Fantasia Festival 2017: A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story 2017

Director and Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo

In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. – IMDB

Perhaps one of the first things to start off is that A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. It shouldn’t be expected to be one as it is a fantasy drama. David Lowery crafts up a passion project that brings to life an old perception of a ghost covered in a bedsheet who lingers for their loved one in the background. This character may seem like a goofy concept and the movie may have its quirky moment however it isn’t meant to be funny. A Ghost Story is a slow burn movie, more than possibly anything else you will encounter. It has lingering shots before it switches, teasing the audience perhaps to expect something to happen that often doesn’t. It has almost no dialogue but focuses heavily on its soundtrack and its subtle noises in the surroundings. It doesn’t give the characters any names which creates a world where we see only this ghost, a ghost of a husband who has come back to console his wife however not making contact but stirs up memories throughout. A Ghost Story is for those extremely patient because this movie may make you wait for things that won’t happen and answers that you might not get. It seeks to dig a little deeper and expands farther than its star-studded main characters, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Whether the slow-burn works for you or not, this is an odd but unique experience. One that makes you question where the line falls for the audience between tedium and depth.

A Ghost Story is shot in an almost square aspect ratio. Its something that native moviegoers may notice right away. However, what the movie lacks in dialogue is greatly made up by the perfect cuts and transitions between scenes. The ghost moves at a slow pace and frequently shots are taken from his slow movement as he enters a new room or observes something different. He may simply turn and the scene will change. All this is done slowly and seamlessly. The first part of the film focuses on the husband and wife relationship and the love and loss as well as the moving forward and holding on in two people. Despite the silence, we feel the connection between these two characters in the pieces scattered as the time moves on after C (played by Casey Affleck) dies in a sudden accident. There is a great use of time moving forward particularly in the fluidity of creating a scene where M (played by Rooney Mara) goes day by day, carrying on with life.

This fluidity of transition shifts through time as the story turns to a second act of various future tenants. While the technical scenes work well, the second act moves forward and we can only wonder how David Lowery will wrap this story up and how do you end something as random as the scenes he has linked together. This question will lead the audience straight to the final act which unfolds what can only be described as a masterful story writing that somehow does lead this story to giving us a lot of the answers that we’ve been wondering with the bits and pieces.

A Ghost Story is not the conventional way to make a movie. In the final Q&A session of this movie, its apparent that this project turned out as he would like. The slow pace, the sound design and the voiceless and nameless man under the bedsheet all serves its purposes. However, this is an incredibly experimental piece that is definitely not for everyone. Its for those with incredible patience, especially when this movie requires a few minutes watching someone eat pie, as well as attaching to a bedsheet ghost, that will oddly seem to start feeling like they are emoting by just standing there and the camera angles.

For what this movie accomplished, it is one that gets better the more you think about it. It is also one that best seen with as little knowledge as possible. The best movies create discussion and it certainly feels like this one will have that kind of impact.

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Halloween Marathon Wrap-up: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

It might have been easier to do another post but as you see, we’re here! Its October 31st and we’re wrapping it up with the final movie of our highlight series. More accurately, this is the remake of the iconic series started by Wes Craven. I’m not going to lie, this one was a pain to do.  At this point, I’m a little burnt out with all the Nightmare and Freddy movies.  I’m all Freddy-ed out. Haha! We’ve gone through a wave of good, bad, great, cheesy, campy…basically, I have no expectations right now.

Let’s get going! Review first!

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

a nightmare on elm street

Director: Samuel Bayer

Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton

The spectre of a dead child rapist haunts the children of the parents who murdered him, stalking and killing them in their dreams.-IMDB

We’re here in remake world.  It feels like a long time ago that I watched Nightmare on Elm Street.  And you know, it might’ve been since I started Halloween in September. As a recap (in case you didn’t read the review post on the original), I liked it but thought that it had some functional campiness to it and there were some creative kills. As we enter into remake world, there are pros and cons to this one.  How do I say it? Everything that didn’t work in the first one worked here and then everything worked here, kind of didn’t work as much in the original? I guess I can say that.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2010

Let me explain.  First of all, lets take a look at our star villain.  The main complaint I’ve had of Freddy (except for in New Nightmare) is that he isn’t scary because while his concept of using nightmares and a world you can’t control to kill you in real life is a good one, they never make him that way.  He is always campy and goofy and just not horrifying.  But this is where the remake does well.  Freddy looks a little different from the original and the guy playing him is no longer Robert Englund but Jackie Earle Haley.  Fred Krueger looks like a burnt victim and he is genuinely creepy as sh*t.  Like I mean, he is a messed up, sadistic man from his laugh to his dialogue.  There were parts that it sent chills down my spine and I literally feared for what he was going to do next. Plus, everything that he does with the characters is a hint towards a deeper trip into why he does what he does.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Second, its a refreshing time to be watching one of these where I actually know all the cast.  I mean, I know what to expect from them and their performances.  Kyle Gallner was in Veronica Mars, Rooney Mara in a ton of movies, Katie Cassidy is some movies and Arrow, Thomas Dekker was in Secret Circle. Its seriously looking like a CW party here or something.  Anyways,  the cast here pulls in some decent performances with what they had to work with.  They didn’t exactly have good dialogue to support the script (which is something I’ll elaborate on later), but they did well enough.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Third, the remake makes a serious effort to give us some memorable scenes from a few of the past Nightmare movies. We can see it added in pretty nicely.  There are a good many that are taken from the original Wes Craven’s.  Obviously, those scenes are judged a little heavily.  For one, the most effective scene in the original was the body bag scene and this one was a little overboard. Just one simple example.

A Nightmare on elm street 2010

Finally, the visuals and effects and sound worked well for this one.  While we could feel the tension, the story behind this worked better.  In one movie, we were able to learn about Freddy (even though some details were changed, I think). Freddy himself tried to lead the kids of those parents who killed him to know about it.  At the same time, we also get more up close and personal of who Freddy is. Was he innocently accused? What is he trying to revenge? All those questions that took a few movies to build, we get a good idea of in this one remake. It tries hard to make us twist our beliefs about Freddy.  While I can’t criticize what they were trying to do, the execution of it focused too much on the teens and paired up with the bad dialogue that sometimes felt a little choppy and awkward, it ended up causing the movie to drag a little in certain parts.

Overall, I rather enjoyed A Nightmare on Elm Street.  I’m not saying its better than the original because Craven can build atmosphere and the passion is retained there.  However, this is a decent effort. The script itself, mostly the dialogue and focal points in various plot points could have made for a better execution but the visuals are better and Freddy is much more chilling and thrilling to watch. The backstory of Freddy is the highlight here because we learn so much more about him and that really worked for me. Is it a good or bad remake? I really can’t say its bad.  It feels a little lengthy at parts but it stays generally faithful to the original but with its own style.

What do you think about the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street?

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Before I acknowledged the existence of the movies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I started reading the trilogy.  That series of book is possibly one of the most intense reads I’ve ever experienced.  Every book is a page-turner based on the issue of hatred and abuse towards women.  It shows it in one of the most extreme ways.  With the fantastic character design in their novel of Lisbeth Salander, it builds for a very intriguing story to be transformed to the big screen.  This originally being a Swedish novel, it was adapted in Sweden first.  Its success lead to this Hollywood remake.

the girl with the dragon tattoo posterDirector: David Fincher

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgaard, Christopher Plummer

In the midst of a scandal involving a Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), he accepts an offer by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to go to the countryside residence called Hedestad to investigate the disappearance and possible death of his beloved niece, Harriet 40 years ago.  As the killer still imitates the actions of his niece by sending him a gift at a certain time of year, he is determined to figure out what happened to her before he runs out of time.  As the case progresses, he requests the help of a young and very smart computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) who appears rebellious, different and peculiar in her ways.  As the investigation thickens, they follow the clues that unfold before them one by one.

Lets start by saying that I’ve read the novel (and all three of them) and I’ve seen the Swedish movies (also all three), this one is a decent remake but it lacks a little flare to it.

the girl with the dragon tattoo tattoo mara

The most apparent lacking feature of it has to be in the unique character of Lisbeth Salander. The original featured Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander and she does such an outstanding job that it makes anyone else doing this role not as appealing.  Rooney Mara has a bit of a different style design and she’s not as strong of a character to play that role.  She does pull through and emote to the best that she can, but having seen the original, I can’t help but to compare just a little. However, if I do think about her as a standalone character, she does do a fairly outstanding job and commits to her role.  Its a difficult character to portray and she is very convincing.

937950-Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The

Daniel Craig plays the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and he does a very great portrayal.  I enjoy Daniel Craig’s acting for the most part.  He’s never particularly disappointed me in any movie.  Maybe some smaller roles perhaps, but nothing I remember off the top of my head.  He has what Mikael Blomkvist’s character is all about down and every moment of his role dragged us deeper into the story itself.

the girl with the dragon tattoo daniel craig christopher plummer

In addition, we had the supporting actors of Christopher Plummer who plays the elderly Henrik Vanger who shows the pain and frustration he’s endured over the years of not only adapting with the loss of a loved one, but also the feeling of being mocked by whoever committed this crime.  His desperation to find the truth makes us question what really happens and want to learn more about the story itself.  The second supporting actor I’d like to mention is Stellan Skarsgaard who plays Martin Vanger.  He’s the successor of the Vanger Enterprises and doesn’t particularly show up a lot in the movie but he has a very complex role to play at the same time.

the girl with the dragon tattoo mara

Other than having a pretty awesome cast in this remake, what really worked was David Fincher as the director.  The setup, the scenery, how he shot it and the lighting really adds to this movie as a whole. It gives it a captivating touch but at the same time, in many instances, he also sets it up to fully experience the brutality behind the whole concept of what the story itself was portraying: the disrespect, the degrading and abuse towards women.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is probably one of the best remakes I’ve seen ever.  Its a mesmerizing movie that brings out the brutal situation that its set to have.  It also is filmed with the brilliant David Fincher plus it has an amazing cast that does a great job at bring alive the characters in the novel.  Its definitely worth a viewing, although if you do get the chance, the original should still be the first choice 😉 BUT, this is a worthy film to watch!