Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 works despite being bonkers insano pants

by Banned Library in

Prom Night 2: Hello Mary Lou
Starring Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Lisa Schrage

Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage) wields her youth with the insane bravado of a biker on speed. She's prom queen and she'll sleep with whomever she wants, drink whatever she wants, and play her music loud and proud. Then her boyfriend burns her to death. A few decades later, sweet virginal Vicki (Wendy Lyon) finds Mary Lou's prom crown in an old trunk and shenanigans ensue. What kind of shenanigans? Well, the ghost of Mary Lou can't seem to decide how to kill a pregnant girl, so it chokes, hangs, and then throws her out a window. Mary Lou gets tired doing poltergeist shit so she possesses Vicki, shocking everyone with a very liberal attitude about her body. As the climax freight trains its way towards prom, you bet your ass everything goes Carrie and the body count rises. Depending on your point of view, Hello Mary Lou is either the greatest horror movie or a rip off of all the better horror movies. The effects hold up pretty well with special mention to the scene where Vicki gets sucked into the chalkboard. The acting by a crew of unknowns is amazing. The one deviant in the cast is Michael Ironside playing the older firestarting boyfriend of Mary Lou and father to one of the boys. A recognizable face only adds to the substance of the movie. The combination of silly slasher and psychological ghost horror gives the movie more legs that it needs, zooming along from set piece to set price. By the time Vicki makes her turn, the movie has more than given its entertainment value.

Breaking the mold of the normal slasher, Mary Lou creates a sense of unease through a lens of crazy "let's just do this next" that will leave you guessing and/or cheering through your first viewing.

Carrie (1976)
Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, John Trovolta, William Katt, Betty Buckley

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark tells the best campfire tales without pulling punches

by Banned Library in

Four kids decide to combat evil after evil decides to kill them in this adaptation of the beloved and befeared children's book series.

When you get right down to it, the only way any of us will be remembered is by stories. Stories our families tell, stories that get written in the newspaper, stories that are whispered over campfires. In one way or another, you become the example for others to follow. When Stella, Chuck, and Auggie take their new friend Ramon to the Bellows mansion on Halloween, all they know about Sara Bellows is that she could tell a hell of a story and killed multiple children. By the time the film is over, only Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is truly capable of telling their story along with the truth behind Sara Bellows. Director André Øvredal crushes the hell out of this adaptation of the children's classic series, using the flair he showed in Troll Hunter with the grounded simplicity of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. The stories told throughout feel as though they come from the books as told around campfires. Stephen Gammel's classic images compound the telling just as they did in the story, making a corpse looking for a toe as horrifying as any challenged unleashed in the Saw movies. Made for teens, this adaptation does not hold back showing psychological and physical consequences of tangling with a demonic entity. The most horrific section did not have a monster or creature on the prowl but a poor girl in a bathroom not wanting the boil on her face to ruin her big night on the stage. Her screams and those of her brother (played wonderfully by Austin Zajur, the awkward teen equivalent to Finn Wolfhard's tween joker in It: Chapter One) still echo off the tile of my mind. On top of all the horror, there are good messages in here of social acceptance, duty, and racial equality that are threaded with calm deliberation. That's more than I ask for my silly horror, especially when done this well.

For those of you questioning if studios are capable of making good horror for the younger set, get out there and see this movie now.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe
Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Kelly, Michael McElhatton, Ophelia Lovibond

Crawl (2019) is a hell of a good time

by Banned Library in

Starring Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper

A daughter goes looking for her dad in a hurricane and finds a whole mess of alligators. Who knew this might be the best horror of the year?

Director Alexandre Aja became prominent with psychological horror thrillers like High Tension and self aware monster flicks like Piranha 3D. In Crawl, he flexes both those muscles to create a great little monster movie that's better than it needs to be. Haley (Kaya Scodelario) leaves her swimming practice in a hurricane to go look for her father (Barry Pepper). She finds him trapped under the house, hunted by several alligators. As the basement begins to flood, Haley and her dad battle the gator menace while watching looters and rescue workers get taken out by the way over the top pissed off reptiles. The story bounces back and forth between a tight thriller with a countdown clock (it's a big ass hurricane coming bringing all the water) and a grisly visceral violent ballet. Bites matter when they need to, showing off blood and breaking bones. Then when Haley needs to swim or her dad needs to fight back, all injuries are put aside. Make no mistake, getting bitten by a ten foot gator in this movie means a lot until it doesn't, and that's okay. Horror movies are made on less. For the most part, I believed that these characters would fight back with everything they had. That belief carried me much farther than my actual knowledge of how alligators and hurricanes behave. As Haley fights the alligators, she elicited several "fuck yeahs" and fist pumps from the audience I saw it with. She's strong, badass, and yet vulnerable enough to think that maybe she won't make it out okay. There's enough character failures here for any semblance of triumph to be great.

A no-duh double feature with last year's Hurricane Heist, Crawl creates enough atmosphere and self awareness to make its runtime fly by.

The Hurricane Heist
Starring Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, Ralph Ineson, Melissa Bolona
Piranha 3D
Starring Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Adam Scott, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry O'Connell

Mary Poppins Returns with flash and cheek reaching for the original magic

by Banned Library in

The magical nanny Mary Poppins comes back to the Banks family after a few decades to sing songs, teach lessons about being a kid, and kick some nostalgic tires.

Thinking back on the original Mary Poppins, beyond the ear-worm songs, brings to mind a fresh faced 29 year old Julie Andrews as a kind yet stern nanny to some neglected kids. They needed a nanny, and she delivered. In the 2018 version, it seems Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has returned to those kids who are all grown up to help them remember to be kids. Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Whishaw) have followed in their parents footsteps as an activist and a banker. Tragedy has followed them, however, as their parents seem to have gone off to a farm in the sky, and Michael's wife and mother of his children has died. Alone and about to lose the family home, the Banks family needs some help. Mary Poppins literally rides in on nostalgia, an old kite from the first film bringing her to earth. From there, the nanny and lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) jump and dance and sing to bring some joy and peace to the Banks family. For the most part the journey is delightful, as is Colin Firth as the greedy bank manager trying to steal the family home. The musical numbers are a throwback to music videos of the 1980s with lots of bright colors and smooth dancing. While watching, I hoped that they would lean in a bit more with the plot as a true musical, but for the most part they are spectacle. One in particular, a bawdy cabaret number "A Cover is Not the Book" had me thinking a creepy thought, "well, this one is for the moms and dads out there." Overall, the tone of the film scratches the nostalgic itch while, like most other sequeled properties, misses what made the original special. Mary Poppins (who I realized while writing this can only be referenced by her full name) is more cheeky and clever, not talking down to the modern audience with spoonfuls of sugar. Emily Blunt is the standout star of the film, the focus of every scene she's in with magnetizing effortlessness. For the most part, the film updates the original, yet at times does not feel like its own thing. It could be compared to rebuilding a classic car with newer materials, something about the plastic and flashy curves cannot reproduce what heavy steel and solid lines create.

A fun family film with flashy musical numbers, this film curses itself with the original's shadow.

Mary Poppins Returns
Starring Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters

Spider-Man: Far From Home Makes the Villain Matter

by Banned Library in

Halfway through Spider-Man: Far From Home I turned to the person next to me and said, "I think this movie just shifted into high gear." In response, her boyfriend leaned over and said, "Stop talking to my girlfriend during the movie." After that I kept my comments about how better the effects and villain get once the whole story is laid out.

     After the effects of Thanos's Snap and Unsnappening in the Avengers films, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) just wants to have a nice European vacation. He's gonna see some sights. Take some pictures. Tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Too bad for them, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) need his help to beat some elemental apocalypse creatures with some leftover Tony Stark tech.

     With Spider-Man: Homecoming, Jon Watts proved he could weave a good story around kids and superheroics. Having already proved he can deal with menacing figures going against children in the not-too-talked about Cop Car, he almost cookie cut the menace from Kevin Bacon in that film onto Michael Keaton's Vulture. Here he ziggs a bit, implying the gravitas in Mysterio while undercutting it with a twist that comics readers will see coming but is thrilling anyway. When Mysterio proves himself to not be the gracious mentor but a scheming actor, Gyllenhaal gets to stretch villainous side, not pure evil like he showed in Nightcrawler but the laughing menace Tom Cruise showed in Magnolia. He's a showman with a dark side and that resonates far more than dark and cackling.

     When Mysterio shows his true colors, the movie really comes alive. Until that second act reveal, most of the action and effects seemed lackluster. Possible big budget fatigue, but the giant water monster and the backpack wearing Peter Parker in a carnival mask looked cartoonish. Then Mysterio's effects to disorient and play with Parker's senses turn the effects budget up to eleven, providing sequences that rival Doctor Strange's multiverse and Ant-Man's microverse effects for "man I wish I was in college and on drugs right now" effect. The amazing hallucination effects fall apart once you think about how we are shown dozens of people work to make the other effects possible but handwaving plots is Marvel's true superpower.

     Unfortunately, all Marvel's bad traits are on display here as well. As cool as the hallucination sequence is, it and all the other fight scenes are chopped to hell. No matter how much money the John Wick franchise makes proving good action have to be seen, Marvel still cuts too quick and too often to get a good feel about how particular fights are going. Nowhere is this more clear than the ending battle on the London Bridge with Spider-Man going against a bunch of drones. It's mostly dull with misdirection and confusing more than it is thrilling.

     Walking out of the theater dodging that guy and his girlfriend, I have to say I enjoyed the movie overall. A fun movie containing enough pathos to move us through the end of Phase 4 of this big weird money-making experiment. Mysterio himself also hints at bigger and better things, being an effective villain not in his over schemes in this film, but the secrets he lets out after his defeat. Whereas the Vulture kept Parker's secret identity, Mysterio let that secret fly and the implications are fascinating to think about.

Check it out before it leaves theaters