While fans of the possible franchise might feel cheated, Big Hero 6 proves that Disney did the right thing by bringing Marvel into its multi-billion dollar, multinational film fold. While concepts like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will continue to hold weight up and until the moment superheroes fall out of favor, the kid-friendly refashioning of this comic book property argues that the House of Mouse’s current creative approach has some incredible legs. Fiercely entertaining and unafraid to dabble in adult ideals, the end result rockets to the top of 2014’s array of age-appropriate titles.
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It would be easy to categorize Horns as a YA take on an a standard adult horror concept. The foundation for Alexandre Aja’s film is a book by Stephen King’s kid, Joe Hill (perhaps best known for his novels, Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2), and yet all the more mature ideas and concepts have seemingly been tossed aside for a hipster love story which turns on faith, fallen angels, and the various symbolism one can carve out of horns, crosses, snakes, and fire. In fact, had Aja simply focused on these obvious allusions, and backed away a bit from the quasi-paranormal Pacific Northwest love story between our hero, Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) and his comely gal pal Merrin (Juno Temple), we’d have more terror and less Twilight.
Still, this is a good movie. Not a great one, and one lacking significant scares, but entertaining and engaging, albeit in starts and spurts. In fact, this is much more a fantasy than a typical genre offering, Aja shifting tone as readily as we’re reminded of the dreary Seattle backdrop. Our story centers on a young man named Ig Perrish (Radcliffe) who is accused of killing his girlfriend, Merrin Williams (Temple) and for the last year or so, the police have been trying to put together a case against him. With the help of his best friend/lawyer, Lee (Max Minghella), he’s avoided prosecution, though the constant pressure from the media, and Merrin’s father (David Morse) is starting to wear on him.
Few filmmakers can claim a successful cinematic franchise. Fewer still have one based on their own original idea. So what does it say about horror maestro James Wan that he has not one, not two, but three wholly unique and undeniably profitable scary movie series to be proud of. Most recently, the Australian auteur delivered The Conjuring, a $20 million dollar revisit to old school ‘70s fright that netted nearly $320 million at the box office. With such numbers have come a prequel, Annabelle, and the inevitable sequel.
Before that, Wan was also responsible for the ingenious and devious dark ride, Insidious. Part One arrived in 2010 with little fanfare and fewer expectations and wound up bringing in almost $100 million in turnstile receipts. Part Two made even more money ($161 million) before the filmmaker turned things over to his partner in creepshow crime, Leigh Whannell (Part Three arrives in 2014). But before there was the subtle scares and throwback mentality of these two properties, Wan and Whannell rode a wave of rave reviews for a little something called Saw.
Welcome to the world of stupid horror, terror where the failed fear comes out of the character’s single digit IQ actions, not anything remotely realistic or relatable. It’s a place where no one ever turns on a lamp, where already scared individuals walk blindly into pitch black areas carrying only notoriously unreliable flashlights, where the police are never called or investigate very mysterious deaths, and where information is parsed out it narratively beneficial drips and drabs.
It’s a place where a house someone has lived in for years contains an easily discoverable secret room that no one has come across before (wouldn’t a home inspection and a title/blueprint search for tax/insurance purposes cover that?), and where clueless characters walk right into supernatural traps, clearly never learning their lesson the first 15 times around.
So… a man runs away from an impending avalanche, leaving his wife and two young children behind.
That’s it. That’s the basis for this talky, incomprehensibly narrow minded “view of modern marriage” being touted as some brilliantly enlightened masterpiece. Indeed, Force Majeure (Latin for “superior force”, though typically translated as “unavoidable accident”) is making the arthouse rounds in preparation for an end of the year run at the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar next February and what an over-praised pile of yellow snow it is.