Winter 2021 – Week 9 in Review

3 months ago 48

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. I’m pleased to report that I’ve had a delightful past week in film, running through an array of productions that were overflowing with all sorts of entertaining monsters. My house held a “monsters then and now” double feature of the original Godzilla and the new Monster Hunter, we chewed through a terrific home invasion film, and we also checked out Shudder’s mean-spirited yet hilarious new horror-comedy. Giant monsters, human monsters, goofy monsters, and monsters you hunt down in order to collect parts to make your big sword even bigger and swordier – perhaps not the most genre-diverse crowd, but an entertaining one nevertheless. Let’s break ‘em all down in the Week in Review!

First off, inspired by all the awesome kaiju properties coming out these days, I figured it was high time I watched the original Godzilla. Though obviously the big guy has lost a little of his original menace over the last seventy years, I’m happy to report that Godzilla remains a thoroughly satisfying monster movie. The actual buildup to Godzilla’s arrival might be the best part; the slow burn of “there’s something out in the water” is executed masterfully, with Takashi Shimura turning in a wonderful performance as the troubled Dr. Yamane. And though some of the film’s practical effects feel a bit flimsy, the central rampage through Tokyo is genuinely horrifying.

Horrifying is the only word for a great portion of the original Godzilla. Violence is never awesome or cathartic in this film, outside of the base animalistic satisfaction of seeing Godzilla fight back against his attackers. Filmed less than a decade after WWII, the persistent scenes of evacuation processes and triage stations are all convincing, making the consequences of violence abundantly clear. “Godzilla reflects nuclear fears” is one of the most warmed-over film analyses of all time, but the film isn’t exactly subtle about it – Shimura even ties a bow on it at the end, warning of how future nuclear tests might prompt future Godzilla appearances.

But even more than “we earned Godzilla,” I was struck by the ferocious moral debates of Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), who creates a superweapon capable of stopping the beast. The greatest threat in Godzilla is not Godzilla – it is the idea that science could unlock something that cannot be contained, leading to mankind’s inevitable self-destruction. Dr. Serizawa understands the significance of that threat, so much so that he destroys his life’s work to prevent its potential misuse. From the midst of a culture that celebrates individualist achievement regardless of its human cost, it’s nice to see a film that attests that what we owe to each other is greater than anything we could accomplish ourselves.

After that, we checked out the just-released Monster Hunter film. I went into this film with pretty much zero expectations, which was definitely the right call – if you’re expecting a film that echoes the tone and celebrates the world of Monster Hunter, you’re likely to be disappointed. The actual scenes of monster hunting are quite fun, but the bulk of this film is basically just Paul W.S. Anderson doing what he always does: casting his wife as the centerpiece of a top-notch military squad, and sending that squad into the blender against a bunch of supernatural monsters.

That’s not to say Anderson’s usual schtick is bad, or that Milla Jovovich is bad at kicking ass, but simply that Monster Hunter is a lot more Anderson than Monster Hunter. I was happy enough just to see a lot of goofy nods to the game’s eccentricities – the characters really do farm monster parts to craft their weapons and armor, the various weapons all possess their fantastical superforms, and a meal is served by a giant cat. If you’re expecting the ideal potential Monster Hunter film, some sort of classic bildungsroman taking place in the wild world of Monster Hunter, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re fine with a so-so action movie with a Monster Hunter coat of paint, you’ll probably have an okay time.

After that we shifted into horror, checking out the acclaimed home invasion feature You’re Next. I’m generally not a fan of home invasion films, for a couple of reasons. First off, I tend to prefer the more fantastical strains of horror, whereas home invasions are generally just about some dudes with axes or whatnot. And secondly, I am immediately turned off by horror films that celebrate cruelty or bodily harm – the whole “torture porn” genre just revolts me, and home invasions have a tendency to get particularly cruel.

You’re Next does indeed feature some terrible violence, but it never revels in it. The kills tend to be sudden and terrible, a brief flash of some bodily distortion beyond our daily understanding, and then a great wailing as the panic begins. The film’s characters feel intensely fragile, and the angles of attack are creative enough that you never really feel safe, or certain of what’s coming next. Their house is established as an incredibly vulnerable sanctuary, and the sound design does a superb job of maintaining the tension and sense of disorientation. As someone who’s watched too many damn horror movies, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty desensitized to many forms of horror and violence – but You’re Next was one of those rare “treats” that I watch with my fingers clasped over my ears, dreading whatever flash of steel was to come.

Ultimately, what I’m most appreciative about regarding You’re Next were its insights into home invasion’s general appeal. I don’t like gruesome violence, but I do like “siege defense” narratives like Seven Samurai, Assault on Precinct 13, or Home Alone. Watching You’re Next’s heroine attempt to stabilize the situation and defeat her attackers was incredibly satisfying, and I’ll have to be on the lookout for more examples of “siege defense films.”

Finally, we checked out Shudder’s new production by the team behind The Void, the perfectly titled Psycho Goreman. Psycho Goreman is about an interstellar criminal of unimaginable power and evil, who is determined to destroy all living creatures. Unfortunately for Psycho Goreman (PG for short), he is also bound to obey the wielder of a certain crystal. And currently, that crystal is in the hands of a rage-filled little girl who basically combines the worst qualities of Bob’s Burger’s Louise and Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes, and who is determined to use her new pet to have a good time.

The contrast between Psycho Goreman’s self-serious interstellar boasting and his inability to say no to a tiny girl is a recipe for absolute hilarity. Whether it’s his petulant whining about his new name (“I don’t see why that’s better than the Archduke of Nightmares”), or his constant attempts to reassert his menace (“that’s just PG, don’t worry about him” “BE worried”), the two play off each other magnificently, and the fundamental joke is never deflated by any emergent sentimentality. To put it frankly, almost every character in this movie is terrible, and they all pretty much get what they deserve. Finally, the film is also an absolute treasure trove for any fans of sentai costuming, or goofy, intricate practical effects in general. Aside from some occasionally clumsy cinematography and a couple inconsistent performances, Psycho Goreman is just a generally great time.

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