Nightmare Alley

Vampire Owl: This could be the name of one of the halls in the castle.

Vampire Bat: There are already enough alleys with nightmares around here.

Vampire Owl: You think that vampires are affected by nightmares.

Vampire Bat: Yes, we just consider them as dreams.

Vampire Owl: Nightmares are just small part of the dreams.

Vampire Bat: You shouldn’t use the word “nightmare” anymore. It is overused.

Vampire Owl: We are the true nightmares, the living dead ones, right?

Vampire Bat: You feel that the nightmares can be true?

Vampire Owl: Now, you are acting like Dr Frankenstein.

Vampire Bat: You mean, like Mr Frankenstein! No, never!

[Gets an aloo paratha and three cups of black tea].

What is the movie about? :: The year is 1939, and Stanton Carlisle a.k.a. Stan (Bradley Cooper) wanders around different cities of the United States of America, and while going on as a free guy, a drifter, gets a job at a big carnival which seems to have lit up the world of night beautifully. There, he notices a geek show in which he sees a man eating a live chicken. This performance which is also known as freak show, is always about a single man called a geek who chases live chickens and finally has him killing the bird and eating it alive. It was something common among circus and carnival professionals to be part of a troupe that included geeks. The geeks were often heavy alcoholics or drug addicts, and instead of money, liquor was used to pay them for the performance. In this case, the man who was part of the performance is seen to be further deranged than he is supposed to be. While he is working, Stan is told that the geek is now running around within their attraction, and they have to somehow catch him before he ruins the performances.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: The geek seems to be hiding in a scary attraction, and attacks Stan, only to be taken down. He is taken into a cage, and he seems to be too violent and mentally disturbed to be fit for any show, seemingly getting close, but being out of death for now. But they keep him locked up with the feeling that people will love to look down on him and forget their own misery. It seems that many people like to enjoy that particular show, and is a major attraction which nobody wishes to miss, even though it is indeed costlier. After helping them to find the geek, Stan is offered a full time job at the carnival instead of that temporary one which was provided to him earlier. He is only happy to be with them as he has nowhere to go anymore. After using their tub, he begins working with the clairvoyant performer known as Madame Zeena, originally Zeena Krumbein (Toni Collette) and her alcoholic husband, Peter Krumbein a.k.a. Pete (David Strathairn). Zeena definitely feels that there is more to him than what meets the eye.

And what more is to follow in this interesting world? :: Mary Margaret Cahill a.k.a. Molly (Rooney Mara) also helps them at times, as Pete often losses control after drinking too much. But Molly also performs as the “Electric Girl Unforgettable”, seemingly taking electricity through her in one of the other star performances. Stan seems to be falling in love with Molly slowly, but steadily. The team of clairvoyance uses gestures, some coded language and certain cold reading tricks to make their work more effective. There are some fine guesses which work out of effectively at times, even though Pete is not fond of her pretending to speak to the dead. Pete shows the methods to Stan too, and he seems to be a very quick learner. Stan understands that the geeks are originally alcoholics whom he has forced to stay with opium-laced alcohol which has been affecting the minds of the geeks terribly. Most of them were affected by the First World War one way or the other. These geeks are nicely taken into the carnival where they become nothing less than slaves due to their addiction gone terribly wrong.

Then you look forward further in this movie, and what awaits us? :: As they are going on with the carnival, Germany has just started the invasion of Poland, setting the beginning of the Second World War. Things still seem to go normal at the carnival, as a new geek takes the place of the previous one who is dead. Stan asks Molly to leave the carnival with him, and start a new grand performance with him, which everyone in the United States of America, and all around the world will remember forever. But she is not ready to leave with him, as she has been a part of this performance and this particular place for quite a long time. Soon, Pete who keeps drinking more and more, finally dies out of alcoholic consumption. It is then that a sheriff comes there and threatens to close the illegal performance which has cruelty to humans and animals, while Molly who performs her act in her undergarments is to be arrested for too much of cleavage and thighs, thus enough indecency to be in the prison. Stan saves her and the whole carnival from the sheriff using the skills he had learned from Pete. As the sheriff leaves, Molly agrees to leave the Carnival with him, but what would the future hold in that case?

The defence and flaws of Nightmare Alley :: The movie has a beautiful world belonging to the past in store for us. Even though slow at times, it is an effective movement forward, which we are all going to enjoy. The time period during the Second World War is beautifully created, and we become a part of it. Even though there is the common idea that this is a psychological thriller, the movie is more of a drama rather than anything else. It might be due to its jumping through the genres that the movie feels slow, and the over all length does feel as a little too much for our liking. It is not the kind of world with which the director, Guillermo del Toro is at full strength – this could be the same reason why the director’s other movies continue to stay a few levels above this one. But the performances from Bradley Cooper and Rooney Mara are too good, and they have us interested here throughout the movie. The others who don’t have a full run in the flick, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette and others also have a fine run when they are around here. The movie also has a fine message running through here about what awaits an over-reacher who find evil to be okay.

How it finishes :: Nightmare Alley does have that feeling of watching the movies of Guillermo del Toro like before. Still, it doesn’t have any haunting creatures like in Crimson Peak or the huge robots fighting giant monsters like in Pacific Rim. This is also no Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water. The director does take a divergent path with ease, and successfully goes through the whole thing and keeps us engaged in the same. A movie without any supernatural element for him, and he still continues to be the visionary director like nobody else. The movie is based on the novel of the same name written by the American writer William Lindsay Gresham published in 1946, and how well it has taken the spirit of the book will be known only to those who have read the book. The movie was nominated for four Oscar Awards, including the Best Picture, at the 94th Academy Awards held in Los Angeles in March 2022. Well, one would only feel that this is only deserving, as this is a film is a world which is for us to be immersed in, at all times.

Release date: 17th December 2021
Running time: 150 minutes
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, Mary Steenburgen, Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Awake

Vampire Owl: We are not supposed to be awake at this time.

Vampire Bat: We are awake because we are not supposed to go through eternal sleep.

Vampire Owl: Nothing is eternal, other than our immortality.

Vampire Bat: There are still limitations to our immortal nature.

Vampire Owl: The limitations have been imposed by the suppression of our true nature.

Vampire Bat: There is no definition of true nature of the undead.

Vampire Owl: It is what separates us, the undead from the undying.

Vampire Bat: You feel that it is going to matter in the end, do you?

Vampire Owl: Yes, we are going to live for such a long time.

Vampire Bat: Life after death do no usually count as life with its original meaning.

[Gets a vegetable puffs and three cups of white tea].

What is the movie about? :: Jill Adams (Gina Rodriguez) is a recovering drug addict, who is now working as a security guard at a local college, after serving as a United States Army medic much earlier. Along with the same, she also steals drugs from the research lab to sell them outside. She picks up her children Noah (Lucius Hoyos) and Matilda (Ariana Greenblatt) after work, only to meet an accident on the road, as it seems that everything which works with electricity is malfunctioning. All the cars lose control on the road, and there are many accidents. All the buildings have also lost power. The three somehow manages to get to the nearby hospitals, as people keep talking about this being a terrorist attack, maybe from the Chinese. In the hospital, they find out that the patients in coma have awakened, much to the surprise of the doctors and nurses who were treating them. At night, they are not able to sleep, and they attribute this inability to the trauma which they had to go through, related to the accident. As she travels to work using a bicycle, she is surprised to find out that the whole neighbourhood is awake.

So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: It turns out that nobody is able to sleep anymore. It turns out that anything with a microchip is fried, and of no use to anyone. Dr Murphy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychiatrist understands that the sleeplessness will soon lead to the symptoms of complete sleep deprivation, and finally to death, but at a quicker pace. The only exception to this seems to be an old woman, whom they are researching on, hoping to find a cure to this seemingly terrifying disease. Jill then remembers that unlike others, Matilda could also fall asleep, and she searches for her, finally finding her at the church. Brian (Finn Jones) also tries to help them, and asks her to bring her daughter to Dr Murphy, but she disagrees. The pastor tells the followers that the girl is a beacon of hope, and they should pray to God for another miracle like her. But the sleep-deprived people feels that they should sacrifice her. As there is a fight in the church, and as Brian also asks for the girl to be handed over, Jill escapes with her children. But how far can they go?

The defence of Awake :: The movie does have the smart and innovative idea and the fine beginning, which could have surely served better if the move was quicker and better focused. The idea of humans not being able to sleep, which finally leads to their loss of mind and in the end, the extinction, is really an interesting concept – anyone who might have read about it or had a clue about the same would wish to watch the movie. This one can still use the same to make a better sequel in a world which has almost reached its end with humanity. The first few moments of accidents and waking up makes a good start, and then there is the scene at the church which makes one question humanity’s inherent evil, followed by the beginning of the journey of the protagonists – all of these have some good strength. The strange moments of the movie are also innovative enough, and mostly working, especially in the first half. The mother trying to save her children and teaching the little girl how to drive, are all interesting survival additions, and could have had better purpose. Along with the same, the visuals are pretty much beautiful.

The claws of flaw :: Awake is a movie which goes on with a slower pace than it would suit a post-apocalyptic film. It often seems to slow down for no reason at all. It also hesitates to take the opportunities which are there, and despite the grand premise, cannot come up with an ending of similar grandeur. This was one great chance to make something that would be remembered for long, but that is not case here. There are so many moments which could have been dealt with, and it is surprising that both science and religion don’t have the solution, but nonsensical kids do. There could have been better explanation of the happenings around here, as we have had strange events with alien or other paranormal attacks from the skyline or even from beneath. It could have also had more action, and maybe some horror elements too, as we have the beginning of a post-apocalyptic world here, and after all, humans are capable of the worst every time. Some more special effects could have also done this one good.

The performers of the soul :: Gina Rodriguez plays the mother figure really well. There has been better appreciated mothers in the past, but she has her moments too, even though her character remains one flawed mother. Ariana Greenblatt as Matilda is pretty much an annoying kid who is weird enough, and one has to wonder if the character was deliberately designed so – we surely had some better kids in the past. Lucius Hoyos as Noah doesn’t have that much of a work to do, as this one is just another teenager moving around during a terrible event, and nothing more is added here. Finn Jones played an interesting character, but unfortunately, the person is killed all of a sudden. Frances Fisher plays the grandmother figure pretty well too. Barry Pepper who plays the pastor has some fine moments, and he also has the dialogues of faith and hope to remember. Maybe, the pastor and the church could have been there for a longer period of time than a few minutes that we had. Jennifer Jason Leigh also has something to add, but we expected her to do more, after we had her in the earlier stages of the movie.

How it finishes :: The movie has a really interesting main idea – what would happen if we lose our ability to sleep? It is a question which can haunt us for a very long time, and this could have been a brilliant movie with the best use of the same idea. But it is certainly not the case here, as even though they have tried, the movie has struggled to live up to the idea, making it just another usual movie which goes through the post-apocalyptic world without surprises. It is often disappointing that a movie doesn’t use the best use of the opportunities presented to it. But we continue to watch this one as we are curious, and we are concerned about what is to happen next – the movie manages to create that desire to watch, and even with its slow pace, there is the movement towards that final destination, keeping it floating. It is the kind of movie which you can surely watch to pass the time, and at the same time, also ponder about the core idea – what if sleep evades you? How long can you hold on without being able to go to sleep?

Release date: 9th June 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 96 minutes
Directed by: Mark Raso
Starring: Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barry Pepper, Finn Jones, Ariana Greenblatt, Gil Bellows, Barry Pepper, Lucius Hoyos, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sebastian Pigott

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

Before I Wake

beforeiwake-2

Vampire Owl: Do I get to make a sentence with this title?

Vampire Bat: What are you talking about?

Vampire Owl: I really wanted to make a sentence with these words as those school children do.

Vampire Bat: Why do you want to imitate school children when we are self-taught and vampire-learnt?

Vampire Owl: I just want to try it once like they do.

Vampire Bat: Okay, come up with the sentence.

Vampire Owl: Before I wake, I remember that I need to brush my teeth.

Vampire Bat: This is the most ridiculous sentence that I have heard – you never brush your teeth. And you should remember that before going to sleep, not after falling asleep.

Vampire Owl: I do brush my teeth, but I do that only in secret.

Vampire Bat: Secret? It is not like you are planning to bring the end of the world.

[Gets three cups of masala tea with banana chips].

What is the movie about? :: The married couple of Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) Hobson makes the decision to adopt a child after their young child dies all of a sudden, and as they realize that they can’t be parents biologically anymore. They haven’t really recovered from the loss of their only child, but they decide to go on with the adoption anyway hoping that it will make them forget and provide a child with a better life. The one whom they adopt is the eight year old boy Cody Morgan (Jacob Tremblay), who was adopted many times, but had to return to the foster home for a variety of reasons. After not much of a thought, they decide that this is the child for them. Even though Jessie is a lot more concerned with parenting after the unexpected death of her son, she decides to bring all the love to Cody, and so does Mark.

So, what happens next? :: There are just happy moments with the three around, and they get along really well. Cody seems like a good child, and the the couple leaves nothing behind in loving him. One night, the couple are surprised to see beautiful butterflies of different colours fly across the living room. But when Cody wakes up, things get back to how it used to be, and the butterflies suddenly disappear without leaving any trace. Another night, after talking to Cody about their dead son, they find the child standing in front of them at the main hall, and see him disappear when Cody wakes up. Jessie is fascinated by this, and shows him many videos of his son so that there is a better chance that Cody dreams about him when asleep – she also tries to keep him asleep so that he can dream. But there is more to his dreams that they know – and it will be revealed soon.

What all awaits in the dreams and nightmares? :: Cody talks a lot about The Canker Man (Topher Bousquet) who is always with him. As this person is supposed to arrive when he is asleep, he mostly stays awake reading about butterflies and other nice things. He often talks about this creature having eaten his mother, and keeps making sure that this shadowy creature is not present around him just before going to sleep. With all these powers that Cody’s dreams have, there is only more that the powerful nightmares can do, especially during a bad day at school or at home. It is certain that nobody believes him when he talks about it, and not many people who have seen it remains alive, with the rest of them in the mental asylum. With such dark power waiting to be unleashed, does the couple realize what they are going to face?

The defence of Before I Wake :: Well, this is not the horror-fest that we need, but the beautiful horror that could do even better. There are enough scary moments, and along with the same, the main idea is superb – to have a mind that could create things, but good and bad, through the dreams which become reality; you sleep, but what you have in your dreams and nightmares become the reality for the people who are awake. When you are not in control of these, you don’t wish to sleep at all – nobody can blame you for the same. There is a nicely designed creature here, and the same can be said about the environment as well as the world that is created inside the dreams and nightmares. Mike Flanagan has provided us some of the most interesting horror movies including Ouija: Origin of Evil and Oculus, and Absentia and Hush are two highly rated ones from him too, with Gerald’s Game coming up based on the Stephen King’s novel of same name. You can always expect something special when he is around.

The claws of flaw :: This one could have surely added more frightening moments, and also should have picked up the pace faster in the beginning stages. We do have an idea early enough, but things just move rather slowly during those times. The Canker Man, the monster, should have been in the movie for longer too – so could have been the use of his powers, with sleeping and dreaming being part of the action on screen when least expected. With the scope for imagination to run wild as this is about dreams and nightmares, one is sure to say that this movie could have easily made it into the list of favourites on many lists with more attention. There could have been something similar to the magic which Guillermo del Toro had created with his creatures in more than one movie, but this one’s focus keeps shifting from what was its biggest strength among them all – the nightmare creature, or the Canker Man.

How it finishes :: There is one thing that we can be sure about – it is that Before I Wake is more than just a horror movie; it dares to be different in its treatment of its monster and how things change to reach that end which leaves a smile on our faces. It ends with more of a beautiful feeling than anything else – it is something that horror movies don’t usually have. As Kate Bosworth provides with a performance that makes us feel the dreams and nightmares, happiness and sadness, life and death – all at one place, we are made sure that this is the horror movie which is not just about being terrifying, but also about something more than that. It is the success of this kind of a movie that we see here, which is part a fairy-tale and also a horror movie, being the kind of movie that we wish to watch before we go for sleep and have our daily dose of dreams and nightmares. Here we have those which make Crimson Peak and Mama proud.

Release date: 31st July 2016
Running time: 97 minutes
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok, Topher Bousquet, Scottie Thompson, Justin Gordon, Kyla Deaver

beforeiwake

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.