In order of when I saw them.
The Last Exorcism: A child preacher turned (Protestant) exorcist/grifter wants to get out of the faith business, even though it pays his family’s medical bills. He invites a TV crew along for what he intends to be his last job, in which he hopes that his sleight-of-hand magic and Bible salesman’s patter will bring some comfort and peace to an isolated family whose grieving father thinks a devil has gotten into his daughter. Of course, we know the exorcism won’t go as planned–but the particular way this narrative twists, and then twists again, genuinely surprised me, and added depth to what could’ve been a cheap-thrills horror quickie.
Director Daniel Stamm is also responsible for the American remake of 13 Sins. Both movies quickly but unsentimentally evoke financial pressures, and the love and responsibility a caregiver feels for a disabled family member. You’ll know within the first fifteen minutes if this movie is for you: If you care about this disillusioned preacher, if you believe in his cynicism, his confusion, and his attempt to do the right thing in the labyrinth of circumstance, you’ll be richly rewarded. (If you believe–isn’t that what they all say?) The movie has sympathy for its characters, exactly the right number of twists (not too many!), a terrific final image, and–maybe most importantly–a sense that life is baffling and desperate, but not meaningless. Evil is not the only or the most interesting truth.
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?: One of those ’70s deals with an aging grande-dame actress, an OTT horror plot, and a question mark in the title. It’s good! It’s a sad, weird movie about former vaudeville belle, now castle-dwelling orphan-gatherer “Auntie Roo” (Shelley Winters) and her infected grief for her long-disappeared daughter. There are heavy-handed Hansel and Gretel themes, a sublimely creepy footman (Michael Gothard and his gigantic teeth), and a surprisingly strong, iirc organ-driven score. Camp factor is high as Winters shows a bit of stocking to the orphans, but like the greatest camp, Auntie Roo is unafraid to strike a frankly tragic note. There are distorted and wasted lives here alongside the usual harridan-horror pleasures.
Venom: When a reporter with extremely shaky professional ethics and an alien invader with a violence problem love one another very, very much, and they want to be as close as possible…. This is a Spiderman type joint, and it has the usual flaws of contemporary superhero flicks e.g. perfunctory character turns (who is this guy firing the reporter and why do I care?) and long bland CGI fights between tall bland CGI monsters. But I was watching it because I’d heard about the bizarre physical and emotional symbiosis between Eddie Brock (an extremely veterinary-grade looking Tom Hardy, all hangover bleariness and slurry teeth) and oil slick/shark alien Venom. And that relationship is the heart of this movie. Brock gets “infected” with Venom because of a devilish plot by San Francisco tech idol Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed). Venom’s initial antipathy toward the human race gets knocked off course when he realizes that Eddie is, like himself! (itself? theirself??), “a loser.”
This is so smart, you know, for so many reasons. First of all, there are two obvious kinds of personalities that might volunteer for what we eventually learn is Venom’s mission. And one of those personality types is “guy who massively flamed out in his hometown.” It makes a lot of sense that Venom would turn out to relate to a driven, smart, but extremely failurous guy like Eddie. So we get to watch them learn one another’s capabilities and slowly begin to enjoy one another’s company, and it’s a delight. Venom ends up being a “you and I against two worlds” story, which lots of people like under any circumstances. Then you add “honestly, my situation is not as bad as it looks, I am starting to like this,” and my ears perk up. (For example, I frequently entertain the self-comforting theory that alcoholics just get more out of alcohol than the normal people do–it’s just fun for you guys whereas for us it is sublime–you get what you pay for….) And then you throw in “being with you exposes me to constant public humiliation, I kinda love it,” and I just start throwing dollars at the screen.
Eddie’s fiancee is also a good, plausible character; I didn’t feel like she got shoved aside. The music is fine and not as one-trick bombastic as, like, Avengers music. Anyway, I enjoyed this. I would like to watch more of Eddie and Venom bantering about their common character defects and possibly eating people.
Everyone said they were crazy
Venom, you know that you still eat babies!
And Eddie definitely cannot afford to lead that kind of life.
Oh, but there we were waving Venom and Eddie goodbye….