Split

The Movie Snob is creeped out—but not in a good way.

Split  (F).  I had not seen an M. Night Shyamalan movie since Lady in the Water, but it sounded like many critics were hailing this as a return to form, or at least the director’s best work in a long while.  And I was curious to see good guy James “Professor Xavier” McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) play the villain.  So I decided to give it a try.  I found that I agreed with the minority of critics who have criticized this movie as a nasty, icky, exploitative piece of work.  McAvoy plays a fellow with multiple-personality disorder.  At the beginning of the movie he kidnaps three teenaged girls and locks them up in some sort of industrial-looking subterranean labyrinth.  He takes some of their clothes.  He ominously warns them that they are going to become “sacred food” for “the beast.”  In short, the threat of sexual violence is omnipresent.  Making matters worse, child abuse and child sexual abuse are alluded to in some very unpleasant flashbacks.  I hope the young co-stars (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch; Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen; Jessica Sula, TV’s Recovery Road) find better movies to star in.  Much better.

P.S. I always like to make a note when I am the only person in the theater for a movie, and I think that was the case with this one.  It was a few days ago, though, so don’t quote me on that.

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Morgan

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Morgan  (D).  Okay, you are probably asking yourself, “Why did The Movie Snob waste his time with this poorly reviewed sci-fi thriller?”  Basically, I saw it because it features Anya Taylor-Joy, who was quite good in the recent spookfest The Witch: A New-England Folktale, and I wanted to see more of her acting chops.  Unfortunately, this movie was not a good showcase for anybody.  Kate Mara (The Martian) stars as Lee Weathers, a corporate honcho sent to investigate an “accident” at a secret research facility under a spooky old backwoods house.  Turns out that genetic experiments have resulted in the creation of Morgan (Taylor-Joy), a freaky smart and strong teenaged girl who is actually only 5 years old.  And we all know how playing God with genetic experiments goes.  There’s very little fun to be had, but it is sort of fun watching notable actors you didn’t know were in the movie pop up unexpectedly.  Hey, there’s Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Spectacular Now)!  And Paul Giamatti (Rock of Ages)!  And that guy who played Agamemnon in Troy!  But the movie is basically a stale retread of other movies, some better (Ex Machina, Hanna) and some not (Species).  The ending is a real howler.  Skip it.

The Witch: A New-England Folktale

A new review from The Movie Snob.

The Witch: A New-England Folktale  (B).  I don’t usually do horror movies, but I decided to give this one a try because (i) it has been getting very good reviews, and (ii) it looked more spooky than really horrifying.  It is pretty darned spooky, all right.  It’s the story of a Puritan family recently arrived in 1600s New England.  This crew is too puritanical even for the Puritans, and in the opening scene they are booted right out of the settlement.  So William, Katherine, and their five kids load their meager belongings onto a cart and start a farm right on the edge of a deep, spooky forest.  They pray all the time, constantly lamenting their disgusting sinfulness.  Weird and unsettling things start to happen.  We see the action mostly through the eyes of the oldest child, Tomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy, Vampire Academy, looking much like a young Michelle Williams), a girl on the edge of puberty who scares her younger sister by claiming to be a witch.  Director Robert Eggers adeptly amps up the tension with long blank cuts between scenes and haunting music.  If you like eerie movies with a slowly building sense of dread, or if you are into the Salem Witch Trials, The Witch is the movie for you.  (Rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity.)