The October Project, Day 13: The City of the Dead (1960)

I honestly don’t remember why exactly I picked this one up. Solid reviews, probably–that tends to drive the point between skipping and picking up. I don’t think I realized it was a Christopher Lee vehicle before I saw his name in the credits, though. It has the unique ability to have woven itself into a number of musical places (not always intentionally, I think) I’m familiar with: at a stretch, the Clash’s b-side to “Complete Control” shares its name with it, Rob Zombie sampled a line of Lee’s dialogue for the intro to “Dragula”, and, of course, the Misfits produced the track “Horror Hotel”–the American name for the movie (when they removed any and all lines pertaining to “Lucifer”, because people are stupid).

Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is sent to the town of Whitewood, MA on the advice of professor Alan Driscoll (Lee), an expert in the study of witchcraft, which Whitewood has a history of–predictably tied, in its 17th century history and containing state, to the burning of witches. She checks into the Raven Inn at his direction, which is run by one Mrs. Newless (Patricia Jessel, who bears a striking resemblance to the actress who portrays a witch burnt in flashback at the opening, mostly as she is the same actress). A peculiar stranger (Valentine Dyall), some research from a local descendant (Betta St. John), and the skeptical concerns of her brother Richard (Dennis Lotis) and boyfriend Tom (Tom Naylor) all come together in a story that is, well, about a town’s history of witchcraft.

There’s something frustrating or amusing about decades-old movies about witchcraft, depending on your viewpoint; in the modern age, most people with their wits about them roll their eyes at the idea of witchcraft and feel more guilt than fear when it comes to burnings. This is a bit of an obstacle, of course–insurmountable to the locked-down disbelief of some, and manageable, but tricky for those of us willing to set aside what seems to be leaning at least somewhat on the notion that this could happen.

Under John Moxey’s direction, George Baxt’s script does admirably with this territory. Movies of this age don’t come from a time when twists and “clever” plots, turns, and subtleties were expected norms, but this one does avoid being too obvious about these things. It feeds more than your average modern one does–it doesn’t have that history of clear horror expectation to massage to the effect of leading you on–but stops far short of explicitly stating or, especially, re-stating anything that is plot-relevant.

The score’s a bit weird–perhaps that’s a theme I’m unintentionally following?–as it includes the odd credit, “jazz by Ken Jones, which at the least includes the really weird choice to put some rather nice but largely upbeat jazz under a few driving scenes. Still, it leads to one of the most effective horror moments in the movie, so I can’t be too hard on it.

If your tolerance for older narrative conventions is low, I think it’s worth steeling yourself for this one, so long as you can also allow yourself to roll with a story about witchcraft–considering it primarily leans on the aspects that are entirely possible (rituals and sacrifice can happen, even if they don’t achieve anything, after all!).

The October Project, Day “12”: House of the Damned (1963)

I realized entirely too late that the movie runtimes of previous decades meant that my “Project” was not so completely off-set by my new job’s scheduling as I thought. House of the Damned happens to prove that most firmly: its runtime is a whopping 63 minutes. I squeaked it in before work yesterday, and have a few more I can hopefully wrangle in around a rather special alternate project (a “one-shot”, if you will, though this remains to be seen) this weekend is going to be largely consumed with.

Scott Campbell (Ron Foster) is called late at night by Joseph Schiller (Richard Crane) with news that the rather remote Rochester estate is to be opened up for lease or sale, as its prior tenant’s lease had expired. Schiller encourages Scott and his wife Nancy (Merry Anders) to spend the next day and night there due to the limited availability of hostelries in the area, saying that he and his new wife Loy (Erika Peters) will meet them there the day following. Scott’s architectural background means he’s there to survey before the home is listed, while the rumours about the estate’s origins (and original owner) lead to some questions–and a few rather unexpected events during their stay.

So, first off–I don’t know that I understand the title. Mrs. Rochester (who appears briefly, played by Georgia Schmidt)’s deep, dark history is that she once shot a man believed to be an intruder. The previous tenant was a bit off and disappeared. There’s nothing there to encourage us to think anyone is damned, or haunted. The events that occur are disarmingly peculiar (largely via the silent appearances of John Gilmore, Frieda Pushnik, and a relatively young Richard Kiel) but similarly avoid any such associations. I realize it’s all marketing, but it’s pretty weird all the same.

Now–the film itself, it’s a bit of a curiosity. I think it’s interesting that it does those things that make the title seem off: at no point is the story over-selling itself, and it remains reasonable. The eerie moments are eerie because they are unexplained when they happen, but not impossible despite that. The score…well, it’s not the (awful) score for The Legacy, but it does still over-step itself pretty strongly. It’s oppressive and a bit suffocating in its attempts to define tone and atmosphere, and sometimes seems to be doing so despite itself, and despite the movie–as if it realizes there’s not any greater nuance to tone to be had at the moment, but it simply must do something new! It’s like a non-atonal free jazz, in the worst possible sense, if you will–wandering off and seemingly improvisational, but staying within the expected bounds of the decade’s major film scores, and at least not weirdly juxtaposed.

In the end, it’s not a waste of an hour, but it’s not something I’d leap for, either. Its small cast and indications of budget restrictions are put to good use, and the script has a fine edge to it, as do the actors’ performances–even if sometimes they seem to be juggling the weight between the two, creating a peculiar effect of good performances that seem off, or good dialogue that seems off. It’s its own experience in that, if nothing else.

The October Project, Day 11: White Noise (2005)

Horror’s a difficult genre to deal with properly, in terms of sifting through the stuff to separate wheat from chaff and dross from gold. Of course, one of the more difficult things is dealing with the complete and total (absence of) shock that is the non-binary nature of this process. There are few (if any) critics or even trends (ie, Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, etc) that are meaningful to a horror fan, because too much of the score is affected by people who simply cannot accept some parts of the genre. As a result, short of a unanimously positive score, or very high-leaning one (even then, there are issues with trusting such a thing), it’s impossible to know what drove ratings downward. This means that sometimes I take gambles, despite reputations, and pick things up that are largely panned. White Noise (with an 8% at RT, 5.5 on IMDb, and 30 on Metacritic) is obviously an example of that.

Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) is a re-married father to his son Mike (Nicholas Elia), and lives rather comfortably on his income from an architecture firm with his new wife Anna (Chandra West), a best-selling writer. When Anna disappears, Jon understandably begins to fall to pieces. The socially clumsy appearance of Raymond Price (Ian McNeice) involves stated confirmation of his wife’s death, but he dismisses Price, who claims to have received posthumous contact. When Anna’s body is found, an unexpected moment leads Rivers back to Price as he begins to explore the investigations of electronic voice phenomena (EVP).

There are a fair number of striking things about this movie–mostly on the technical end. Geoffrey Sax and everyone involved in sound and visual deserves credit that the amalgamated scores most definitely don’t indicate. There’s a fascination with technology–whether relevant to the processes of exploring EVP or simply in general. Close-ups of traffic lights, or, particularly, the mechanisms in analogue, tape-based recording, are held in sharp focus at various moments. The palette is largely matched to the one implied through the thematic content–very monochrome, very sterile in some ways. Not Kubrick-sterile, but clean and white through much of it, fittingly, for a film that is often about grief and grieving, in its fashion.

Sound is mixed in unusual fashion–drawing attention without distracting. Dialogue is not always perfectly audible, when the scene is already conveyed cleanly by Keaton and the rest of the cast, as well as the events and setting around them. The score, by Claude Foisy, is the antithesis of the last one I heard, hitting all the right notes (ahem) to help to describe scenes when words are unspoken or unheard. The EVP itself is mixed well enough that it doesn’t become unnaturally clear, with some recitation from the in-movie listeners where it makes sense, just in case it’s not even naturally clear at points.

Niall Johnson’s story, too, makes interesting choices: the first good bit has nothing to do with the supernatural, and has everything to do with setting up the Rivers’ life, and Jonathan’s grief over Anna’s disappearance and eventually confirmed death. Price is jittery and clumsy about his attempts to assist via a means that Rivers finds absurd and ridiculous. When it begins to shift, it doesn’t turn into a simplistic ghost story, or a crusade against evil, or an attempt to “save” Anna’s soul or anything like that, and doesn’t lose sight of its creepier elements.

If there’s one thing that did really bother me, it was just leaning on EVP as anything real, though that comes down to something too personal to be meaningful as a film-making choice. For plenty of people, that will make things much scarier, more disturbing. When I was younger, I imagine it would have done the same to me.

In the end, this is definitely one where I am pretty well lost on what is so loathed about this one–certainly it’s not ground-breaking, or the seed of things to come or anything that was unfairly denied reward or award (beyond the financial, which it got). It was, so far as I can see, strangely maligned, as if it were expected to be something other than what it was. Which, in my experience, is one of the most common criticisms of horror movies, to my ever-lasting confusion. You don’t need to run out and see this one, but I don’t think doing so would be near so awful as you may have been led to believe.

The October Project, Day 10: The Legacy (1978)

I feel as though it says something when a movie’s trailer likes to linger–repeatedly, no less!–on the film’s poster. It’s kind of an odd thing to do, though in this case I can’t blame them too much–it’s a pretty great (if surreal and confusing) poster.

Maggie Walsh (Katharine Ross) and Pete Danner (Sam Elliott) are called to England to perform an interior decoration job with a $50,000 advance, but little to no explanation. Though Pete is suspicious, Maggie convinces him and off they go. An unexpected accident drops them at the lap and estate of Jason Mountolive (John Standing), who invites them to stay for tea and then the evening. Soon, they find more guests arriving: Clive (Roger Daltrey–yes, that Roger Daltrey), Karl (Charles Gray), Jacques (Lee Montague), Barbara (Hildegard Neil), and Maria (Marianne Broome), all of whom are there at the request of Mountolive, but who begin to die in fashions that cross the line from accident to, “there’s probably something supernatural happening here.”

Richard Marquand’s name as director was sticking in my brain somewhere and I couldn’t figure out why–oh, right. He directed Return of the Jedi! He also directed Eye of the Needle, which is one of those movies I owned, and “watched” and failed to pay attention to (Shame on me! It’s Donald Sutherland!). I’m not one of the haters of Jedi (insofar as I still have an opinion, it remains my favourite of the Star Wars movies). I know Ross best from Donnie Darko (I’m not kidding), but know her in something closer to contemporary context from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of course. Elliott I know from…um, The Big Lebowski? He apparently did have a bit part in Butch, too, so that’s kind of fun. Daltrey at first seems shaky, but rapidly becomes quite admirable in his still rather small role.

And, with that: this is a rickety movie. It’s tonally out of its own mind, and shudderingly lurches between competent, beautiful, and mind-bogglingly stupid. Elliott and Ross come off oddly in the opener alone (especially Elliott), but later both have numerous scenes that really shine (Ross’s trailer-captured moment of madness, for instance). The guests other than the famous one are far more consistent, but they’re in the mostly-more-consistent portion of the movie, so I’m not sure what that says about any of the cast. The score is alternately pretty great and incredibly insipid, encouraging anyone to think very strongly before considering the hiring of Michael J. Lewis, who was responsible for it.

Some things are left weirdly unexplained–it’s hinted that this meeting is the actual reason they were called over to England, but no one seems to want to tell them that directly, letting both of them stew in confusion over why they are there and no one seems surprised. Your usual haunted/possession/creeping-up horror mystery stuff gets the more usual, “IN CASE YOU HAVE NOT CAUGHT ON, LET US OPENLY STATE THIS PART” explanations a few times, which seems weird, with what’s not mentioned. There’s some fun to the way they’re left to their own devices when attempting to escape–particularly in the sardonic smirks everyone gives them in the distance (at least one instance of which is exceptionally great, since it defies all expectations–even though that makes other scenes rather questionable).

But let’s go back to the score. Kiki Dee sings a flaccid singer/songwriter pile of dross (lyrics by Gary Osborne) that is so awful and wildly out of place that one wonders what possessed anyone to put it in there at all–but, apparently, John Coyne’s novelization of the film was pushed (via marketing) up the bestseller list, so the cynical explanation is, “Let’s put a song in here and push that up the charts!!” (instead, it was never released as far as I can see–so, I have no idea). This schmaltzy, saccharine nonsense is used as a thematic point in the score, too, drippy strings and even a bloody harp, and it’s almost funny how totally ridiculous it is–well, until the wah-based guitar escape track when they manage to do something interesting with their attempt to escape and accidentally fall into some kind of temporally confused escape scene from a cop movie.

I don’t know–it’s so weird, the movie seems to falter on direction and get carried by the good bits of the score and the script, then the script falters and the direction catches up, but then the music falls apart again..it’s an amazingly ramshackle beast, that somehow lumbers its way all to the end without completely collapsing, even if you are left kind of scratching your head when it pulls into the station–“This is the thing that we heard coming down the track…?”

Oh, and, final note: I spent a while getting this really confused with Prophecy from about the same year for some reason. Which shouldn’t be confused with The Prophecy.

The October Project, Day 9: The Woods (2006)

I only know the name Lucky McKee from his episode of Masters of Horror, if I’m not mistaken. A horror-loving friend may (ahem) have mentioned May to me (or an issue of Fango or something), but nothing really settled. The Woods got iffy reviews, but I saw it was his, combined that with the vague ruminations on his reputation that I know I heard somewhere (but had no viewings from me to match up with), and picked this one up cheap forever ago. Which, to be fair, is the story of basically all of my “sight-unseen” purchases.

Heather Fasulo (Agnes Bruckner) is taken by her parents (Emma and Bruce Campbell–no relation, though) to the Falburn Academy after a troubled (ie, arsonist) history. Taken in by Mrs. Traverse (Patricia Clarkson) and her staff, Heather finds herself bonding somewhat with the timid Marcy (Lauren Birkell), while constantly confronted with the bullying of Samantha (Rachel Nichols), while a school legend about the past and some increasingly peculiar events and dreams swirl around the lot of them.

I’ve not written movie reviews this constantly in a very long time (around five years or so), and this was the first time I found myself briefly perusing other comments on one–afterward, of course. While there’s a curious air of dismissive distaste–the kind that says the movie is absolute garbage, terrible, awful, etc–and this is fascinating in-and-of itself (in that I can’t really believe it as much more than hyperbole), it was far more interesting to see that my own flashes of Suspiria were seen by more people than I expected. Not that I imagine I’m unique in seeing Suspiria, obviously, but I thought it was a silly connection for my brain to make. Perhaps not, it seems!

The cast is really in top form here, with everyone selling the dimensions of their characters–Marcy’s timidity is not shed in a final burst of revenge against bullying, but in a more realistic place, for instance–and Bruckner definitely keeps a grip on her leading role without faltering. Bruce actually gets to be an actor, too, rather than Bruce Campbell™, which is nice, particularly because he doesn’t flop at it.

Really, though, it’s what comes out of David Ross’s script and McKee’s direction that makes the movie something interesting. For the first ten minutes, four characters are on-screen, but only two of them speak, even when the others are asked questions. Alice (Heather’s mother) and Mrs. Traverse let neither Joe (Bruce) nor Heather get in a word edgewise, and the two of them seem to largely accept this. It’s a nice way of establishing the poor nature of Heather’s relationship with her mother, and why it’s the one that dominates her home life. That kind of unstated short-hand informs a lot of the movie’s movement, with its aversion to explicitly laying out many things, particularly the more supernatural elements.

Shots are distinctive and thoughtful, with low angles, Dutch angles, and very methodical, ponderous camerawork building up a lot of it–but never in a distracting, disorienting sort of fashion. It comes out very naturalistic, and the choice of odd shots is used very clearly as a means of story-telling, to inform about the character or setting in-frame. This means that an early, rather unpleasant dream of Heather’s was really quite well-done, in a fashion that I can’t readily recall feeling so taken aback by in quite some time, if at all. It’s not some kind of masterwork moment from which everyone should learn, but its comfortable placement in non-dream story could be legitimately helpful all the same. It avoids drowning it in a soup of “DREAM” effects (wobbliness, blur, echoes–that sort of thing) and jump cuts, but doesn’t lose sight of the strange and illogical progressions from which dreams are made, either.

Some folks I saw were inclined to, somewhat justifiably, rate the style and atmosphere of the movie over its plot, but I felt like the way it was carried out sold the story, and kept itself just off-the-norm enough to not feel too incredibly tired. It’s still a supernatural movie about a boarding school and all that, so some very minor points are inevitable, and it certainly forms its normal elements from much of the expected conflict to be derived from that setting, but the way that it tells the story with the grace of plenty of dialogue deadspace, relying on visuals, and avoiding spelling out how the supernatural works (something to which I remain largely opposed), it ends up propping itself up quite nicely. It’s not, again, some kind of revelatory masterpiece, but neither is it a boring re-tread of any kind.

The October Project, Day 8: Child’s Play (1988)

I watched this before at some point, but still can’t figure out when exactly–it was this DVD, but it could’ve been any time in the last six years as a result (yes, I’ve got a database of purchase dates…). Still, I decided to go with that, since this is functioning as a “fill-in” for the night movies got pushed aside for concerts and lots of driving.

Serial strangler Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif) is pursued by cop Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) into a toy store where a few gunshots, a lighting bolt, and a strange chant leave him dead with a devilish look at the dolls that surround him on the floor. Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) struggles to support her Good Guys cartoon-loving son Andy (Alex Vincent) on his birthday, being assisted by her friend Maggie (Dinah Manoff) in acquiring a Good Guy doll for him from a back-alley peddler who comes upon one rather by chance. To the surprise of no one who has seen posters or home-media-release covers, that doll, Chucky, seems to have something a bit odd about him…

One of the scattered early memories of my life comes from seeing the (1990) Child’s Play 2 poster in the grocery store my family frequented, which also rented movies out. I didn’t start going for horror until I was somewhere between eight and ten, so this was still in the terrifying range of things (that poster remains vaguely disturbing, if you ask me). Living dolls are a source of terror to many (Magic, numerous anthology bits, like the Tales from the Crypt episode that also scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid, a short that used to air as an interstitial on the early Sci-Fi Channel, a Goosebumps book, Trilogy of Terror, and so on) so it was an area ripe with creeps.

Even before I started watching it, the (oddly chosen) trailers on the Brainscan DVD had dropped an idea in my head: what does the absence of sequels do to horror movie reputations? On there, I saw trailers for I Know What You Did Last Summer and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Many devoted horror fans are at least somewhat selective about sequels (or prequels, or sometimes originals). What would we think of A Nightmare on Elm Street without its sequels? Would Freddy have acquired quite the cultural capital that he did? If, even more impacting, Jason Voorhees never really made his image so familiar–which took at least three movies? What if Michael Myers hadn’t returned so quickly and Halloween had gone anthology on the second movie, preventing the more assured expectation of his appearance in the long-maligned-for-bad-reasons Halloween III: Season of the Witch?

So that was crawling through the back of my mind throughout this one–what if we didn’t have the increasingly weird, blackly-humoured sequels? What if this was just that cool, one-off living doll movie? I’ve got to say, I think its reputation would have been somewhat less tarnished. Mind you, much like the aforementioned slasher series, which spawn things like hating Halloween III simply because it lacked Myers, have their fans and aren’t in any way inherently inferior, they’re just a different tack on all of it. But if this had remained self-contained, it might be seen differently.

Hicks and Vincent sell the hell out of their relationship, I have to say. Vincent’s one of the best of the child actors I’ve seen. His ridiculously awful “breakfast in bed” for his mom looks like a really young kid going overboard–spoilt, maybe, but not in a way that makes him entitled, so much as able to get away with doing some messy stuff on good intentions. His excitement about the Good Guys cartoon and merchandising is completely believable, and it was a brilliant stroke to keep him in his self-described “Good Guys pjs” throughout a lot of the movie, as that’s exactly the kind of silliness a lot of us participate in as kids, at least since the 80s. And Hicks, man, they are paired so perfectly–Karen clearly loves Andy, and wants to do everything she can for him, but reacts as you’d expect someone to when the kid they love is swearing their doll-friend is alive as people start dying.

Sarandon is no slouch as Norris, with the right amount of patience mixed into his incredulity and head-shaking frustration with Andy, and eventually Karen. And, Dourif…well, it’s Brad Dourif. Chucky’s voice is intimidating, threatening, and menacing, just as it should be. He sells the reasons for Chucky acting as he does, in violence, in that they are tied in to his plans from still being human.

And so that’s where the goodness comes from: the script and acting keep everything around Chucky very well-grounded and at least “movie-realistic”. The effects slide between the not-quite-as-good-but-understandable double-for-Chucky and animatronics that give him the right unnervingly stiff movements.

I don’t know how things would be different if the series hadn’t continued for certain, but, like First Blood or Rocky or Hellraiser or even (somewhat appropriately) Puppet Master, it can be unfair to judge a single movie based on a series, and also pretty wildly inaccurate. This is definitely a very solid movie, taken in isolation from its descendants.

The October Project, Day 7: Brainscan (1994)

First off: this one was delayed by, well, a four-hour drive to a concert and a four-hour drive back. Plus, it’s Wednesday, which meant endless socializing over new comic books. Still, I said “per day”, not on day, and I am still in a good place to catch up. One more Coheed and Cambria concert under the belt, so, no complaints.

Anyway, now I’ve got the 90’s in for the month, and not the early 90s as I first suspected for some reason, which would’ve put it pretty close to the previous entry and thus kind of negated their separation. Ah, well.

Michael (Edward Furlong) is a big horror fan, which we know because he calls Fangoria “Fango”, as fans are wont to do (I’ve got a very large stack of them on a shelf in this very room, of course). He and his friend Kyle (James Marsh) discover an ad for a game called “Brainscan” in an issue (oddly, the infamous running-out-of-air-from-Total-Recall cover, which came out in 1990 with the movie–a years before Furlong even did T2). Because it purports to be the ultimate experience in grueling terror (wait, sorry, that’s Evil Dead), Michael decides to call the number in the ad, setting aside his…observations of neighbour Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves). Once it arrives in the mail–without his actual order–he finds himself thrust into the ultimate murder fantasy, with the horrifying realization that it may not include that “fantasy” part at all, only becoming more warped when the Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) comes out of his television.

Man, what a weird friggin’ movie. Seeing as it was my first viewing, this ended up reminding me of the (later) eXistenZ from David Cronenberg, but mostly just on the grounds of horror associations and virtual reality. Frank Langella plays a detective named Hayden who’s investigating the murders, and comes off as intensely creepy, in a weird way. Creepy in the sense that you could believe he’s investigating to cover up murders he performed himself, when mostly he’s just a cop pursuing a murderer.

Smith plays the Trickster in a weird fashion–something like Howie Mandel in Little Monsters, with an uncomfortable relationship with the protagonist considering his monstrous nature. Is he slapstick humourous? Dark and threatening? Somewhere inbetween? Hell, I don’t know, and I just watched the damned thing. Certainly, the humour isn’t an accident, but the whole thing is so bizarre–it doesn’t feel like hopscotch-type genre-switching, nor cleanly blurred lines between them, so much as a fine puree that comes out working but still feels peculiar.

It’s actually quite interesting to see how things are mixed in, though, as we have a principal pulling the “horror makes you an awful person” argument, but we also have the Trickster strongly implying negatives about Michael for the same, though with the twist of insisting that voyeurism is inferior to action (don’t try this at home, kids…?). The soundtrack is a fun mixture of industrial, metal, and hard rock, with Tad, Pitchshifter, White Zombie, the Butthole Surfers (on into their Electriclarryland phase, though), and Khanate-precursors OLD. Lots of Earache. The label, not the bodily problem.

There’s a slew of off-beat references adorning the set decoration, especially unbelievable amounts of Aerosmith advertising, in two different people’s bedrooms, on newspapers–I don’t know if bands do product placement, but certainly Aerosmith has been willing, from comic books to video games themselves. That aside, there’s also a poster for Pleased to Meet Me (the Replacements are always welcome!) and an out-of-focus-but-still-recognizable CD copy of Screaming for Vengeance (Judas Priest certainly feeling more appropriate).

Maybe all that makes sense–there’s perhaps the sense of a music video-era tone to it all. Not the editing and directing style of one (this has a lot of pretty normal shots, honestly), just the volume and flash. Michael’s room is ridiculous, and odd, with its centralized entertainment center, and his “Igor” phone system (you kind of have to see it).

It’s definitely a movie I’d have difficulty recommending to a lot of people–an appreciation for the low-budget, very strange, but not Lynch-strange, just “pet project” strange (though whose it would be, I’m not sure–perhaps Brian Owens, who doesn’t get Andrew Kevin Walker’s screen-writing credit, but the “original material” one). I might have held out for something more to indicate the gaming-state when Michael starts it up (a superimposition of the timer, for instance), but that’s a minor quibble. It’s a weird movie, but doesn’t much deviate from the horror-inflected “virtual reality” movies and setpieces (like the one in…whichever Nightmare sequel that was), but it also avoids feeling rote.

Caveat spectator, I guess?

Oh, and it was this cover, which Kyle even describes to Michael.