Michael vs. Thomas: DARLING and HOLIDAYS

Michael Rich and our Editor-in-Chief love horror films and hate each other. In the spirit of the great horror face-offs of history, they’ll be going toe-to-toe in the ring and covering the horror films of Netflix in Michael vs. Thomas. 

michael vs. thomas darling

Logline: A lonely, mysterious girl explores a strange mansion in New York City — she better be careful which door she opens.

Thomas: This is a horror film with a lot of potential, but I can’t say I didn’t find it disappointing at the end of the day. They do such a good job of establishing a really tense atmosphere, only to ruin it (in my opinion) with cheap, entirely random jump scares.

Michael: I shit my pants watching this. Yes, the moments of rapid, strobe-like editing provide jump scares. However, they also create a disturbing and unpredictable hallucinatory atmosphere that  had me truly terrified.

Thomas: I’m sure you’ve seen INSIDIOUS 2; this was comparable for me, as while I have to admit that I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, it was only BECAUSE I could never predict when the next jump scare was going to come, much like that Blumhouse vehicle. It felt like an immature tactic. Furthermore, they make it so obvious whenever something’s going to happen with the string screeches and piano slams! With a little more poise, this could have been a modern horror masterpiece.

Michael: It’s a stretch to call DARLING a modern horror masterpiece, but it is incredibly unique in its arthouse, semi-experimental style. I’m not sure the average audience member is going to connect with this movie. Hardcore horror fans, though, should at least appreciate it, if not love it.

Thomas: I’m actually not too versed on this, but apparently a lot of people are pissed about its connection to Polanski’s films that are more on the horror side. Any thoughts on that? Hopefully we can agree that the chief takeaway from this is Lauren Ashley Carter. Even if I thought that her character’s sanity frayed too soon, I’d love to see her in more films of this nature.

Michael: DARLING unabashedly wears its Polanski homages on its sleeve, but I think director Mickey Keating puts enough of a spin on its themes and narrative to make it standalone as its own unique thing. This isn’t your typical horror film, or even movie, so I don’t think it’s fair to expect your average descent into insanity.

Thomas: Well, I certainly thought it was better than the director’s other big film, CARNAGE PARK, and I can’t say that it didn’t keep me engaged, even if I thought it didn’t play fair. I’d be willing to give it a recommend.

Michael: I’ve seen CARNAGE PARK three times now. Screw you, it’s awesome. Between that and DARLING, Keating is quickly becoming one of my favorite new genre directors.

Thomas: Well hopefully CARNAGE PARK joins Netflix soon, because I think it’s as middling as they come. But we’ll save that for another time…

michael vs. thomas holidays

Logline: Christmas. Mother’s Day. Easter. New Year’s Day. They’re not always the most wonderful times of the year.

Michael: Horror anthologies are quickly becoming the new found footage. In the last couple years, I’ve seen a number of generic anthologies that are just a collection of loosely connected short films. Sadly, I think HOLIDAYS falls in that category.

Thomas: Agreed. I still think TRICK ‘R TREAT and the first installment of THE ABCS OF DEATH are the only “necessary” horror anthologies of recent memory. However, I thought three segments here were at least mildly entertaining: “St. Patrick’s Day”, “Easter”, and “Halloween”.

Michael: “Valentine’s Day” and “Father’s Day” were my favorite. You bring up TRICK ‘R TREAT. You see, that movie cleverly intertwines all its individual stories into a greater narrative. That, to me, is interesting. Eight entirely separate short films just based around holidays is not very interesting to me. Don’t you think that most of the narratives didn’t even take advantage of the holidays?

Thomas: Right, I think that a generic holiday theme is not strong enough of a gimmick to skate on, a la THE ABCS. And I would further agree that the narratives don’t take advantages of the holidays, except for “St. Patrick’s Day” and “Easter”, which I thought at least offered clever twists on common knowledge of those holidays in particular, even if they were more humorous than frightening. You gotta love the Jesus/Easter Bunny monster of “Easter”.

Michael: Oh god. I did love how the little girl in the segment was scared because she heard Jesus was supposed to rise from the grave. The payoff on almost every short is pretty weak. The majority of them have decent buildup, but go nowhere.

Thomas: I’m curious to hear what you liked about “Valentine’s Day” and “Father’s Day”, as I found “Valentine’s Day” to be eye-rollingly (if that’s an actual word, it shouldn’t be) obvious, and “Father’s Day” to be confused as well.

Michael: “Valentine’s Day”, while predictable, felt like a full narrative. “Father’s Day” doesn’t have a great payoff, but the build reminded me of “The Accident” segment in SOUTHBOUND, perhaps my favorite film of this year. (And also a horror anthology.)

Thomas: Hoo, doggy, I disagree with that statement as well, so hopefully SOUTHBOUND will join CARNAGE PARK on Netflix soon… One last thing: what did you think of “Halloween,” Kevin Smith’s segment? I thought it was the only one that was actually kinda unsettling; that final image (or lack thereof) stuck in my head for awhile afterwards.

Michael: That segment was just Kevin Smith being Kevin Smith. It wasn’t bad, just kind of what you’d expect from him. I wasn’t unsettled. By the way, I’ve been holding my internet tongue, but ABCS OF DEATH is perhaps the worst horror anthology I’ve ever seen. We’re on complete opposite ends of the anthology spectrum.

Thomas: Well, what do you know — both installments are on Netflix…

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