Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Midsommar

I have no idea about this one.

Okay, I have some, but this movie makes me feel like I know nothing. Jon Snow and I have that in common.

Welcome back, dear reader! Who’s in for a psychedelic, folksy Alice in Wonderland mind ****? Because Christ. This flick is not playing around. This viewing marks the second time I’ve seen Midsommar. The first was opening weekend back in 2019. My main takeaway then was how little I understood. It’s not that I couldn’t follow the plot or anything, but the film is so dense with imagery and implication. Forget a fine-tooth comb. You need a rake to sort through this stuff! It plays with ambiguity much like The Empty Man, but they’re not the same. This one is a thinker—no disrespect to the casual viewer, but this movie doesn’t play to broad appeal. Midsommar is a very particular film with specific sensibilities. If you’re looking for escapist horror, this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking to get weird, and I mean really weird, then welcome!

Following a tragic loss, Dani (Florence Pugh) joins her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends on a backpacking trip to Scandinavia to partake in a rural Swedish commune’s midsummer festival. But rather than escape her pain, Dani instead finds herself in the grip of an increasingly sinister pagan cult whose ambitions are anything but idyllic. What is it with this blog and pagans? I’m starting to get a bad feeling…

That’s the nutshell, but there’s much more happening on and beneath the surface. This is writer-director Ari Aster’s follow-up to his smashing debut, 2018’s Hereditary—a genuinely horrifying flick that deals with similar themes. If you’ve seen Hereditary and dug what that movie was doing, I think you’ll appreciate this one. While Hereditary is rich in substance, it wasn’t exactly an audience hit. CinemaScore is a service that polls theatre-going audiences to gauge a movie’s appeal. A+ to A- is where you’d want to be at, B+ isn’t too bad, but anything below that could spell trouble for a movie’s box office legs. Opening weekend audiences gave Hereditary a D+. Yikes. Still, the film managed to make a buck (relative to its budget), scored big with critics and generated a fanbase for Aster. He became an instantly buzzed-about filmmaker, so going into Midsommar, curiosity was high. I loved Hereditary, so I was all in on Midsommer. Now here we are, two years and two viewings later, and I’m still working it out. I’m a late bloomer, y’all.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: The Empty Man (2020)

Hello, dear reader! Our journey through the Monsterverse complete, I ask myself: what now? We’re not currently suffering from a lack of quality shows or movies, but I wanted to keep with the blog’s core theme if I could. Thank God for YouTube! Specifically, thank you, Chris Stuckmann. Because without him, I don’t watch this movie, I don’t write this blog, and I don’t lose myself to The Empty Man

In a small town with three or four murders a year, people begin dying in droves, leaving behind a simple message written in blood: The Empty Man made me do it. On the case of a missing girl tied to the strangeness, former undercover officer James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) becomes entangled in a web of mystery, cult worship and supernatural terror. As the case unfolds, reality and truth begin to bend, and James must confront whether The Empty Man is a mere tale or something more.

If that summary gives you little to go on, I apologize. It took me the better part of 40-minutes to put it together. It’s tough to talk about this movie in broad strokes because the one thing you absolutely do not want to do is give away too much. And folks, there is SO much to give away! This movie thrives on its mystery, having an audience live the experience lock-step with James, particularly in the first viewing. Beyond that, this movie’s shelf life will come from the discussions it generates. Writer-director David Prior (in his directorial debut, I may add) crafted a wonderfully dense and singular story. It’s a genre film that doesn’t play to the cheap seats or is interested in being a four-quadrant feature. It will alienate some, anger others and exhilarate a lucky bunch. Personally, I love this movie, but I’ve got some qualms. And oh boy, do I have questions.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Godzilla vs. Kong (2020)

Kong headbutts Godzilla during an underwater fight.

I repeat.

King Kong. Headbutts. Godzilla. Underwater!

Oh God, YES.

We’ve come to it, at last, dear reader. The culmination of the Monsterverse, the showdown of the ages, the big fish! Godzilla vs. Kong, directed by Adam Wingard and starring a bunch of humans. Who are they, why should we care? It doesn’t matter! The title is the reason you, your mother and the milkman are here. It’s the movie’s promise. And, folks. It absolutely, one hundred percent lives up to that promise!

Yeah, I’m not going to dance around it, friends. This movie is fantastic! It’s rock ‘n roll! I unironically love it. There. You can jump off this review now if you want. Go! Watch it! Embrace it! Love it, as I love all of you.

In all seriousness, though, this movie is precisely the title and doesn’t try to be more than that. It’s a spectacle: a blue ribbon, neon saturated, synthwave Wrestlemania championship main event. It’s Ali vs. Tyson. The dream bout nerds have been salivating for. And when the film’s focus stays on its titular Titans, the flick is a blockbuster of the highest order. Everything else around them is so-so, but that’s par for the course. And I’m okay with that. It’s Godzilla vs. Kong!

There does need to be a semblance of a story, and this one isn’t half bad. Godzilla is on a rampage. No one knows why, and the humans are in dire need of a weapon to even the odds. Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgard) must now lead a crew into the Hollow Earth, a pocket dimension in the Earth’s core and the birthplace of the Titans. There they might be able to harness an energy source capable of destroying Godzilla. To get there, however, they’ll need Kong to lead the way. Being another Alpha monster, Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and the Monarch organization know that once Kong comes off Skull Island, Godzilla will lock onto him. But for humanity’s sake, they need Kong! Luckily for us, Kong has bonded with young Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last surviving member of Skull Island’s native people. He fights for her, and she guides him. So off they all go to the Hollow Earth to save humanity and face destiny in the form of one titanic, atomic-powered iguana.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

This is it, folks. The last kaiju stop on the road to Godzilla vs. Kong. Now, we go back to a time before, to the first showdown! A cataclysmic clash between two titans of film: Kong! Godzilla! The cinematic gladiator bout of the century. It’s a match-up for the ages sure to wow audiences the world over. Right?

Eh. Sort of. And not exactly.

King Kong vs. Godzilla is a strange case. Produced and distributed by Toho Studios (the makers of Godzilla), the story was an original idea from Willis O’Brien, the stop motion animator of King Kong. O’Brien’s initial outline had Kong fighting a giant Frankenstein’s Monster. The sixties, man. O’Brien would’ve used stop-motion to make the two fight, but the project stalled due to cost concerns. Unbeknownst to O’Brien, producer John Beck shopped the script around, eventually coming to Toho, who were looking to bring Godzilla back following a seven-year hiatus following Godzilla Raids Again. Toho enlisted original Godzilla director Ishiro Honda and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya and hired screenwriter Shin’ichi Sekizawa to rewrite the Kong/Frankenstein script. They even brought back Godzilla’s composer, Akira Ifukube, to score the film. So you have the ingredients to make something special, yeah? A blockbuster worthy of the price of admission, right? Well, that really depends on which version of the movie you watch. An English-language version was produced for Western audiences, which added entirely new material and removed several scenes and sequences from the Japanese version. Stock music from older Universal movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon also replaced Ifukube’s score. These changes radically altered the film’s structure, resulting in, oh, how should I put it? Ah yes: a piece of ****.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

Folks. When I said, “let’s get nuts,” I didn’t think it would get this nuts.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, directed by Jun Fukuda, is the fourteenth film in the franchise and is far removed from its cautionary tale origins. And I do mean far.

Prepare yourself for the ultimate showdown as Godzilla comes face-to-face against Godzilla?! Gasp! Hearsay! It cannot be! Oh, but it is, dear reader. But this isn’t your garden variety double-trouble. No, no, no. This scrupulous imposter is so large and in charge that it’s out of this world. No. Literally. It’s an alien. Mechagodzilla is an alien cyborg created by space aliens from Black Hole Planet 3 whose alien scientists developed cyborg technology to make a robo-weapon Godzilla to take over the Earth. Yup. That’s the story. There are also various B-plots involving a future-seeing priestess, scientists ogling space metals, a pair of archeologists trying to decipher a cave wall prophecy, an Interpol secret agent, and an additional two other kaiju! Oh, and Godzilla. Figure he deserves mention.

Yeah. It’s a lot. And the movie is only 84 minutes long! The crazy thing, though, that despite reading like a cocaine-fueled mad lib, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla is precisely the type of over-the-top, fever dream romp that other kaiju flicks wish they could be. You can say it’s dumb, but this movie knows what it is and does not spend a single minute of its runtime apologizing for it. It’s so earnestly silly that I couldn’t help but laugh with and cheer it on. At one point, I scribbled in my notes, “Just go with it.” I ask the same of you, dear reader. Just go with it!

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: King Kong (1933)

 “And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you anymore, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World!”

Welcome back, dear reader, to another trek down Monster Lane. Today’s journey takes us to the mythic Skull Island, home of the mighty Kong, a Hollywood icon unlike any other. Eighty-eight years later and counting, Kong continues to thrill audiences and push the boundaries of VFX filmmaking. It’s fair to say the 1933 King Kong is dated because it is in many ways. But make no mistake. Even after nearly a century’s worth of technological growth and evolution, King Kong’s visual wonders still stand as a benchmark of grade-A movie magic. Hail to the king, baby.

The film kicks off with an overture; a classic movie tradition lost in our current age. Much like the original Godzilla’s opening credits, this starts the movie off on an ominous note, setting the rhythm for a tension-filled adventure. Then, the opening credits; big, bold, powerful—a showy tune of the magnificence the filmmakers hope to impart onto us. It’s old school and wonderful. I couldn’t help but think of Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake while watching this flick. That was the first Kong movie I had ever seen, and it remains a personal favorite. It’s the reason I love Kong! So with this being my first viewing of the original King Kong, I couldn’t help comparing the two during my watch. It was a fascinating exercise because, for all the ways they’re the same, there are some vast divides between them.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths: Godzilla (1954)

Hello, dear reader! Welcome back for another round of movie talk with this here film geek. If you’re a returning reader, thanks! If you’re new, well, I hope you survive the experience, mwahaha! One thing, though. A slight change in the rhythm. I wasn’t expecting to come back to this blog, but life happens, so here I am. And I wanted to try something different! I delved deep into the recesses of my mind, climbed to the highest mountaintop of thought and shouted to the heavens for an answer. And in the blink of an instant, it came to me! The image of a God. And a King.

If you haven’t heard the news, there’s a brand new Godzilla vs. Kong movie coming out soon. Here’s the trailer:

Before you ask, yes. I have indeed watched the trailer. Twice. Three times. Fine, five ti—alright, ten! Ten times! It’s been a long year without movie theatres, man. This trailer gave me the blockbuster goosebumps. I apologize for nothing. (Pssst. It’s definitely more than ten.)

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths in Film: Krampus (2015)

Hello there, dear reader!

It’s that time of the year. The time for community and closeness, love and gratitude, to shower those whom you care for most with affection and merriment when jolly ol’ St. Nicholas sweeps down the chimney to reward all the wonderfully behaved boys and girls. Or, if you’re in this movie, you watch in dismay as a caravan of nightmares parades themselves on your nuclear family as a horned, hooved monster of the ancient dark looms on high, ready to carry all your souls to the bowels of the underworld. Because this ain’t Santa Claus, folks—it’s Krampus.

Krampus, released in 2015, comes from the twisted mind of Michael Dougherty, the man behind my beloved Trick r Treat. This time around, he plays the story straight while still keeping his finger on the pulse of holiday essence. While the film isn’t quite the instant classic that Trick r Treat is, Krampus still manages to be a damn entertaining Christmas horror movie in the vein of Gremlins. Dougherty has a penchant for folklore and legends, dialing in here on an ancient figure with roots in Norse mythology and pagan rites (I swear to God, these damn pagans! If you’ve been with me all semester, you know.).  It can be quite fascinating to see how these bygone characters through a contemporary prism. Although this flick isn’t a through-and-through hit, I appreciate the filmmakers digging deep into our world’s horror culture and shining a spotlight on this darker Christmas spirit.

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths in Film: The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Hello, dear reader! Apologies for being away for so long! As I forewarned off the bat, a college student’s prayer. And given time and scheduling, I’ve elected to skip over my post-Halloween blog idea, so my hint at the end of “Trick ‘r Treat” is null and void. Apologies if you’ve been laboriously slaving over the answer for the last month. Perhaps this unimpeachable masterstroke of blog prose will offset any ill will. And also, hopefully, entertain and delight you, dear reader. 

The Mothman Prophecies is a drama/horror/mystery film from director Mark Pellington with a screenplay written by Richard Hatem. The script is based on the book of the same name by John A. Keel. The story follows Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere), who investigates a series of strange happenings in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, after his wife Mary’s (Debra Messing) unexplained death. The people of Point Pleasant are experiencing bizarre visions and premonitions, claiming sightings of an 8-foot winged entity around town. Initially drawn into the drama under his own set of freaky circumstances, Klein begins to believe that whatever is happening in this small Mountain State town is connected somehow to his wife’s death.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this film’s story is its claim of being based on real events. The book that the script adapts, The Mothman Prophecies: A True Story, is categorized as nonfiction. The novel’s author, John Keel, who passed in 2009, was a journalist and Fortean author. 

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Patiño’s Lores and Myths in Film: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Image by Ria from FLICKR

‘Tis the season, dear reader! Welcome to Trick ‘r Treat, the Mike Dougherty feature that’s all about the best day of the year. Go stuff yourself, Christmas. Halloween is where it’s at! One of my favorite things I’ve done these last few years is sit down with my older brother and have ourselves a little spooky movie marathon on the 31st. We order some junk food, get cozy and punch up our holiday favs: Halloween, The Thing, Evil Dead 2, The Cabin in the Woods and, of course, Trick ‘r Treat. I’d argue no film since John Carpenter’s 1978 classic has captured the Halloween spirit as wholly as Dougherty’s contemporary classic. Clocking in at a lean 82 minutes, Trick ‘r Treat is all killer, no filler; an anthology feature of five stories all coinciding throughout Halloween night. The vignettes each play out their own story and character arcs while maintaining an overall macabre sense of devilish fun.

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