Friday, October 21, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Smile’ a disturbing surprise

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes

In order to get the maximum screams for your buck, go into this movie knowing as little as possible. I honestly thought this would not affect me the way it did. I would put this in my top 20 favorite horror movies.

A doctor experiences a horrible incident and from that point on believes a malevolent spirit or force is coming for her in the form of smiling individuals. After doing some research, she finds that there have been several deaths and other traumas as a result of this possible force that was passed to her before she experienced the horrible incident. Is the doctor coming unhinged or is she onto something? Could there really be an evil presence that presents itself through smiling victims?

I realize that might sound stupid, but what I thought would be a not-so-scary overall disappointing horror movie (based on seeing only the trailer), turned out to leave me feeling anxious throughout. This was a very unsettling, albeit satisfactory horror movie, a good scare.

“Smile” stars Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Caitlin Stasey, Kyle Gallner, Kal Penn, Robin Weigert, Rob Morgan and Gillian Zinser.

Dr. Rose Cutter (Bacon) sees patient Laura (Stasey) in the psychiatric unit of the hospital after Laura has experienced a violent act. Laura tells Rose it’s not a safe place for her; she is seeing something only she can see. It wears people’s faces like masks and smiles – not friendly smiles. Laura is screaming and completely beside herself.

Before Rose has a chance to intervene, things get very, very bad. And now Rose is beside herself. She is ordered by her boss (Penn) to take a week off.

Things only get progressively worse for her, and she decides to see a therapist (Weigert).

Rose is seeing and hearing things that she describes as a fleeting moment of stress-induced hallucinations.

When she tries to convince her family that an evil presence has attached itself to her, fiancĂ© Trevor (Usher) and sister Holly (Zinser), don’t believe her.

Watch out for the birthday party scene.

More time goes by, and Rose is only getting worse. Trevor is worried about her. Rose is worried because mental illness runs in their family and her mother committed suicide several years back.

There are only two people who believe her: a police officer, Joel (Gallner) and an inmate who somehow escaped the “curse,” (Morgan). The inmate tells her the thing needs trauma to spread. There’s only one way to pass it on.

This movie left me nervous and dreading what was going to happen next. That’s kind of what I was looking for in a good horror movie; this one may have over-delivered.

This movie is heavy on the language. It’s pretty violent and there are a lot of frightening scenes. Plus, suicide is a theme. Parts of the movie are shocking, yet sometimes ridiculous.

I continually asked myself what was real and what was not. The ominous, haunting music only exacerbates the disturbing nature of this movie. Even the voices and booming echoes as the credits ran gave me a feeling of uneasiness. For the most part I found it unpredictable and messed up. As a Halloween movie night, I would see this one in the theater – preferably not alone.

Two toy trains up.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, October 7, 2022

Movie Review: Disney+’s ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ different from original

By Matt Pascarella

Rated PG
Run Time 1 hour, 43 minutes

It’s officially the scariest time of the year! What better way to begin the Halloween movie season then with a sequel to a classic.

The Sanderson Sisters return to Salem to try once again to gain immortality, and this time a new group of kids will maybe thwart these witches. Are the sisters just as powerful as they used to be? Is this as much fun as the original? Or maybe a bit of a letdown?

This sequel stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Hannah Waddingham, Lilia Buckingham, Taylor Henderson, Nina Kitchen, Juju Journey Brener, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones and Tony Hale.

It’s 1653 in Salem and a young Winifred Sanderson (Henderson) is very upset because it’s her 16th birthday and she doesn’t want to marry the Reverend she’s committed to. The actresses who play the Sanderson sisters (Kitchen and Brener) give incredible performances. Henderson especially has Winifred’s cadence, facial expressions and movements down.

The Reverend banishes them from Salem, but they escape to the Forbidden Wood where they meet The Witch Mother (Waddingham) who tells them one day Salem will belong to Witches and gives Winifred Book.

It's Halloween, current day and is Becca’s (Peak) birthday. She and her best friend Izzy (Esccobedo) have plans for a sleepover. They wish their friend Cassie (Buckingham) would hang out with them, but things have changed since she got a boyfriend.

Magic shop owner Gilbert (Richardson) tells the story of the Sanderson Sisters. He has Winifred’s Book on display. Gilbert gifts Becca a Black Flame Candle.

When Becca and Izzy light the candle, lightning strikes and the Sanderson Sisters return. The girls trick the sisters and take them to a modern apothecary where they run amok.

Later you find out Gilbert tricked Becca because he is the Sanderson Sisters’ biggest fan. The sisters throw Izzy and Becca in a “dungeon” under Gilbert’s shop.

Winnie who wants to be the most powerful witch on Earth will perform the Magicae Maxima spell to achieve this – a spell The Witch Mother said must never be performed.

Gilbert must gather the ingredients for the spell or be killed. He digs up Billy Butcherson (Jones). The two team up to get back at Winifred.

Mayor Trask (Hale) is in danger because he is a descendant of the Reverend. Becca and Izzy warn Cassie of this and trick the Sanderson Sisters again.

Gilbert may have been a little untruthful. Once the sisters do escape from being tricked, they steal Cassie. They plan to perform Magicae Maxima and then torture her.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the original “Hocus Pocus.” So, when I found out the Sanderson Sisters were returning to Salem 29 years later, I set my expectations high ... too high.

Let me start off by saying this is a good sequel. It is not a great sequel though. It’s fun and there are many callbacks and flashbacks to the original. It has a lot of physical comedy and some great gags.

Mary Sanderson rides a couple of Roombas – or Broomies through the air – and the Sanderson Sisters even interact with Amazon’s Alexa. I wish the story had continued with Allison, Max and Dani though Billy was in it. While this sequel does not hold a Black Flame Candle to the original, it’s still hauntingly good fun.

One Broomie up.

Available on Disney+ <