It's got a decent story, is filled with some solid performances, and should fill the void for anyone jonesing for a Southern Crime story. It's definitely worth a rent.

Wicked Blood is available on Blu-ray and DVD now.

B-

And for the ladies amongst us, here's a little bit of Sean Bean for you to ogle. *This one's for you, Warmy!

6 comments :

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterMarch 14, 2014 at 9:44 PM

    I want to bugger Abigail Breslin.

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  2. Now, I'm not going to argue about you re: After the Dark, because for one thing, you saw it and I didn't, and for another, why bother because you can like or not whatever you choose and it's all good - long as you keep reviewing because you have a good voice for it. However, when I was reading your last few words on the subject, it occurred to me that if you leave out the distractions and focus on what happened - a jilted teacher using his position to mess with a student who caught on to his feeble shit - that's kind of horrid, right there. And the lengths he went to? Maybe we're looking at a franchise serial killer after a few more rounds of sophomore squeezing....

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  3. You make some good points Anon, and in an odd way, maybe it could be a movie abotu the "beginnings" of a sociopathic killer. In that light, it's pretty interesting.

    If the movie had had that bent to it, I personally would have enjoyed it way more.

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    Replies
    1. Lol, except ****SPOILERS*****:


      The teacher blows his brains out, for real, at the end of the movie once he realizes he isn't getting the girl.
      BTW, the girl was 18-19 yrs old, so not really a pedo teacher.

      Delete
  4. I have seen After the Dark about 6-7 times now on Netflix. Yes it's true that they don't ever leaver their classroom, but so what, the CGI is f-ing gorgeous.
    The director if the movie hadn't mad a film in quite some time, so this being his come back, I thought he did a damn good job.
    What really sold me on this movie, was the score. I don't know what it was, but it just had me mesmerized the whole time.

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