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Friday
October 30th, 2020

ready or not spotlight pageSamara Weaving in a scene from the 2019 horror movie “Ready or Not.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

With Halloween coming this weekend, I’ve been ramping up my spooky viewing selections to close out the month, and recently, I came across a newer release, “Ready Or Not.” The movie follows newlywed Grace Le Domas (Samara Weaving), who is hunted by her new husband’s evil family as part of a twisted wedding night ritual involving dark forces. 

One of the first things I noticed, much like I noted with my “Haunting of Bly Manor” a couple weeks ago, was the the set design and scenery of the movie, because it is all absolutely gorgeous. The Le Domas mansion is absolutely stunning and is the very picture of a family manor, complete with a game room full of stuffed animal heads and fires perfectly roaring in the fireplaces throughout the place. The set design for the indoor scenes is done very well and like with “Haunting,” the outdoor scenery is also rather stunning and every outdoor scene is basically a perfectly composed vista. The people in charge of scouting for locations did a great job and everything looked great. 

Something else about the movie I really liked was the overall pacing. Everything in the story moves so quickly and so slickly that there’s not really a chance for anything to really lag, and the overall result is the movie being basically perfectly timed at 95 minutes. Any longer than that and I probably would have ended up being slightly bored before the end of the movie. Everything moves at the perfect speed and due to that, you remain hooked into the movie and you want to see what’s coming next. 

frankenweenie spotlight pageA scene from Tim Burton’s 2012 movie “Frankenweenie.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

With October in full swing, I’ve been looking for some spooktacular movies and shows to watch to get me in the Halloween frame of mind and recently on Disney+, I came across 2012’s “Frankenweenie,” which follows young Victor Frankenstein, who uses electricity to resurrect his recently deceased Bull Terrier, Sparky, but is later blackmailed by his peers into revealing how they can reanimate their own deceased pets and other creatures, resulting in mayhem during the town’s biggest event of the year. 

One of the things I liked about the movie was the animation – the stop-motion animation is heavily reminiscent of Burton’s other movies “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Corpse Bride” (both of which I’m a huge fan of), and like those movies, that animation style is done very well with “Frankenweenie.” The character design is also done very well and each character in the movie has a very distinct look and personality, including such as Victor’s hulking flat-topped schoolmate, Toshiaki, who looks a little like a certain man-made monster – those small homages are among the other details that make the movie a delight. The design for Sparky, aka “Frankenweenie” is also particularly adorable and I would have had no problems giving him a few scratches behind the ears. The other creatures created near the end of the movie were also very well done and even though this movie is a cartoon, there were a few of those creatures that legitimately creeped me out. 

Something else I liked was how there’s a good degree of realism throughout, especially near the beginning after Sparky dies (which in itself is a particularly heartbreaking scene to watch for those who have lost pets) – as Victor’s parents are trying to comfort him and tell him Sparky will always be in Victor’s heart and memories, he says “I don’t want him in my heart – I want him here, with me.” That struck a chord with me because that’s exactly how I felt after the loss of a few family pets in my life. And in the aftermath of the loss of a pet, you don’t entirely want to hear platitudes like that, you want that loved one with you again. So I liked how that balance was struck and how that realism was there. 

haunting of bly manor spotlight pageA scene from Netflix’s new series “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” a follow-up series to “The Haunting of Hill House.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

With October being in full swing, I’ve been searching for more spooky content to watch and this past weekend saw me paying a follow-up visit to Netflix for a new series. 

Last year I did a review for Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” and this past weekend, I binge-watched the show’s sequel “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” The show’s story young au pair Dani Clayton (Victoria Pedretti) hired by a man to look after his niece and nephew at the family country house after they fall into his care due to the deaths of their parents. After initially arriving and becoming charmed with the Bly Manor estate and the other members of the estate’s staff, Dani begins to notice some rather strange happenings and the viewers also learn the history of Bly Manor and how it came to be so haunted. 

One of the first things I have to give praise to is the scenery of the show because it is absolutely gorgeous. The Bly Manor house itself is absolutely stunning and is the very picture of an old, haunted family home, and the set design for the indoor scenes is done very well. The outdoor scenery is also rather stunning and every outdoor scene is basically a perfectly composed vista with the lighting and shrubs and other greenery highlighted. The people in charge of scouting for locations for the show did a great job choosing the one they did. 

Something else that deserves praise is the writing. The screenwriters did a great job writing each episode and infusing not only scares but also plenty of heft and heart, particularly with the last few episodes. The writing was something I’d particularly enjoyed about “The Haunting of Hill House” and it was great to know those writers were kept on for this series. It’s also worth noting the series relies more on mood and atmosphere rather than jump scare after jump scare, which is something I prefer in spooky content I watch. The only minor complaint I have along these lines is there were several instances where the pacing could have been considerably tightened up – the first few episodes are spent getting viewers acquainted with the main characters and then there’s only more exposition until the final few episodes, which is when the scares start to really ratchet up. Granted, there is plenty of story to tell, and everything does ultimately pay off, but there were admittedly a few times where I was wondering when the next part was finally going to get started. 

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