Thursday 27 October 2022

What I'm Watching: October 2022


A quick recap of my month in movies, media and streaming, including Marvel's She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, A24's Bodies Bodies Bodies, Netflix's The Midnight Club, Orphan prequel First Kill and season one of NBC's supernatural procedural Manifest.

The Midnight Club (Netflix)

Spooky szn is here, which must mean we're due another 10-episode Netflix horror series from writer/director Mike Flanagan. The Midnight Club follows eight terminal teens living at a hospice, who sneak out of their rooms each night to swap scary stories by the fire. 

I'm pretty picky when it comes to horror, especially TV horror. If you're going to sit through eight to ten hours of spookiness, you want to know that it's the good shit. Which is why Flanagan's consistently fantastic Netflix output – The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass particularly – means I'll always give his latest a whirl, even if I'm a bit of scaredy cat at heart. 

Alas, I think The Midnight Club is the weakest of his four Netflix shows to date, and by some margin. That's not to say it's bad, just that this one didn't click with me. There's two threads being told in tandem here, with the overarching story of the teens, the hospice and its secrets, leading into the spooky little stories that they share. It's this latter element that I found really hit and miss. Some are spooky stories, while others are other genres with tinges of horror. One episode homages classic 40s noir films; another is an 80s sci-fi time travel tale, which takes its cues from The Terminator

The young ensemble is talented and the scares are plentiful, but something about The Midnight Club missed the mark for me.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Disney+)

I'll be the first to admit, that when this latest suite of Marvel projects was announced, I rolled my eyes at some of the titles – She-Hulk? Really? But I'm always happy to be proved wrong, and can report that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a lot of fun. 

The show – which stars Tatiana Maslany as Bruce Banner's cousin Jennifer Walters – is very different in tone and structure to past Marvel projects and also in keeping with the character (something I didn't know beforehand, having not read any of the comics).

With zippy courtroom plots that get sewn up in a nanosecond, whimsical fourth wall breaks that poke fun at other Marvel characters, and a 'guest of the week' structure that includes everyone from Charlie Cox's Daredevil to Megan Thee Stallion, it makes for a nice change of pace from something like Moon Knight, which felt really drawn out and I really didn't vibe with.

There's maybe one or two of the nine episodes that didn't land, and yeah, the visual effects are wonky as hell on She-Hulk herself, but on the whole this was actually good! Plus it's nice and short too, with each episode clocking in at under 30 minutes without credits, so we sped through all of them in three nights.

Bodies Bodies Bodies (In cinemas)

A group of 20-something friends find themselves stuck a remote mansion during a hurricane, so they choose to pass the time with some party games. When someone winds up dead, the group starts to suspect one another, and all of a sudden, the fractious faultlines in their friendships start to come to the fore.

With a cast of up-and-coming young stars –  – and a uniquely zoomer lingo and sensibility, Bodies Bodies Bodies certainly won't be for everyone, but does have its finger on the pulse. 

A horror comedy whodunnit, Bodies Bodies Bodies lives and dies on by its young ensemble cast, which includes the likes of Maria Bakalova (Borat 2), Myha'la Herrold (Industry), Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby), Amanda Stenberg (The Hate U Give), Pete Davidson (Saturday Night Live), with a bit of Lee Pace thrown in there for good luck. I think Herrold and Sennott are standouts, but on the group is really believable as a group of teens who have been friends forever and also can't stand one another. None of them, save for Bakalova's character, are particularly likeable, but there's also no joy to be found in them killing one another either. 

I think where this film will divide people is its tone and its lingo. The writing team (there are five credited writers on this film), have furnished the dialogue with lots of zoomer flourishes, in keeping with the zeitgeist I suppose – your mileage may vary on whether or not you want to listen to a bunch of spoiled, coked-up zoomers bitch about 'triggering' one another for two hours. The soundtrack is so grating too.

That may all sound overly negative, which I'm not trying to be – I did like Bodies Bodies Bodies, particularly the reveal at the end that shows you what the truth is. But I also have zero desire to watch it again, and would think twice about recommending it to anyone outside of the A24/Film Twitter Venn diagram. 

Orphan: First Kill (In cinemas)

So, I haven't seen the first Orphan film – but like everyone on planet Earth, I know about the twist. A twist so deeply weird that it transcends the film itself. So when my wife asked if we could see the new Orphan prequel (like the horror fiend that she is), I at least felt like I had something to work off, despite not having seen the original. 

Directed by William Brent Bell, First Kill is actually a pretty entertaining piece of horror trash. Like the first film, there's a devilish twist that upends the lens through which we view the film, except this time said subversion comes around the film's midpoint, and from that point on, First Kill pivots from passable prequel to 'holy shit, what a riot'. I'm not going to spoil it here, and don't even think about looking it up. Genuinely, it made me sit up straighter and lean in. 

You'll need to suspend your disbelief to buy 25-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman as a 10-year-old Estonian psychopath Esther, but all things considered she gives the role her all. I think the film's MVP is without a doubt Julia Stiles as Esther's American adoptive mum, Tricia. Spoiler alert, the title of the film gives away her and her family's fate, but not before Stiles has a lot of fun chewing the scenery and hamming it up. She knows exactly what kind of film she's in, and is having a lot of fun with it.

Manifest season one (Netflix)

A flight from Jamaica to New York mysteriously disappears en route, only to reappear five years later with all its passengers and crew completely none the wiser. To them, it's still the day they left; but for their friends, families and the rest of the world, they've been a good as dead for five years.

Manifest's core concept has shades of Lost and The Leftovers, in that it's built around this supernatural mystery, and it explores ideas of grief, family and conspiracy. It's this similarity to those shows that drew me in. What it lacks, however, is much more than its admittedly mouthwatering conceit. It lacks the panache and the weirdness of Lost; it lacks the craft and gravity of The Leftovers; and it lacks the acting talent of both, to sell the emotion and trauma of the story.

So far I've only seen the first seven episodes of Manifest, and having a hard time convincing myself to stick with it, what with literally everything else out there in the streaming landscape. I'd heard that it was good, so good that Netflix commissioned a fourth series because it ranked in their Top 10 for so many weeks. So maybe I'll dip back in for a few more episodes, to see if it takes off (pun intended) – but from what I've seen so far, I'm already losing interest. 

1 comment:

  1. Orphan: First Kill was way more fun than I expected. I had a great time with it. I haven't attempted The Midtnight Club yet. I've enjoyed Flanigan's other shows, but that one just didn't jump out at me.



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