It is a time of transition here at WI/WO. For one thing, we are in the middle of switching to an unlimited-usage Internet provider, after months of overage charges that are starting to push the Internet bill past rent to the top of the monthly expenditures list. Also, we have recently been informed of a magical service that allows Canadian Internet users to trick Netflix and other such services into thinking the user is based in America. Rest assured, we will test this service and let you know if it works in the coming weeks.
For this week's picks, the theme is horror:
Every time I have trouble finding a Netflix lowlight, I simply take a stroll through the grotesque carnival that is the horror category. Here is where Netflix hides many of its professional-grade garbage, from no-budget alien flicks to a seemingly endless parade of movies whose posters feature beautiful women in various stages of distress and undress.
So this week, I made a concerted effort to find something good and horror-related on Netflix, and I came up with The Mist . The film, like roughly half of all movies ever made in the history of movie-making, is based on a story by Stephen King. It is essentially about a group of people who get caught up in some kind of storm that shrouds an entire town in a thick fog, and so must take shelter in a local supermarket.
But really, this movie is about the monsters. In most cases, I'm not a fan of special effects, CGI or anything else that feels like its creation involved putting actors in front of a blue screen and asking them to use their imaginations. But the creatures that populate The Mist are just horrifying and creepy in a very biological, squirmy way that just works.
As with most movies based on Stephen King stories, The Mist is a kind of light morality play with a dash of Twilight Zone curveball irony thrown in. The bad guys are easy to hate, and the good guys are mainly of the I-just-want-to-do-right-by-my-kids variety.
But really, what you're watching this movie for is the monsters. This is the kind of thing you switch on, and then spend about half the movie throwing popcorn at the screen and yelling, "What the hell is wrong with you don't go outside the thing with tentacles will eat your face."
Two-Headed Shark Attack
Even from the movie's promotional poster, which features two bikini-clad, about-to-be-devoured water-skiers, it is clear that the creators of THSA have put themselves in a bit of a bind. Sure, a two-headed shark is scary, but is it really twice as scary as a single-headed shark? I mean, has anyone ever been insufficiently frightened of a regular shark because it lacked a second forehead? Has any shark attack victim interviewed on a local TV station ever uttered the sentence, "Yeah, sure, I lost three limbs, but I'm just thankful it wasn't a two-headed shark. That would have sucked."? In reality, a two-headed shark is a horribly inefficient platform on which to rest what I'm sure would have otherwise been a taut and cerebral horror thriller.
Here are some of the things you will learn in the first five minutes of THSA :
1) Violently blinking the entire screen bright red is the director's way of letting you know something bad and shark-related is happening, potential seizure inducement be damned.
2) One of the cameras has been placed directly inside a shark mouth.
3) THSA is a gift from our good friends at The Asylum, the ultra-low-budget film studio responsible for most of the schlock in Netflix, nay, the world. Other Asylum hits (besides the ones previously featured in this space) include Super Cyclone ("A storm the size of a continent ... that threatens to destroy us all!") and something called Golden Winter , which I know probably isn't about what I think it's about, but I'm still not going to risk finding out.
4) By far the biggest name in THSA is Carmen Electra. Unaided by Internet research, a 10-minute mental deliberation on why exactly Carmen Electra is famous turns up virtually no leads, except perhaps that she might at one time have been married to the third-most famous member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
5) The bulk of the action revolves around the complex and multi-layered interplay between a two-headed shark and what appears to be a floating nautical studies school for bored underwear models. Said models are attacked by said shark and the survivors wash up on an island and then more stuff like that happens.
6) The dialogue was written by a ham sandwich.
Grunter Grimm writes:
WATCH IT: Breaker Morant – A fascinating adventure/courtroom drama about the Boer War. The story is told in flashbacks of three Australian troopers unjustly court-martialed to appease the sensibilities of the higher-ups.
WATCH OUT: The Master of Disguise – The debate continues to rage over whether this is the worst movie ever made.
Paul Bisanti writes:
WATCH IT: Mary and Max – Saw this a few months ago, so it may or may not have fallen prey to the Netflix "hide good content" algorithm, but it is a charming story (based on real life events) of two unsuspecting penpals. One is a little girl with low self-esteem from Austrailia, and the other a middle aged, overweight Aspergers suferer.
WATCH OUT: Godspell – Weather you are Christian or not, this is terrible viewing. Its just weird. This trippy 70s musical came out nine days after Jesus Christ Superstar (which is great viewing, btw) and failed categorically in all departments. I only got 15 minutes in because I like to watch train wrecks, I suppose.
C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear) is a beautiful movie by Canadian (Quebecois) director Philippe Falardeau – a sort of dark comedy, with the added bonus of music by Patrick Watson.
War of the Arrows – Incredible film. Highly recommend it.
For more must-sees, I recommend a couple of crime-y flicks (assuming they don't vanish in the next seven days – although sometimes they come back):
Thief, the debut feature film from Michael Mann. James Cann plays an ex-con recently freed from incarceration who goes right back to picking scores, but there's a lot more depth to his character and the plot here, and a huge amount of the edgy style and themes Mann would become known for later in his career. The film has faded a little bit into the background in recent years, but is more than worth revisiting (not least for the amaaaazing Tangerine Dream score).
A Prophet, the 2009 crime thriller from Jacques Audiard, is a bit long but more than compelling and inventive enough to check out. A Muslim teenager living in France is picked up and thrown in jail on a minor charge, and gradually enters the orbit of the Corsican thugs who run things on the inside. Again, this sounds like something we've heard before, but it eventually hits the scale of transcendental epic, with towering, gritty performances all-around. Must-see.
Really appreciate you all digging deep into Netflix for these recommendations, some high-quality stuff! What else should Netflix Canada watchers download or avoid? Answer in the comments.