I Watched: Horse Girl

How do you draw a definitive line between dream life and waking life when characters and events begin bleeding into both? That’s the question explored in the Netflix fim, Horse Girl, directed by Jeff Baena, written by Baena and Alison Brie, which follows a socially isolated arts and crafts store employee who finds herself more content in the company of horses and supernatural crime shows than people. Have a gander at the trailer:

Sarah (Alison Brie) is that oddly shaped piece that doesn’t quite fit in the societal puzzle, friendly yet friendless–with the possible exception of her boss, Joan (Molly Shannon)–her shy, introverted ways leads her to live a quiet life. Aside from working at a crafts store, she visits the grave of her suicided mother and frequents the horse stable where Willow, the horse she rode in her childhood is boarded, which annoys the stable owners to no end.

On her birthday, when roommate Nikki (Debby Ryan) finds Sarah home alone, she invites her boyfriend’s roommate, Darren (John Reynolds) over for a double date. The four drink and smoke weed and despite Darren talking about his ex all night, he and Sarah hit it off. When the party’s over, Sarah has a bizarre dream in which she is lying in an antiseptically white room with a man and woman and she wakes up face down in the living room on a mound of throw pillows and there are large scratch marks running across the wall that she can’t account for. Shortly after, a series of bizarre incidents begin to befall Sarah and that’s where this recap ends because I don’t want to spoil the rest of the movie for you.

So, would I recommend Horse Girl? It’s a yes for me but it’s one of those divisive films and it depends on how you view it, as a psychological drama about the effects of hereditary mental illness or a slow burn science fiction fever dream. Like a previous film I reviewed, Relic, the filmmakers seem intent on leaving the decision of whether Sarah is suffering mental problems or the victim of extraterrestrial forces beyond her ability to comprehend, entirely up to your interpretation.

Whichever way you personally lean, the one thing you will probably agree on is Alison Brie’s powerful and convincing performance as a troubled woman who slips on a patch of sanity and falls head first into the instability of a dream-life/waking-life reality that’s been tilted on its axis.

It’s currently on Netflix (apparently it’s been there a while) and it’s certainly, in my not-so-humble opinion, worth the watch. Besides, city and state reopenings have been a mixed bag, so you’re better off playing it safe by maxing and relaxing in your home, and there are far, far worse things you could be doing with 104 minutes of your self-isolated life. Treat yourself, why don’t you?

Ciao til next now.

Everything Put Together Falls Apart

To the outside world, they appeared to be the perfect couple who had been together so long they began resembling one another. Within the microcosm of their relationship, however, they were beset on all sides by ever-mounting difficulties, which by working as a team, they were able to overcome.

Were this a movie, the hardships they endured would have cemented their relationship forever and paved the road to their happily ever after, but sadly, as was sometimes the way with life, everything put together eventually falls apart.

The Inescapable Truth

After years of torture, Monsieur Rousseau managed to escape his captor and her dungeon of torment, but now, in the calm of his newly acquired freedom, he was forced to admit to himself that secretly missed the sting of Contessa Chiara Intravartolo’s whip.

The One

Deathbed Regret

The Tickle

I Watched: The Rental

The Rental is the directorial horror film debut of Dave Franco, who co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Swanberg, and it stars Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, and Toby Huss. The film follows two couples who go on an oceanside getaway by renting an Airbnb vacation home and grow suspicious that their host may be spying on them.

Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Mina (Sheila Vand) are business partners who are looking to celebrate a deal their company just signed that stands to make them a ton of money and the movie opens with them scrolling through online photos of the Airbnb they’re planning to book for a romantic weekend getaway with their significant others, his wife, Michelle (Alison Brie) and her boyfriend, Josh (Jeremy Allen White) who happens to be Charlie’s brother.

The Airbnb is situated near the ocean and is surrounded by woods, making it the ideal location, the only fly in the ointment is when Mina first attempted to book the place using her Arabic surname, she was rejected but when Charlie called an hour later, his booking was accepted. When they meet their host (Toby Huss) and Mina airs her suspicions, the host neither confirms nor denies the racist allegation and simply suggests they refer to their contract cancellation policy if they’re unhappy. Mina balks at handing their hard-earned money over to the host but decides to take the high road and not let his ignorance spoil their celebratory weekend.

And, as is the case when a small group of friends drug up and let their guard down in close quarters, relationships are explored, fidelities are tested, and well-kept secrets are exposed, forcing the friends to see each other in a whole new light. Oh, and they discover hidden cameras (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer).

If you’ve read any of my previous reviews (first off, bless you) you’ll know I run light on spoilers so that’s all the plot I’m giving away but the film was released on VOD today so if you’re really interested you can find out what happens next for yourself.

So, would I recommend The Rental? I’m on the fence with this one. Not because it’s a bad film, quite the opposite, in fact. Dave Franco has put together a competent film which, unlike its horror contemporaries, doesn’t need to rely on a supernatural element to bring the fear. My quibbles are mainly that I’m not a huge fan of mumblecore or what I call fly-on-the-wall cinema, the character development and their relationships to one another tread very familiar ground, and the premise (although dipping its big toe in the mini-genre pool of Airbnb horror) is far from original or innovative. But the thing that really stuck in my craw was when Mina made her stand against the host’s apparent racism and her friends didn’t back her play. There was a missed opportunity to add a level of tension between the friends. After all, the racism you ignore is the racism you allow. Mina is such an outspoken character and letting the matter be swept under the rug rather than given space to breathe just seemed disingenuous to me.

Having said that, the acting all around is solid, the film doesn’t deviate from its course in order to serve up twist after twist in an attempt to confusticate you into believing you just viewed a work of daring genius, and the tension builds so slowly that when it shifts gears into full horror mode, you’ll find yourself fully invested. The ending? I’m of two minds about that but discussing it would put me in spoiler territory, so I’ll just keep those thoughts to myself. I sort of appreciated the epilogue, though.

I think sort of sums up my opinion of the film. I sort of liked it and sort of didn’t but it’s not the worst film, horror or otherwise, that I’ve seen during lockdown. Judge for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

Ciao til next now.

Mary’s Lamb Love

Early Birthday Present

I Watched: Japan Sinks 2020

Based on the 1973 disaster novel, Nihon Chinbotsu by Sakyo Komatsu, Japan Sinks 2020 is a 10-episode anime series available on Netflix in which a series of major earthquakes hit Japan. We follow the Mutou family (who were separated when the first quake hit) as they reconnect amidst the chaos and try to escape the city before additional quakes and the possible eruption of Mount Fuji threaten to sink Japan.

And that’s all I’m going to give you because I truly do not want to spoil a moment of this for you.

So, would I recommend this series? Without a doubt but it comes with the caveat to keep in mind this is based on a disaster novel, so if you’re out for a lighthearted coming of age Ghibli romp full of magic and wonder, this might not be the anime you’re looking for. The Mutou family and the people they pick up along the way are plunged into extreme life and death situations and from early on you realize that No. One. Is. Safe. which I appreciate, though you might feel differently about it. Different bikes for different likes.

I’ve heard people complain about Naoya Wada’s character designs, Science Saru’s animation style and the fact that the characters in the series live under a constant cloud of hopelessness as the pendulum swings both ways as they experience lucky breaks and violently devastating events in near equal measure, but I was far too interested in the story to nitpick any of these details. When it comes to the show’s atmosphere, I suppose it all boils down to your personal outlook. Is the glass half full or half empty? Do you only see the unapologetically brutal chaos brought on by a natural disaster and how it brings out the worst in some people or can you admire the strength to keep moving forward, the determination to survive in the face of unending adversity which is a cornerstone of the human spirit? Again, each person to their tastes.

For my money, this is a wonderful, intense and compassionate anime series that starts off strong and remains consistent throughout. I started out only planning to watch one episode to get a feel for whether it was in my wheelhouse or not and ended up binging the entire thing in one sitting because each segment closed with a cliffhanger that immediately drew me to the following episode. This deserves more attention and respect than it’s getting. I hope that changes soon.

Ciao til next now.