Greetings! It's the conclusion of the summer movie season and horror seems to be a popular genre. Today, I'm reviewing Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, and Ready or Not. Typically, August is a disappointing month for cinema. Did any of these titles break the curse or is it simply business as usual? Keep reading to find out.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is based on the children's book series of the same name. The film version takes place in a small midwestern town called Mill Valley. A group of teenagers are fleeing from a local bully and seek refuge in an abandoned house. They find a mysterious book that was penned by Sarah Bellows, one of the residents from many years ago. The book takes on a life of its own, creating new stories. Unfortunately, these scary stories become a reality and wreak havoc on the local teens. Uncovering a dark history about the Bellows family might be the only way to save these teenagers.
Well, this movie isn't changing the typical August slump. I grew up with the original book series, but this film was quite disappointing. The monsters are the best part. They're really scary and surprisingly accurate to the book's illustrations. The filmmakers used combinations of amazing practical effects and decent CGI. I certainly don't want to run into these creatures. The production design is pretty good too. Mill Valley is a dark and creepy town with multiple haunted locations, including a mental institution, high school, police station, and more. The ambiance was perfect for a horror film.
Everything else fell flat. The script is very weak, even though it took influences from the book series. It's generic and not particularly interesting. The plot didn't make the movie seem frightening aside from the monsters. In a way, the story is basically a horror version of Nancy Drew. It's just a teen mystery with supernatural creatures.
The characters weren't well crafted either. However, I'm not blaming the actors. I'm not even singling out specific characters. Overall, the characters are a bunch of teen archetypes that you would probably see in Beverly Hills 90210, Teen Wolf, The OC, Riverdale, and other shows that feature teenagers. The town also has a generic police officer, just like the ones in all the other scary movies. Basically, the characters are unmemorable and generic like the plot.
I wasn't thrilled with the cinematography either. Naturally, this film has a lot of darkness. Unfortunately, it's kind of hard to see what's happening. It dampens the scare factor to certain extent. I don't mind having a dark setting, but the audience shouldn't feel blind. They should be able to see clearly, even if the environment is dark.
Here's another issue. I don't know the target audience. It's way too scary and gross for kids. One of the scenes literally made me gag. It's a hard PG-13 that's almost on the cusp of an R rating. I don't think adults are going to enjoy it very much. It doesn't have many adult themes or characters. I suppose teenagers would the target audience, but it's a problem because they didn't grow up with the source material. Most people who grew up with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark are between thirty and forty years old now.
I don't think it's necessary to see this film in theaters. Don't waste your money. If you're curious, stream it one of these days. It might be worth a streaming experience if you grew up with the book series.
Uncaged is an indirect sequel to the first 47 Meters Down film. It features four teenagers who want to explore a sunken Mayan city in Yucatan. Their journey is awesome until they get lost underwater and encounter hungry great white sharks. The girls have to find a way to exit the underwater maze before running out of air or becoming shark food. It would seem like the odds are stacked against them.
I liked this movie a little better than Scary Stories, but it's not very good. It deserves credit for having decent entertainment value. Uncaged is a fun low budget film with a handful of scary moments. It relies on jump scares a little bit, but that works for this type of film. The pacing is decent and something is always happening. Even the moments without the sharks aren't boring. There's a lot of underwater exploration and the girls run into various forms of peril. The runtime isn't too long either. It only runs around an hour and thirty minutes. Keep your eyes open for the ending. It's definitely the best part of the film. Overall, Uncaged is an okay way to kill some time.
The other components are quite weak. What should we expect from a shark movie? It's slightly better than a Syfy Channel Original. The plot is loose with many flaws. I don't expect a complex story in the something like Uncaged, but it could have used a tiny bit of substance. The girls have a difficult time fitting into the various caverns and yet, giant sharks don't have any trouble swimming from one place to another. Most of the scenes are predictable as well. You'll probably know who lives and dies early in the film.
I wasn't impressed with any of the characters. Again, I'm not bothering to point out specific individuals. Collectively, they're a generic ensemble who are very similar to other teenage girls in killer shark movies. Their acting skills didn't seem great and I'm not sure if anyone was putting in an effort.
The film should have been scarier too. Actually, the theatrical trailers looked quite frightening. That's why I saw the movie. The sharks are cheap CGI and it kills a big part of the scare factor. The environment and jump scares help, but it's not enough. Uncaged is also super repetitive. For example, the girls escape from the sharks via narrow underwater tunnels. The sharks get stuck and can't eat them. I saw those sharks getting stuck five or six times. It's hard to feel scared when you're seeing the same type of scene continuously.
I don't recommend seeing this movie in theaters either. Honestly, it might be an entertaining viewing on Netflix, Hulu, or something else. There's a definite audience for low budget shark flicks. It's a lot better than Sharknado and I would watch it over The Meg too.
Ready or Not is the final selection on this list. Grace is marrying into the wealthy Le Domas family and it seems like all of her dreams are coming true. However, this dream turns into a grisly nightmare when the Le Domas family makes her play a deadly game of hide and seek. Grace must find a way to survive until dawn and hopefully, her wits and fighting spirit will be enough.
One victory is better than zero. I really enjoyed this film. Ready or Not is a very interesting concept that turns Clue into a bloody massacre. I find the script very good with a mixture of scares and comedy. Some elements are a little bit predictable, but it also has plenty of unexpected turns. It's a refreshing, original idea that brings something new to the horror genre. Who knew an R rated movie about hide and seek could work? It's only an h0ur and a half long and that's the perfect length. The story moves along briskly and easily without feeling drawn out or repetitive. There's no filler material in this film.
Samara Weaving stole the show as Grace Le Domas. She's an effective and brave female lead who's not going down without a fight. I think audiences will find her relatable. She seems like a regular woman who married into a worst case scenario. This isn't senseless exploitation or violence against women. Samara gives the entire Le Domas family a hard time and it's a very entertaining view. I'm not familiar with Samara's prior work, but she seems like a pretty strong actress. Furthermore, everyone in the Le Domas family is excellent. They're evil incarnate. I wouldn't say anyone stands out individually, but they're a fabulous ensemble. They made me laugh too. I'll give them extra points for laughs and scares. The Le Domas family is dysfunctional, psychopathic, eccentric, and yet oddly charming.
This is a surprisingly scary movie. I thought it might be silly, but Ready or Not is much closer to horror than comedy. There's so much violence and gore. I was impressed. Some of the violent scenes are very funny and others made me feel uncomfortable. I wouldn't mind a little more consistency, but it was a good effort. This film also has decent action scenes. Truthfully, I didn't expect to see a lot of action. If you like action movies, Ready or Not might be an appropriate viewing. Again, watch out for the ending. It's so amazing! The ending is like a cherry on top hot fudge sundae.
I really like the production design as well. The mansion is both creepy and beautiful at the same time. It has a lot of detail, but the audience doesn't have much time to look at everything because the pacing is quick. You might notice some interesting elements during repeat viewings. The mansion takes a lot of gothic influences from the 19th Century. Actually, that part ties into the plot. Keep that in mind if you're planning to see this movie.
Despite having a lot of critical praise, this film has some flaws. I wish the cinematography and film editing was better. Sometimes it's a little hard to see what's happening because the lighting is super dark. My biggest pet peak was the shaky cam. It took a while for my eyes to adjust because the camera jiggled all over the place. In fact, it might give some people headaches. Other times, the view was just weird. For example, the camera would cut off the top of character's heads quite a bit. I expected much better cinematography and editing from Fox Searchlight.
Ready or Not could have been a little more humorous. It's funny, but I thought it would be wackier. Nearly all of the funny scenes are in the theatrical trailer. The rest of the movie primarily focuses on the horror element. That's not a bad thing. The horror elements worked very well, but I just wanted a little more balance. It's basically a horror film with a small number of humorous scenes.
I'm also nitpicking part of the social commentary. Obviously, this movie has a lot of negative things to say about wealthy aristocrats, especially people who earn their wealth dishonestly. By the way, this paragraph isn't a spoiler. Everything I'm discussing is in the trailer. The filmmakers want you to believe the Le Domas family will do anything to maintain their money, including murder and occult sacrifices. Well, I noticed a flaw in their logic. Ultimately, the Le Domas family is willing to hunt down Grace because they don't want to die. Staying alive to see another day is a completely different motivation than money. So, it negates a small portion of the film's commentary.
Beyond that, I highly recommend this movie. Ready or Not is a really fun ride that will give audiences a unique experience. However, it's not for sensitive viewers. You need to be comfortable with extreme violence, gore, and social commentaries. I don't think it will stay in theaters for very long, so take advantage of the experience while you have a chance.
That's all for now. Are you a big horror fan like me? Did you see any of these movies? Leave some comments. We're moving into the fall season and I'm sure there will be many awesome films in the near future. Thanks for visiting and I'll see you guys next week.
Welcome back! Tonight, we're having a steampunk interview with Bonsart Bokel, a blogger and writer from the Netherlands. Some of you might be familiar with his video blog on YouTube called Radio Retrofuture. His work covers steampunk basics, interviews, theories, costume tips, discussions, video game reviews, and more. Bonsart is quite informative and he's not afraid to be completely opinionated. I think it's time to learn more about him.
Q: Why did you become interested in steampunk?
A: My interest in history and science fiction go way back. As a kid, I loved to build things from circuit boards and made up stories for my Lego pirates. Star Trek: TNG was my first exposure to sci-fi and I've been a fan ever since. My gateway drug was cardboard crack (otherwise known as Magic: the Gathering). I got into Warhammer Fantasy and dabbled somewhat in various roleplaying games. During that time, I was also a big fan of the Elfquest comic books.
When I grew tired of painting knights, I started reenacting in a 14th-century historical group called the Company of Cranenburgh. After ten years of doing that, I took up writing and worked on a setting in which I combined space opera with the aesthetic of the Dutch Golden Age and associated themes.
I have always been fascinated with anachronistic aesthetics, especially for its ability to make unique visuals with familiar objects and styles. And then there are the obvious storytelling possibilities. I especially love the world of the anime called Last Exile, designed by Range Murata, that combined Art Deco with Napoleonic and Interbellum design.
Q: How long have you been an active member of the steampunk community?
A: I visited my first event, Emporium Vernesque, in October 2012. I joined as a volunteer because it was nearby and I already identified with the genre. There I bought the Steampunk Gazette by Major Tinker. I always considered myself to be a blogger on history or fiction and when I saw the potential of Steampunk, I decided right then and there I wanted to explore the subject. In December, I published my first blog on “Tupperware Steampunk."
Q: Would you mind giving us some details about your Radio Retrofuture channel on YouTube?
A: It is the largest YouTube Channel dedicated to Retrofuturism that I am aware of. My most watched videos are those of the Steampunk Beginners Guide, which is hosted by my character Dankaert Lexicon. I also have movie and game reviews, over ninety interviews with members of the Steampunk Community, and several discussion panels.
Q: I believe you added a second video blog. Is it part of a special project?
A: I was challenged to create a radio station for the world of Fallout, also called Radio Retrofuture. (These can be found on YouTube as Steampunk Music for Fallout.) I wrote a story and voiced the host of that radio station and finally added the sound effects. I wanted to do more, so for a Halloween special, I made several videos of my character Dankaert Lexicon reading SCP-stories. But due to the diverse content on the channel, I decided it might be best to create a second channel just for these types of videos.
So, I created a second YouTube Channel called the Retrofuture Research Foundation. I also want to do lore videos on franchises I love, but are not necessarily Steampunk, like Shadowrun or Lovecraft. I intend to do these in character as well. I am also looking for researchers and cowriters for those videos. If people want to submit their own short stories, I am open to that as well.
Q: You’re also a fellow writer. Are you penning anything in the near future?
A: Currently, I am working on an online project called The Association of Ishtar. It is kind of a Steampunkish take on the SCP format, but it takes place specifically in an alternate reality in which humanity has access to parallel worlds. The intention is to showcase various high concepts and it's a way to demonstrate steampunk can be about more than airship pirates and time machines.
People can send in their own stories and ideas about the universe in the same vein as SCP, so that would be great if we can realize that. And if I can find a cowriter, I want to base an audio drama on this universe that will be on our new channel, The Retrofuture Research Foundation.
These can be found on https://radio-retrofuture.fandom.com/wiki/Library
Q: Steampunk seems to be slowing down a little bit in my area. Maybe it’s growing more in the Netherlands. Would you say the steampunk community is growing or shrinking in your region?
A: I don’t think size is the problem. As far I can tell, Steampunk is still overrepresented on the fairs. So, it’s aesthetic is still popular. There are plenty of events in Germany and England. I think communication and cooperation is a more pressing issue. What that would mean specifically for Steampunks on YouTube is that our videos could be shared. People come to us with subjects for videos or discussion panels. The platform and motivation is there, but the community at large don’t seem very eager to promote or use it.
Q: It’s not easy to introduce steampunk to mainstream audiences. What are some good steampunk resources?
A: Funny you ask, for I have an entire documentary series on the topic for beginners called the Steampunk Beginners Guide. Anyway, if you can’t make it to events, YouTube is a good place to start. You get a lot of DIY channels on how to make Steampunk stuff. Other YouTubers and I have a lot of videos regarding the community. If viewers ask more questions, it will help us make more videos to address their questions. Facebook and Reddit have a lot of groups as well. I am very active on the Steampunk Animo and we also have an RRF Discord group.
Q: Many steampunk fans have read a favorite story by H.G. Wells. Is there a favorite story by Wells on your list?
A: The only book by Wells I read from cover to cover is War of the Worlds. I still intend to listen to The New Machiavelli.
Q: Are you noticing any popular steampunk trends in fashion, literature, cosplay, etc.?
A: I have to concur with Ruud de Korte's observation. There are more bought props and clothing than there used to be. I've noticed a lot more reproduction because it has become more available online.
A lot of young steampunks appear on Animo (probably because their parents are on Facebook). They focus more on online trends or Tumblerisms, like making OCs or Original Characters. These are roleplaying characters they use in chatrooms (I think). I jokingly used the term OC when I finally wrote the story for Dankaert Lexicon, but it is not a type of culture I am attracted to.
Q: I know you’re very opinionated about the slew of “punk” labels, such as steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, etc. What are your honest thoughts about punk science fiction in general?
A: Then I have to ask what do you mean with Punk. Here is my problem. People often throw terms at me. “Please talk about Bonepunk or talk about Waterpunk." When I ask for examples of these types of fiction, there is either no response, or they come back to me with mainstream movies or stories that could be placed in any of the conventional genres, or are a cosmos into itself that defies any label. As a result, I don’t know any representative works of these Punkpunks.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about steampunk cosplay?
A: I don’t think we understand the same thing under cosplay, so I’ll just translate it as costuming. I want to tell a story and make characters come to life. In an extension of that, we try to build a world people can walk in. Build an outdoor museum, as it were, that includes items from our fictional universe in The Association of Isthar.
Q: Radio Retrofuture also has some material from Fallout. Would you mind giving a basic explanation?
A: During a podcast I did with Mark Petty from the Steampunk Stompers, we tried to come up with a way to introduce a new audience to Steampunk music. It just so happened I learned about Old World Radio, a game modification for the game Fallout 4 that adds a number of radio stations to the game in which the players can tune in. I asked the creator if he’d be interested in a Steampunk radio station. His first response was skeptical, but five minutes later he replied with, “Let’s do it." So, I contacted dozens of artists and asked for their permission. Now you can listen to your favorite Steampunk bands in the game. In between songs, you can follow the adventures of the presenter, Balthazar Gerards and his robot servant A.S.P.
Q: Speaking of games, what are some of your favorite individual games and/or franchises?
A: I enjoy more strategic genres. I really enjoy Star Sector, BattleTech, and Fallout 76. I play off and on, and I'm looking forward to the next expansions this autumn. I'm intending to play Mutant: Year Zero's next expansion as well. Maybe I will find some more games. I recently posted a vlog called Let’s Play Close to the Sun. I am also looking forward to Atomic Heart. It looks very promising. Finally, I'm looking forward to the final segment of Iron Harvest, which is inspired by the art of Jucub Rosalski.
Q: His Dark Materials is being adapted as a television show on HBO. Are you looking forward to it?
A: Never heard of it before, so I can only judge it by the trailer. Meh. The music was very distracting though.
I watched half of The Golden Compass movie. Didn’t enjoy it and have no intention to return. But I am not much of a fantasy buff to begin with.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I am always looking for collaborations, especially for my new channel. I am looking for researchers and voice actors. If the readers appreciate what I do, they can also support our projects on...
Retrofuture Research Foundation
Stories, The Association of Isthar
All right! That concludes another steampunk interview. I hope you learned something new, as always. You can check out Bonsart's links for more steampunk resources. Keep your eyes open for more steampunk interviews and discussions. Please leave comments if you have anything to say about this particular interview. Next week, I'm probably going to post two or three movie reviews because there's a lot of content being crammed into the summer season. We only have a third of the year to go and there's still plenty of material to cover. Thanks for visiting again and I'll see you guys next week.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.