The Addams Family is one of those franchises that has different eras that have their die-hard supporters. Fans of the original TV show generally are not the sort who are highly passionate about the original Charles Addams comics. Nor are the fans of the 1990s films super involved with singing the praises of the original show. That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. It is just that there are different Addams-eras, and they have their principal audience.
Now we enter a new era with 2019’s animated adaptation of The Addams Family. The question that must be asked is whether this take on the family will inspire any similar passions.
They’re creepy and they’re kooky…
We all know The Addams Family and know the ear-worm theme song. We know the basic archetypes. When you go to see a reboot of The Addams Family you already know what to expect. The film follows the origins and the travails of the Addams Family, a group of strange individuals assembled on a haunted house on a hill. The family’s patriarch, Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac), and the matriarch, Morticia (Charlize Theron), raise their two children Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). They are often accompanied by Gomez’s mother, Grandmama (Bette Midler), and his brother, Fester (Nick Kroll). The family also lives with Thing, a severed, sentient hand, and the live-in help, Lurch (Conrad Vernon).
But hey, you know all this.
What you do not know is that movie follows the family as they discover a planned community has sprung up virtually overnight in the valley below. The Addamses are understandably concerned, having been run out of “the old country.” The question remains, however, whether history will repeat itself when they come into the cross hairs of reality TV host Margaux Needler who is banking on the planned community of “Assimilation” to be her greatest triumph. Throw in a dueling subplot about a father understanding his son, and mothers dealing with rebellious daughters, and you have yourself a 2019 Addams Family movie.
The film also features the voices of Snoop Dogg, Allison Janney, and Titus Burgess. There is also a rather fun cameo featuring Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short.
The movie was directed by the pairing of Conrad Vernon and Greg Tierman. Matt Lieberman, Erica Rivinoja, and Conrad Vernon wrote The Addams Family, adapting it from the original comics by Charles Addams, but with plenty of references to the television show as well.
What worked with The Addams Family?
The film isn’t a bad movie. It’s not great, but it is an effective distraction for a little over an hour. For anyone who has grown up with some form of The Addams Family there are nods and continuations of what you’d expect to see in an Addams Family movie, but little else. The story is fairly cloying, even for children, but the idea of taking the story back to Gomez and Morticia’s wedding was a welcome surprise. It established the central conflict of otherness fairly well. It is just a shame that what should be a whip-smart parody of a nuclear family ends up wrapping up with a fairly standard 3rd act action-conflict than anything truly clever.
The brightest spot of the film is the willingness to crib the character designs directly from Charles Addams’ original comics, but the CGI feels fairly texture-less and many of the designs skew just a little too far from the source. Overall though, the willingness to play closer to the original source of the characters is a good impulse and definitely makes the Addamses stand out among computer-animated family fare. The film is not afraid to be ugly and weird.
What didn’t work?
So many elements of the movie smack of a sort of template. The character designs are largely pretty boring outside of the family themselves. Also, there are so many odd choices made that reflect a mid-2000s animated aesthetic and storytelling impulse. Take, for example, celebrity stunt-casting. None of the actors who landed a role in the film really deliver much. I feel we’d have been far better off as viewers with Oscar Isaac as a live-action Gomez rather than delivering a fairly average voice-over role. Even the core cast’s most accomplished voice actor, Nick Kroll, does not really add anything to the film with his take on Fester. It’s the same sort of voices he’s used somewhere in Big Mouth.
Maybe the biggest example of this mid-2000s casting impulse is having Snoop Dogg voice Cousin It. You don’t get to hear Snoop, really, just the sped-up-gibberish of It. The thing is, you could have easily had anyone else do that part. Instead, it went to Snoop, and it was mostly for a gag; Cousin It drives up to the Addams’ mansion blaring “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
Look, this is not a bad film. It’s just uninspired. While watching it I didn’t think “this was terrible.” But I did feel like there were a lot of lazy choices. It suffers from that same sort of latter-day-Shrek style of a basic story with gags for kids and pop-culture references for the adults. I am not going to be upset at such a paper-thing plot being predictable. I do, however, find myself annoyed the film did not do more to grapple with the more subversive nature of previous Addams Family adaptations.
The Addams Family is cute but fleeting. If you miss it in theaters you will not be missing much. It’d be worth a catch on Netflix or whatever inevitable streaming service it lands on. It’s a curiosity, but I highly doubt it will inspire a passionate fanbase. (2 / 5)
How did you feel about The Addams Family? Want to see what we thought of other horror movies? Why not check out our reviews?
Shutter Island (2010): Review
Leonardo Dicaprio’s films rarely disappoint. It was interesting to see him flex different acting muscles in this psychological thriller Shutter Island alongside Mark Ruffalo and Michelle Williams. When I say that I was not expecting such a turn in the story, I mean that my jaw was pretty much on the floor the entire time. Without any further ado, let’s dive into its mastery, shall we?
A cliché setup done right
We have been here before a million times. A character stumbles into a scene to solve a mystery. Everyone is acting just the right amount of suspicion to make you wonder. Dicaprio’s Edward ‘Teddy’ travels to an extremely remote island where a woman goes missing from a psychiatric institution. He’s experiencing migraines and flashbacks to his murdered wife while receiving little to no help from the hospital staff.
Teddy soon suspects that the hospital is experimenting on patients which fuels his theories on what happened to the missing woman. Things take even more of a turn when his partner also disappears. Unsurprisingly, everyone insists Teddy came to the island alone. Feeling like he’s losing his mind, our protagonist finds out that this is exactly the case. He is a patient in the hospital and the entire investigation is an attempt to get him to understand the truth.
While the whole ‘it was all in your head’ trope has a bad rep for the fans of any genre, this film uses it masterfully. Watching it for the first time not knowing what to expect is obviously a shock and then watching it again, looking at all the clues that were the which you missed – that’s a treat on its own. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using cliches if they are done the right way.
Things that go bump in our minds
A huge part of this movie’s storyline is Andrew’s inability to process the truth. The roots for it stretch far beyond the plot twist. Andrew is unable to acknowledge that his wife is mentally ill and believes that moving them to the countryside will fix everything. After she murders their children, he is further pushed into the world of delusion, convincing himself to be a hero because he couldn’t save his own family.
It’s interesting to note that in his delusion, Andrew is the one who set fire to their house. Is this a little sliver of his mind whispering the truth to him? Is it his subconscious villainizing himself out of contempt, searching for answers that are never going to come? Andrew’s psychiatrist pointed out that his moment of clarity has happened before, only to be undone quite quickly. Perhaps it was easier for Andrew to shut it off rather than live with the knowledge that he could’ve done something to prevent a terrible tragedy.
Shutter Island is a movie that provides both the entertainment value you would expect from a suspense thriller and a deeper layer of thought. Coated with a perfect atmosphere and amazing acting, it’s a piece that will definitely hold the test of time. (4.5 / 5)
Wheel of Time, Daughter of The Night
We’ve reached episode four of Wheel of Time, which means we’re halfway through the season. While it doesn’t seem like much has happened so far, this is the episode where things start heating up.
We begin this episode with a flashback. Ishamael is raising something dark and twisted. As we watch, it takes the shape of a woman.
More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, Nynaeve is healing from her time in the arches. She is quiet and withdrawn. She’s also awkward and uncomfortable around Egwene now that she’s initiated and Egwene is not. Her new friendship with Elayne isn’t helping.
But the three girls come together when Liandrin tells Nynaeve that Perrin has been captured by the Seanchan.
However, Perrin is no longer in the clutches of the Seanchan. He was rescued by Elyas and a pack of beautiful wolves. Beautiful and deadly AF by the way. If you have any fear of dogs, this episode might not help that.
Elyas explains to Perrin that he is a Wolf Brother. This means that he can communicate with the wolves, and eventually will gain some of their abilities. While Perrin and Elyas don’t exactly get off on the right foot, he does find a fast friendship with one specific wolf. After a time, he introduces himself by showing Perrin an image of himself jumping up and down. From this, Perrin assumes his name is Hopper.
Finally, we return to Rand. He and Selene have been off in the mountains. They haven’t done much more than each other so far.
And that’s exactly what it appears they’re about to do when Moiraine bursts into the cottage and cuts Selene’s throat.
Rand is surprised and furious until Moiraine explains that the woman he knows as Selene is the Dark Friend Lanfear. With this shocking revelation, the two run off into the night.
It should be a surprise to no one that I loved the wolves in this episode. Hopper himself was worth an extra Cthulhu. But this is not just because dogs are cute. It’s also because the dog playing Hopper just does a great job.
On a more serious note, I loved how Nynaeve responded upon coming back to the real world. She isn’t okay.
And it’s a good thing that she isn’t. Too often in fiction we don’t see the fallout of emotional damage. Hell, we don’t usually see realistic fallout from physical damage.
But she is hurt by what she experienced. And you can tell. That’s realistic character building, and we don’t see that enough.
I also really appreciate the special effects in this episode. The first time we see Lanfear, she’s eerie. She’s frightening. Part of this is thanks to Natasha O’Keeffe, who does a great job. But the effects are what really sells this.
What didn’t work
If Wheel of Time has any fault, it’s that there is far too much sitting about and talking about things. In this case, there’s a lot of standing about and talking about things. Some of this was necessary, and some of it could have been done better. Honestly, there just has to be a better way to convey that characters are struggling.
This was most apparent with Rand and Selene/Lanfear. Honestly, anytime the two of them were on screen it was a great time for me to catch up on Instagram.
This might come as a surprise to anyone who hasn’t read the books, but Rand is supposed to be the main character. And here we are, four episodes into an eight-episode season, and so far all he’s done is mess about with his emo girlfriend!
That being said, the story is starting to pick up. With four episodes left, I can’t wait to see how far we go.
(3 / 5)
Elevator Game, a Film Review
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks.
Elevator Game (2023) is directed by Rebekah McKendry and is the first feature-length production of Fearworks. It adapts the supernatural myth and creepypasta of the same name while providing an original plot. This unrated Shudder exclusive stars Gino Anania, Samantha Halas, and Verity Marks. In full disclosure, I had the opportunity to interview Gino Anania and Stefan Brunner about the film.
Ryan seeks to find answers to his sister’s mysterious disappearance. To do this, he infiltrates a myth-busting web series that seems to have some ties to her final confirmed moments. Desperate to force a confrontation, he encourages them to play the elevator game. Unfortunately, there seems to be more truth to the myth than expected.
What I Like about Elevator Game & as an Adaptation
I am lucky to have additional insight into the development hell this movie overcame due to COVID. It’s commendable that the film manages to make it of that, even if it requires a lengthy delay of the film.
Usually, I provide a separate section for adaptation quality. However, the source material remains the ritual, which Elevator Game performs accurately. While the myth inspires many creepypastas, Elevator Game doesn’t directly take or adapt any of these works from what I’ve seen. Instead, it makes its own film based on the legend.
As the Fifth Floor Woman, Samantha Halas creates an eerie and disturbing character. While I won’t go so far as to say terrifying, she certainly makes an impression. The revelation that the stunts and performance are all her, as an actual contortionist, I give her more credit.
Gino Anania, given a more complex role than most of his cast members, really does bring a strong performance that creates either friction or synergy with his cast members. I suppose I wanted more of these interactions as some cut sooner than appreciated.
Another amusing element is that the entire motivation for the plot to follow is a forced advertisement from an investor. Something about the chaos being a product of appeasing some investors feels uncomfortably real.
The alternate reality remains surprisingly effective. To be clear, it’s not impressively realistic but stylistic. It genuinely seems like an alternate world with a skewered impression.
Tired Tropes or Trigger Warning
I feel weird mentioning this, but endangering a sister’s life to push the brother’s story forward seems a common trend beyond one form of media.
No discredit to the actors, but the romance feels rushed and unnecessary. Without going into too much detail, to avoid spoilers, there is synergy between the actors but little chemistry in the plot.
What I Dislike or Considerations
Elevator Game remains set in providing a B-movie experience. Its tight budget leaves little room to surprise the viewer visually. While I am surprised at what it accomplishes, it’s far from overwhelming. This film also remains the first production of Fearworks, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m interested in the future, but Elevator Game leaves much to grow from.
Rebekah McKendry may have a directorial style that influences dialogue, but the line delivery evokes an overexpression that’s common in Lovecraftian films. I say this not as a direct negative, but it remains a required taste best known before viewing. As this isn’t Lovecraftian, I fear it removes some of the reality and tension of those haunting elements.
Many of the characters feel underdeveloped, making me wonder if cutting these roles might lead to more invested characters. While the performances hit their marks, a tighter cast might give each role more to work toward. As this is a tight cast already, it seems an odd issue to rectify.
Elevator Game provides an interesting B-movie experience for those who know the legend. For those expecting something different, this film may not work for you. This film overcame a lot to exist but doesn’t break the mold. While I am excited to see Fearworks pursue further ventures toward its ambitious mission statement, I find Elevator Game falling short of its goal.
(2 / 5)