Review Round-Up: The Lodgers, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and It

Posted: September 25, 2017 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel Simpson thelodgersposter-1024x1517

The Lodgers is one of the two TIFF films my partner and I opted to see, somewhat haphazardly after the screening of The Death of Stalin we wanted sold out. There was something exciting about seeing a movie we knew so little about, and it was also cool when after the screening the film’s director, writer, and cast came out for a Q and A. The film itself unfortunately turned to be a little conventional. The film is a ghost story about a pair of siblings trapped in their family mansion in the early 20th century and the supernatural and psychological elements which keep them bound to this location. I was really hoping for some unique twist on the family and the supernatural occurrences at play, but the eventual reveals were exactly what I predicted and to be honest seemed to be apparent from the start. There’s some similarities to The Witch, particularly in how an isolated family can lead to some twisted infatuations, but more than anything I was reminded of Crimson Peak. It might not be cool to prefer the more Hollywood film, but Del Torro’s movie features much more creative visuals and memorable moments. The Lodgers largely follows the spooky house playbook and while it does present some cool visuals at the tail end of the story, it takes a while to get there.

I definitely don’t want to give the impression that The Lodgers is a bad movie because it does a lot of things right. Brian O’Malley and cinematographer Richard Kendrick give the movie a solid look and generally the film carries itself with a lot of dignity. The score also leaves an impression and the lead performance from Charlotte Vega is quite compelling. All told The Lodgers is very watchable in the moment, but it doesn’t take full advantage of its ideas and I don’t think it’ll really stick with me.

C+

 

The Killing of a Sacred Deerkilling of sacred deer

Yorgos Lanthimos seems to have built his career on disproving the idea that there are only a select few of plot templates for creators to explore. The Killing of a Sacred Deer may seem more conventional on the surface than, say, a story about a hotel where single people are turned into animals if they can’t find a partner, but his newest film is every bit as perplexing and bizarre as the likes of The Lobster and Dogtooth. The premise deals with a doctor who’s negligence may have led to the death of a patient and the consequences of this, but the film doesn’t reveal this until fairly late into the runtime and when it finally starts to show it’s hand, things play out in dramatically different fashion than you might expect. What perhaps is most striking is the bizarre dialogue, which is both highly blunt but also somewhat cryptic at times. I almost wonder if Lanthimos is attempting to strip language of its barriers and present what people are really saying in, but I’d need to really pay attention to the dialogue to explore this properly.

In case I haven’t made it clear, this is a confounding movie that I’m sure will lead to dozens of think pieces. Is the movie about struggling with guilt or loss? Is it about modern masculinity and family dynamics? Is it about how we disguise our darker impulses with the veneer of middle-class conformity? All of these elements came to mind while watching the film and I’m not sure to what extent any of these are intended. Either way, the film itself is consistently gripping and unfolds in some really unique ways. I really didn’t know where Lanthimos was going a lot of the time but I was hooked all the same. The film ends up asking some really uncomfortable questions and going to some dark places. And yet, like all of Lanthimos films, this is a dark comedy, and perhaps the funniest film he’s made yet. I actually laughed a lot during the movie and while I definitely wouldn’t recommended as a pure comedy, audiences might be surprised by funny parts of the movie are. The movie also benefits from a great cast led by Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan in a really fascinating role. All told The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of the most compelling films I’ve seen all year. It’s not something everyone will enjoy, and I hesitate to assess its greatness until I give it another watch, but it’s certainly worthy of attention and the most have been enamoured by a Lanthimos film since Dogtooth.

A-

 

Itit-teaser-poster

It is a movie that works in spite of itself. As a horror movie, it’s actually pretty fundamentally flawed. Director Andy Muschietti is a little too eager to show off his monster and the horrific things it can do. Within the first ten minutes we already get a pretty good look at Pennywise and we’ve also seen him rip a kid’s arm off. I’m not against that sort of scene in a vacuum but reveling in such horror so early sucks out a lot of the suspense. What’s more, Muscietti frequently goes big in his horror scenes, with large scale, special effects infused set-pieces and blaring sound. This does occasionally result in some neat visuals but the film as a whole isn’t particularly scary.

A horror movie which isn’t suspenseful or scary is usually a pretty big problem, but It still works shockingly well. Why? Well, simply put, the kids in this film are really likable. They’re a well-written group who are likable, fun to follow, and played by a competent cast. None of these characters are particularly deep, but they don’t really have to be. While the horror elements are a little lacking, It excels as a Spielbergian-esque adventure where a group of kids come together to face a fantasy situation. The climax ends up being really moving, not so much for the horror, but for seeing these kids come together and try to overcome their fears.

I should also point out that for as critical as I’ve been of It‘s horror aspects, this is still pretty clearly above the average Hollywood horror film. Bill Skarsgård gives a very memorable turn as Pennywise and the technical execution is generally pretty strong. I don’t think It is any classic, but it is really enjoyable.

B+

Comments
  1. Andrea Simpson M. says:

    Saw IT, and did like it but felt the same way you did. Would like to see The Killing of the Sacred Deer.

  2. Chris says:

    OK Slick, you know your old man wants to know how 666 is used. Is it even noticeable?

  3. Mr. Bobinsky says:

    Even the poster of The Killing of the Sacred Deer is an awesome piece of art. Looking forward to seeing it.

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