Good afternoon! Spring is turning out to be a hugely busy time for movies. In fact, I think the spring season will be more crowded than summer. That’s insane! April rolled out three major releases: Pet Sematary, Shazam!, and Hellboy. Did these films impress me or were they simply disappointing? I’ll tell you all about it.
Pet Sematary is my first entry in this post. It’s a horror film that’s based on the novel by Stephen King. The Creed family moves to a rural town in Maine called Ludlow. Everything seems peaceful, even though their environment has eerie qualities. Sadly, a tragic accident creates a chain reaction that will ruin many lives.
I was pleasantly surprised with this film. It’s really scary and atmospheric. The characters are haunted by psychological and literal demons. Pet Sematary comes together really well because the directing by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer is very strong. They bring a lot tension, dread, and unexpected twists to a familiar story. The movie doesn’t rely on jokes or stock characters to keep the audience interested. It’s just a fierce horror film that keeps the viewer on edge until the end. This movie also has a slow burn, but it doesn’t seem boring. It just unfolds one element at a time and brings a lot of intrigue to the story. In a way, Pet Sematary seems like a small, contained project. That’s good because it traps the characters in a nightmare. Strong production design and visual elements make the film seem creepier too.
All of the characters are great. The actors had strong performances and everyone seemed like a good fit for their roles. Jason Clarke plays Louis Creed, a doctor and the family’s patriarch. Clarke usually excels in the horror genre, so he works well for the part. He becomes increasingly darker as the story progresses. Creed’s intentions might seem innocent, but there will always be consequences along the way. Amy Seimetz brought a great performance to Rachel, the Creed family’s matriarch. Eventually, she becomes unglued and loses her sanity. She’s a complex character and who hides her personal demons. Rachel is very compassionate and it’s easy for the audience to feel empathy for her. John Lithgow was really creepy as Jud Crandall, the Creed family’s neighbor and close friend. He’s actually a decent guy, but Jud made serious mistakes in the past that haunt him today. It’s hard to tell where he stands. Is Jud a harmless and eccentric old man or is he hiding something darker? Jeté Laurence was fine as Ellie Creed, but I feel like things went sideways when her character dove into more sinister territory. Can I give the cat some credit? Church, the family pet, is played by four cats. He’s so cute at first, but many of us know what happens next. I really like cats, but this one was terrifying.
This film only has a couple of issues. Most importantly, Pet Sematary will be too dark and depressing for some viewers. That’s the way horror works, but it’s still a niche film to a certain extent. It’s not uplifting in any way, shape, or form. I still believe it’s a great movie, but a lot of people want a happy ending with plenty of hope in the darkness. If that’s what you want, this movie will be disappointing.
I should mention the marketing and spoilers. Basically, the trailers give away major parts of the plot. In fact, it gives away significant changes from the novel and original film. For example, we know Ellie is the one who dies in an accident, not Gage, her baby brother. Then she’s the one who returns as a zombie or demonic entity. Yeah, I’m spoiling an important part of the movie, but it’s in the marketing anyway.
Should you see Pet Sematary in theaters? I would only recommend it for major horror fans. It’s not a campy horror film. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for children or people who scare easily. Keep in mind, it’s a great experience in theaters if you love the genre. I suppose it would be a good viewing for Stephen King fans, but it deviates from the novel. You should also buy the movie on Blu-Ray at some point and watch it in the dark. That would be a creepy experience.
Shazam! is the next film on my list. It features a troubled teenager named Billy Batson. He continually runs away from foster families, searching for his missing biological mother. After saving one of his foster brothers from school bullies, Billy is transported to a mysterious lair. An ancient wizard gives Billy his power for being pure of heart and brave. The young boy becomes a superhero called Shazam and goes through a rambunctious journey to discover his powers, identity, and the true meaning of family.
Truthfully, I was quite impressed with this film. I didn’t have very high expectations. Shazam! is a very warm and substantial movie that’s fun, whimsical, and a little bit thought provoking. Usually, films tend to be either more serious or comical. This one tackles both sides effectively. Don’t expect this film to be overly silly. It definitely has humor, but the trailers make the film seem ultra silly and that’s not the case. Everything is also comic book accurate, including the costumes. This movie has a lot of heart and I felt surprised with that element.
Overall, Shazam! is a well rounded film. It has action, humor, character development, uplifting moments, and even some darker elements. Unfortunately, it’s hard to give a lot of detail without spoilers. The trailers hide quite a bit of material from the movie. Even though the film is two hours and fifteen minutes long, it doesn’t have any pacing issues. It covers significant back stories without feeling slow. I’m not sure if any of the actors blew me away, but they were a good ensemble cast. Even the main villain, Dr. Sivana, was fine. He’s in the middle of the pack. Sivana is neither the best nor worst supervillain. This film also seems smaller than the typical DC blockbuster, but that’s okay. It focuses more on the characters and story than huge explosions with tons of CGI.
Here are my primary concerns. Zachary Levi (Shazam) and Asher Angel (Billy Batson) don’t seem like the same characters at all. They act like completely different people. Billy Batson seems more like a cool, broody kid who doesn’t want to be labeled geeky. Shazam is like a huge nerd who loves being a superhero. They’re supposed to be the same character with different bodies, but I didn’t believe the connection. It’s a little bit distracting. But it didn’t ruin the movie for me. It was still a nice experience.
I have to admit, the visual effects are pretty bad. The CGI seems cartoonish, fake, and unfinished. However, poor VFX are a recurring issue for the DC films in general. At this point, I’m expecting better visual effects. It’s a superhero movie! The visual elements should be great! Luckily, CGI isn’t the main focus of this project amyway.
Ultimately, I highly recommend seeing Shazam! in theaters. However, you don’t need to spend the extra money on IMAX or other deluxe showings. It should be a terrific family outing for many people. But it will be too scary for really small children. You probably don’t believe me, but it’s true. It would also be a great viewing for superhero fans and people who are looking for something different.
Hellboy is the final movie in this post. It’s a comic adaptation and monster flick that features our titular antihero. Hellboy is a reformed demon who works for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense or B.P.R.D. Nimue, a Medieval witch, reemerges and raises an army of dark creatures to storm the world. Meanwhile, Hellboy must defeat evil, build a team of heroes, and fix a broken relationship with his adoptive father named Trevor Bruttenholm. Mankind’s last hopes are in the hands of supernatural misfits.
This film is definitely the least impressive example on today’s post, but it has some positive elements. It’s a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the current Hellboy comics. The characters, tone, action, and humor were ripped from the pages. Keep in mind, unfaithful adaptations can be catastrophic, including Batman and Robin, Cat Woman, the latest Fantastic Four movie (spelled Fant4stic), and Venom. At this least Hellboy respects the source material.
I was also pleasantly surprised with David Harbour’s performance as our leading man (or demon?). He’s a worthy successor to Ron Perlman with snarky humor, quirkiness, and raw masculinity. This version of Hellboy is tough as nails and still oddly human. Ron Perlman is a tricky act to follow, but David Harbour did a really good job.
The practical effects are high quality as well. Hellboy’s makeup effects have great detail and he seems like a living monstrosity instead of an actor who’s wearing prosthetics. Many of the other creatures had good practical effects too. It compensated for the poor VFX that I’ll address later.
This movie isn’t boring either. It moves along quickly, features a lot of monsters, includes strong action scenes, and gives pretty decent entertainment value. Hellboy runs for approximately two hours and twelve minutes, but it actually feels much shorter. That’s not typical in today’s cinema.
Unfortunately, this film is plagued is problems. The plot is very weak and thin. Some critics find the plot confusing, but I would say it’s overly simplistic. It’s about a witch who’s planning to destroy the world with her evil minions. Don’t overcomplicate the story. Overall, the plot doesn’t have very good direction and it lacks substance. The story also expects audiences to have a strong understanding about dark folklore and its creatures. That might contribute to the confusion. The majority of mainstream audiences are unfamiliar with creatures of ancient folklore and the film doesn’t explain these elements with enough detail.
This movie also goes way too far with the blood and gore. It’s a standard part of the Hellboy comics and some of the violence is quite entertaining. But it can also be gratuitous and unnecessary. Film makers hurt the integrity of their products when they heave blood and gore simply for the sake of making people uncomfortable. Hellboy isn’t the type of film that should make audiences feel squeamish or nauseated. Think of it this way. This movie should have gruesome violence that will make the audience giggle instead of scream or vomit. The comics are more of a dark comedy adventure than a horror serial.
Beyond David Harbour, the other characters and performances are disappointing. Milla Jovovich plays Nimue and she remains the queen of B movies. At first, I thought she was an odd casting choice. But she actually fits right into Hellboy’s messy situation. I've seen a lot of films with Jovovich and she doesn't bring anything new to this character. Ian McShane plays Bruttenholm and he’s the same character in every movie or tv show. McShane doesn’t have any range. He’s only capable of playing untrustworthy older men with a sarcastic sense of humor. Daniel Dae Kim plays Ben Daimio, a werejaguar and B.P.R.D. agent. Kim is uninteresting and flat with very little personality. I’m a big fan of cats, but this character didn’t maintain my attention. Regardless of the role, everyone except David Harbour underperformed.
The visual effects were also very weak. In general, the VFX seemed unfinished and sloppy. The film includes a lot of obvious green screen moments. Most of the monsters aren’t scary enough because they look like cheap CGI. The world building also suffers to a certain extent because the visual effects aren’t impressive. I realize Hellboy’s budget was only fifty million dollars, but the CGI needed to be better anyway.
Who should see this movie? I think Hellboy works for a niche audience. Some people really enjoy campy action films with gratuitous violence. This film fits in the mold with the Evil Dead, the Resident Evil movies, and the Underworld series. If you appreciate those films, then the Hellboy reboot might be a good choice. In fact, it will probably develop a cult following over time.
That’s the end of my triple feature. I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen any of these movies yet? What did you think? Leave a comment, so we can have a discussion. Keep watching for more reviews, news, and photo galleries. You can always find something weird, fun, and interesting here. I’m wishing all of you a great Easter weekend. For those of you who don’t celebrate Easter, enjoy your spring season. Thanks again and I’ll see you guys next week.
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