Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Filmmakers somehow found a way to totally muck up the greatest Godzilla premise ever with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, a movie that is all things great and terrible at the same time.

The movie has some terrific monster battles, and the special effects are mind-bogglingly good. Godzilla squares off against legendary foes including the multiheaded Monster Zero and Rodan, while getting some much-needed assistance from the great Mothra. All of these monsters, including the title character, are wonders to behold. As for the online bitching about the movie’s appearance being dark and murky, the darkness was actually fitting, made things scarier and didn’t diminish the effects.

But … and this is a big but … I cannot endorse this movie. The human stuff in between and during the fighting is DREADFUL. Homo sapiens get too much screen time. The writing and staging is so bad that the film gets derailed every time it goes to military types in a war room.

The plot has the world in a state of disarray after the 2014 attacks on San Francisco and Las Vegas depicted in Godzilla. OK, that’s kind of cool. How do we dust ourselves off and find a way to co-exist with the likes of Godzilla and big-monster-moth things after the decimation of the Bay Area? Apparently, according to writer-director Michael Dougherty (Krampus), we deliver inane dialogue very slowly, and inexplicably play with a sonar gadget that calls out to the monsters in a manner that either chills them out or fires them up.

That gadget is created by Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), who lost a child in the San Francisco attack and is attempting to talk to the monsters with her daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) while husband/dad, Mark (Kyle Chandler), is off taking pictures on safari. There’s a moment when Mark seems to be sort of getting off while listening on headphones to the sounds of wolves tearing into the flesh of a dead deer. It’s a strange moment; I think he has some issues.

The gadget thing sends out a call that basically kicks off the monster apocalypse, and the action goes from full-on, nicely staged monster battles featuring beautiful close-ups and battered landscapes—to a bunch of lost actors sitting around in a situation room observing and commenting.

Bradley Whitford basically gets the role Jake Johnson had in Jurassic World—he’s the nerdy guy cracking wise from afar while monsters eat people, and military folks scratch their heads. While Johnson had great line deliveries and some funny moments, Whitford looks like the victim of a director who said, “Hey, Bradley, say some funny shit about monsters!” and Whitford had nothing.

Millie Bobby Brown is OK, but there’s not much she can do with material so bad. She has the movie’s dopiest moment: When fleeing Monster Zero as it is destroying Fenway Park, Godzilla comes up behind her; she turns and offers a calm, satisfied smile. There’s no paralyzing fear, and no screaming in terror at being between two massive charging monsters. Instead, there’s a calm, movie-star smile, because Godzilla might be her friend or some shit like that. Give me a break.

Brown has already completed her shots for Godzilla vs. Kong, due out next year, so she’s not escaping this franchise. Dougherty, who messed up this movie, has a resume with some OK low-grade horror films (Krampus, Trick ’r Treat). The next film’s director, Adam Wingard, is also a director of horror films (You’re Next, the awful Blair Witch reboot). Dougherty, who co-wrote this messy movie, helped write the next film as well. These are not good signs.

Perhaps Warner Bros./Legendary should stop putting large blockbusters into the hands of relatively new and mediocre horror-film directors. They got it right with Gareth Edwards on Godzilla (2014). They blew it with Dougherty, and I fear for the future.

Seriously … how is it possible to produce suckage with a great-looking movie featuring Godzilla, Rodan and Monster Zero in it? How does that happen? My summer is ruined, and it isn’t even summer yet.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

Horror fans have had a good year: It Follows, We Are Still Here, Bone Tomahawk and Ash vs Evil Dead were all fine entries into the genre.

While director Michael Dougherty’s Krampus isn’t quite up to the level of the aforementioned films, it does do the Christmas-horror genre proud in many ways.

This sucker has a seriously grim attitude that it sticks with until the very end. There will be no happy Christmas message in the land of Krampus, so don’t take this one in if you are looking to get into the holiday spirit. It’s more of a film for somebody who pisses and moans when the Christmas decorations show up at Macy’s before Halloween.

Max (Emjay Anthony) still believes in Christmas and Santa Claus, and he takes a lot of crap from family members as a result. When a bunch of relatives come to his house for Christmas, his cousins taunt him while his parents (Adam Scott and Toni Collette) deal with an annoying aunt and uncle (David Koechner and Allison Tolman). Throw evil Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell) into the mix, and Max’s family is in for one lousy yuletide season.

With only his grandmother (Krista Stadler) supporting his Christmas beliefs, Max tears up his letter to Santa and denounces the whole Christmas thing. That’s a bad move, because that torn-up letter goes straight to Krampus the Christmas demon, who is more than happy to screw up Christmas for everybody.

The skies go gray; snow falls in dangerous amounts; and the street on which Max lives gets a visit from sinister Krampus. OK, he’s only sort of sinister; he’s about as sinister as a PG-13 rating will allow. Damn these PG-13 rated horror films! If Krampus has a problem, it’s that the demon can never be too nasty or too scary. Dougherty proves he can get some decent scares with minimal gore, although I could imagine an unrated version featuring some blood spurts. Also, despite the PG-13 rating, the kids in the film are not safe. In fact, the kids have a really, really, really bad time.

Working with a fairly small budget, Dougherty relies mostly on practical effects for Krampus and his nasty little helpers. Save for some impressive-looking CGI featuring Krampus leaping upon rooftops, the monsters are often animatronic or people in costumes—and they look pretty good, all things considered.

This one is classified as a horror-comedy. It’s no laugh riot, but it does benefit from the presence of comedy vets Scott, Koechner and Collette, who get sporadic giggles among the scares. It’s great to have solid actors and actresses around, especially when they have to handle both humor and horror. However, it’s actually Conchata Ferrell who gets the bigger laughs.

Perhaps this film could’ve benefited from a few less attempts at humor, and more of an emphasis on the horror. I wanted this movie to be as nasty as possible, and I feel like it pulled a few punches in favor of humor. If you are going to include humor, it needs to be consistently dark and funny. The laughs in Krampus are mild, at best.

I’ll still mildly recommend Krampus; its bleak ending and overall commitment to sinister things puts it over the top. Dougherty already has a cult hit holiday film to his credit with Trick r’ Treat (2007). Thanks to Krampus, he shall hitherto be known as the Holiday Horror Film Guy.

Krampus is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews