The Curse of La Llorona Recap

Jamie

Anna Garcia is recently widowed and barely keeping it together with a couple kids at home and a stressful job as a caseworker. It also doesn’t help when she gets totally cursed by an aggrieved mother who blames her for the death of her children. Can she get rid of that spooky scary curse before it’s too late? Find out in… The Curse of La Llorona.

How?! Anna Garcia is having a tough go of it. Her husband was recently killed in the line of duty, she’s raising a couple of kids solo, and her job as a caseworker is pretty stressful to boot. It gets even more stressful when she visits one of her cases and finds the woman’s children locked in a closet and the mother claiming that she’s protecting them from evil. Spooky. But she ain’t buying it and gets those kids under protective care… or does she? Because later that night they are found drowned and the mother blames (and goes ahead and curses) Anna for their deaths. Soon Anna’s own children are seeing a spoooooooky ghost of a weeping lady who wants to hug them really really hard… until they die. Everywhere they look they are seeing (and feeling the burning touch) of this ghost lady and they’re like “get out of here, ghost lady.” Recruiting an exorcist that specializes in La Llorona (as this spooky ghost is known) they prepare for a final showdown. In the process La Llorona is all like “gimme dem kids” and they are all like “no” except the exorcist who is kinda like “sure, but only because it’s a trap.” In the end they do battle with the demon and using her own necklace charm against her they are able to totally own that ghost and everyone lives happily ever after. THE END… or is it? It is. Big Question: I personally would love to know how much was added or changed to fit this in the Conjuring Universe.

Why?! Lots of motivations here, besides the main characters who mostly just don’t want to die. La Llorona herself killed her children because her husband had an affair and left her. Thus she is cursed for all eternity to wander the earth crying and searching for her children. So she just wants her kids… awwww. As for Patricia, it’s a pretty straight forward case of her blaming Anna for the death of her children. So then she curses her right back. Like a psychopath she has no remorse for this until near the end of the film… like come on… you cursed her innocent children to die.

Who?! This could be an interesting addition to the Who repertoire in noting that Marisol Ramirez played our movie monster La Llorona in this film. Sometimes this can be a great boon for an actor, so perhaps when we’re watching La Llorona X in 25 years we’ll be like “Marisol Ramirez is really why I keep coming back.” 

What?! Again, somewhat horror specific, but a movie monster also often has some sort of object that is its weakness. Dracula 2000 helpfully explained why draculas don’t like sun (he was Judas hung at sunrise) and why he drinks blood (he was Judas and Jesus stuff or whatever). Here La Llorona can’t cross seed from the Fire Tree (the tree that witnessed her kill her children) and is ultimately killed (?) when she is stabbed with a cross made from the tree. If only there would be twelve of these films so we can understand where her power to control electricity comes from (introduced in the fourth installment).

Where?! Really nice California and Los Angeles specific setting. Works well with the actual La Llorona legend and would have been a nice one for a map considering how sneaky important it is. Only critique is that it rains far to much in the film for it to actually be LA.

When?! The best we get is a “1973” intertitle at the beginning of the film and the fact that school is in session and no holidays in sight. So Fall or Spring probably. Still, intertitle is good and an official period setting is enough to scratch out a B. That being said, I think this film might be the least effort ever taken to make a film look like it’s set in the 70’s.

Having just watched Countdown (and objectively more ramshackle production than this one) I can’t believe I’m going to say this but… this might be worse. It is not scary and has terrible monster design… which are two of the most important aspects of a horror film. So a failure on those two things is not a good look. It also is so shoehorned into the Conjuring Universe that they may as well have had an intertitle telling the audience “Somewhere in the Conjuring Universe.” Even the 1970’s setting seems like a complete afterthought. All that being said I did like the general look and feel of the film and so it wasn’t like it felt silly like Countdown or Slender Man or The Bye Bye Man. So a generally pleasant watch. Just surprisingly bad. Patrick? 

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! I got spooky scared by La Llorona which tried to steal my two children. But I was like “No, you can’t have them you spooky ghost!” … Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – Y’all know I like the Conjuring Universe. Kind of no matter what they do honestly. I like the idea of a connected spooky universe where hauntings are real. While the spin-offs seem to be hit-or-miss, I still ended up liking The Nun. So what the heck, I might have liked this, who knows? What were my expectations? I’m just hoping it gives an interesting ghost backstory. It is always nice when you can imagine the demon coming back and teaming up with other demons (like in The Conjuring 2) to make this extra spooky.

The Good – I thought the team up of the main character as a case worker and the ex-priest operating with the more mystical American legend worked quite well. Thinking about it, it is kind of a perfect team to handle Central/South American hauntings (whereas the Conjuring guys seemed to operate in the Northeast US / Europe style haunting). I’m sure this is the intention, and I kind of hope they follow through with that idea because it is fun. I’m also glad they didn’t give Linda Cardellini a love interest, it works quite well with her as a single mother. I also liked that they had the ghost attach itself to the family. Nicely counter to The Conjuring where the ghost explicitly haunted the house.

The Bad – The film is a mess. There seemed to be an inkling of a morality tale in the La Llorona legend, and they introduce it briefly, but then abandon that quickly. The monster design is terrible. Not scary, and not interesting. A boring backstory for the ghost, which is all you really care about with The Conjuring in the first place. Pretty standard story with The Conjuring spin-offs: too much time spent setting everything up, and not enough actually giving effective scares.

The BMT – I would watch a bad Conjuring film every year if they want to give it to me. I love the extended Conjuring universe. It is a very cool idea, and even when it flops (like this one) you still get one or two cool nuggets that could be interesting in a future movie. I can’t wait for The Conjuring 3, good or bad. Did it meet my expectations? Nope. Without that interesting backstory for La Llorona the tension leaks out of the story. You want that backstory because it gives that dramatic tension, that maybe the audience will be able to figure out the key to La Llorona’s weakness that the main characters don’t have the information to figure out, and then finally do right at the end. Give me some of that! Instead it was a whole lotta nothing.

Roast-radamus – A very quick Setting as a Character (Where?) with Los Angeles playing a dual role. First, with a large Mexican population, it serves as a way for La Llorona to enter the US market. And second, I personally think La Llorona’s connection to water is meant as a comment on the city in the desert a la Chinatown. The eeriness of seeing storms in the desert I think is intentional. While a period piece, there isn’t a holiday for a When call is unlikely. I’ll give a minor MacGuffin (Why?) for Cardellini’s two children as the only thing La Llorona wants. And it’ll enter into the Live discussion for 2019 films, but I don’t think it’ll make it.

StreetCreditReport.com – La Llorona was already notable for bringing in the least money for any of the wildly successful Conjuring films. Otherwise I can’t really find it on the few lists that exist so far. I don’t think it’ll get any razzie nods as it isn’t a high profile target. I guess it could end up being the worst Conjuring Universe film ever when all is said and done, but who knows, the Conjuring Universe could last forever!

You Just Got Schooled – Having watched most of The Conjuring films (and Annabelle preventing us from watching that particular offshoot immediately) I decided that it was time to really do some homework. Up until a few years ago we tended to ignore homework, so looking through I quickly found a BMT film, The Haunting (1999), where I had never watched the original (and it was about a spooooooky ghost as well, convenient). Watching the original 1963 The Haunting, which Spielberg called the scariest film ever made, … well it wasn’t scary, but it was interesting and a pretty cool precursor to The Conjuring. The idea of a house just being evil is something the likes of Stephen King tend to use as well, most famously in The Shining. And the cast of characters (including Russ Tamblyn of West Side Story fame) is also well put together. Despite predating modern horror in many respects, it is a worthwhile watch as so many haunted house films seem to draw on the ideas put forth in The Haunting specifically. I’m thinking that 2020 will be a BMT Projects year, and one nice project would be to watch all of the homework I’ve put off before, so buckle up for more tangentially related You Just Got Schooled sections in the future. A- for The Haunting, probably not above average for quintessential horror from the 60s, but still really good.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

The Curse of La Llorona Quiz

Alright, the last thing I remember I heard a woman crying, went to go check it out, and now I’m haunted by a g-g-g-g-g-g-ghost! She knocked me over the head though and I can’t remember anything else. Do you remember what happened in The Curse of La Llorona?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) Anna and her two children live in 70s LA as she toils away in Child Protective Services. Recently widowed, Anna is having a tough time of it, with problems at work and home. What was her husband’s profession?

2) At a crime scene Anna’s son ventures out to sneak a peek at some dead bodies (normal …), but instead sneaks a peak at La Llorona! Uh oh! Why is La Llorona haunting Anna and her children?

3) What seems to be La Llorona’s modus operandi? How does she haunt/kill her victims?

4) As explained by our ex-priest hero, there is only one thing that can stop La Llorona in her tracks. There is also another thing he calls “anti-venom”. What are these two things?

5) There is only one connection to the main Conjuring Universe in the film, do you remember what it is?

Answers

The Curse of La Llorona Preview

Rod sets up behind a large plant with some pretty snazzy spy tech. Everyone probably assumes that the badass private eye is just a pretty face, but it’s the 21st century and he’s now a technological wizard too. So far he hasn’t gotten anything particularly incriminating against Jamie and Patrick. It’s almost been three weeks and all he’s seen them shoot is several hundred takes of Jamie running down an alley. “But what do I know,” he thinks, as he levels the camera on Jamie.

Jamie gets the sense that someone’s watching him, but when he turns his head nobody’s there… how strange. He shakes his head and goes back to watching the latest set of dailies from 4Rich’r 4Poe’r: Dimension: Time. Patrick walks in carrying a plate of croissants and joins him. The cast is dope, the script is bomb, and the French Riviera is beautiful this time of year, but they both feel like something is missing. Helicopter cruise ships? No they already got those… a sixth bad guy? Perhaps, but everyone knows once you get past five antagonists it’s really diminishing returns at that point. Again the hairs raise on Jamie’s neck and he’s now certain that someone is watching him. He ain’t afraid of no ghosts and with a signal to Patrick they backflip their way off the couch and surprise the spy with their patented Twin Chop. “Rod?” Patrick asks, surprised to see their go-to private eye splayed on the ground. Embarrassed, Rod explains the situation. Jamie and Patrick stare stormily at him and tell him to go back and tell Adam three things: 1. Double their salary. 2. They now get final edit. 3. The bad guy is now a ghost. Rod stares at them in horror. That’s right! We’re hitting up one of our favorite horror franchises (seriously) with the latest entry in The Conjuring Universe. The Curse of La Llorona is only tangentially related to Annabelle, but that’s enough to get our butts in the seats… that and some not very good reviews. Let’s go!

The Curse of La Llorona (2019) – BMeTric: 48.1; Notability: 13 

TheCurseofLaLloronaIMDb_BMeT

TheCurseofLaLloronaIMDb_RV

(Dropped like a stone after early positive reviews presumably from die-hards. Mid-5s is about right for a bad horror film, so I expect nothing less than a disappointingly banal film in the end)

RogerEbert.com – 2.0 stars – Perhaps the film’s most grievous sin is that it isn’t very scary. … [I] wonder if part of the reason the Garcia family lacked cultural ties was an attempt to appeal to all U.S. Latinos, but in losing that cultural specificity, I lost the connection to what makes our ghost stories “ours.” While it was fun to watch a big budget horror movie finally play in the fertile grounds of Latinx superstitions, I wish we had a better reason to break out our sage.

(Hmmmmm, that criticism actually makes a ton of sense. La Llorona is very specifically Mexican so mixing cultures does seem to kind of water that down.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ALhy6XTpMlk/

(I think on the one hand the trailer is good because it doesn’t give away much and doesn’t give away a lot of the scares presumably since it focuses on the first time they meet Mrs. Llorona. On the other hand it doesn’t seem scary at all, and the monster design looks lame. So that isn’t good.)

Directors – Michael Chaves – (BMT: The Curse of La Llorona; Notes: A young director who was tapped for this and also, now, Conjuring 3. He did a few shorts, including a Billy Eilish music video, so perhaps that’s what convinced the producers.)

Writers – Mikki Daughtry (written by) – (Known For: Five Feet Apart; BMT: The Curse of La Llorona; Notes: Not much about her, although I found the 2013 Blacklist where her and Iaconis has a screenplay entitled “Elsewhere”.)

Tobias Iaconis (written by) – (Known For: Five Feet Apart; BMT: The Curse of La Llorona; Notes: It seems like Mikki Daughtry and him have been a writing team since 2013, so it is extremely likely they have had their fingers in tons of scripts over the years without credit. Prior to that pair up though he managed a writing credit on Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia.)

Actors – Linda Cardellini – (Known For: Avengers: Endgame; Green Book; A Simple Favour; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Brokeback Mountain; Legally Blonde; The Founder; Kill the Irishman; Super; The Lazarus Project; Welcome to Me; Return; Future BMT: Scooby-Doo; Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed; Strangeland; Good Burger; Daddy’s Home 2; Daddy’s Home; Dead Man on Campus; Jiminy Glick in Lalawood; American Gun; BMT: The Curse of La Llorona; Hunter Killer; Notes: The star of Freaks and Geeks, she’s managed a very long Hollywood career mostly in comedy.)

Raymond Cruz – (Known For: The Rock; Training Day; Clear and Present Danger; Alien Resurrection; Under Siege; Bound by Honor; Gremlins 2: The New Batch; Broken Arrow; Havoc; The Substitute; Maid to Order; Dead Again; Future BMT: Collateral Damage; Operation Dumbo Drop; Man Trouble; Out for Justice; Up Close & Personal; BMT: The Curse of La Llorona; Notes: He was Tuco in the early seasons of Breaking Bad. A consistent character actor it seems.)

Patricia Velasquez – (Known For: The Mummy; The Mummy Returns; Committed; Future BMT: Beowulf; Turn It Up; Mindhunters; BMT: The Curse of La Llorona; Notes: Venezuelan, she grew up poor and has mainly been a model in her career.)

Budget/Gross – $9,000,000 / Domestic: $54,733,739 (Worldwide: $122,133,739)

(A huge success, as all horror films seem to be. This continues the Conjuring Universe dominance though, which I like because I somehow like all of these films. Go figure.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 29% (51/176): Content to coast on jump scares rather than tap into its story’s creepy potential, The Curse of La Llorona arrives in theaters already broken.

(Boo, sounds like The Nun. It seems like a consistent problem with these spin-offs. That all of the set up, and lore building sinks things, so maybe La Llorona 2 or Nun 2 can save those spin-offs. Maybe bodes well for Conjuring 3 though. Reviewer Highlight: …we were cursed with the annoying and shrieking but not even close to terrifying La Llorona. – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times)

Poster – The Curse of Los Sklogronos (B+)

curse_of_la_llorona

(What a very strange poster. I guess props to them for trying something different. I would have thought they would do something similar to The Nun, but boy they went for it. Not real scary though… slightly creepy. I do like the framing and the little twist on the font. Nice touches. Certainly tells a story… almost too much of one.)

Tagline(s) – She Wants Your Children (C-)

(Huh… just kinda putting it out there. Well, no. She can’t have them. Does she want anything else? It almost feels like one person worked on the poster and the tagline and was like “perfect” after their first draft. “She Wants Your Children.” Nailed it. It’s true.)

Keyword – spin off;

TheCurseofLaLlorona_spin off 

Top 10: Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019), Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), Men in Black: International (2019), Rogue One (2016), Venom (2018), The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016), Bumblebee (2018), Ocean’s Eight (2018), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009); 

Future BMT: 68.1 Supergirl (1984), 62.7 Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014), 59.5 The Mod Squad (1999), 54.6 Annabelle (2014), 42.9 Men in Black: International (2019), 40.8 Planes (2013), 40.8 Beauty Shop (2005), 35.1 Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), 29.9 The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016), 27.8 Pokémon: The First Movie (1998); 

BMT: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), The Nun (2018), The Curse of La Llorona (2019), Elektra (2005), Wing Commander (1999)

(I at one point posited a theory that the ‘08 financial collapse made Hollywood retreat to only the safest of the safe bets and out of that grew a very safe business where low-risk properties, like sequels and spin-offs, dominate. Looking at this plot I now think that could have been a coincidence. It will be the story of the ‘10 though, that of universes, sequels, and spin-offs and whatever feelings you have about that.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 20) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Linda Cardellini is No. 1 billed in The Curse of La Llorona and No. 6 billed in Hunter Killer, which also stars Gary Oldman (No. 2 billed) who is in Lost in Space (No. 1 billed), which also stars Heather Graham (No. 5 billed) who is in Say It Isn’t So (No. 2 billed), which also stars Chris Klein (No. 1 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 2 billed) => 1 + 6 + 2 + 1 + 5 + 2 + 1 + 2 = 20. If we were to watch Mindhunters we can get the HoE Number down to 14.

Notes – This is the second film in the Conjuring Universe to not feature, or reference, Ed and Lorraine Warren. It’s also the first spin-off to feature an antagonist who didn’t appear in the main film series.

Raymond Cruz’s first top-billed role in a film, after consistently playing minor roles in television.

The first of two movies in The Conjuring Universe to be released in 2019. The second is “Annabelle Comes Home”. This is the first time two movies in The Conjuring Universe are released in the same calendar year. The “Annabelle” movies are also referenced in “The Curse of La Llorona”. (Wait … the movies are? Oh no, I bet it is like a Raggedy Ann film type thing, since that is what Annabelle is supposed to be I think)

The lowest grossing movie in The Conjuring Universe. (Still made absolute bank, it has a $6 million budget!)

Tony Amendola, who portrayed Father Perez in Annabelle (2014), reprises this same role in this film. (Oh fun)

Sleeping with the Enemy Recap

Jamie

Laura is trapped in an abusive marriage to a controlling man. She is able to escape by faking her own death and moving to Iowa where she learns to live and love again. However, when she dares to visit her elderly mother her ex-husband is able to track her down. Can she take him out (and perhaps get the guy) before it’s too late? Find out in… Sleeping with the enemy.

How?! Act I: Laura and her husband seem to have the perfect life but underneath the visage he’s a controlling abusive maniac! Get out of there, Laura! And she does just that by faking her own death by drowning and escaping to picturesque Iowa where she can’t possibly fall in love with anyone. Act II: She immediately falls in love with the drama teacher next door. With his plaid shirts and flowing locks for days, he’s just a dreamy dreamboat and Laura is smitten. She learns to live and love again and he helps her figure out a good way to safely see her mom using his flair for costumes… or is it?! Because Laura’s husband from hell has figured out that she’s still alive and is staking out the old folks home. Using his own acting chops he finds out that Iowa is the place to be. Act III: Everywhere that Laura looks it seems like her husband has come for her… that’s because he has! Oh no! He shows up and is all like “you won’t kill me.” But jokes on him because she does. THE END. Big Question: Is Laura falling in love with a drama teacher a twist on the fact that she was married to a man who spent his life acting the role of happy family man, when in reality he was an abusive monster? Chew on that.

Why?! I mean… he’s a psycho. So there’s that. As for her… well she wants to get away from the psycho she married. It is pretty jarring to see an older movie like this where domestic abuse is depicted in what seems like a fairly accurate way. Pretty scary.

Who?! I think the most interesting thing is the BMT implications of possible casting choices for this film. Apparently Kim Bassinger and Sean Connery were attached to co-star. That’s just a powerhouse BMT couple right there (assuming of course that Connery was attached as love interest… not sure why he would join the project as the husband from hell).

What?! While there isn’t something for sale that fits our traditional definition of a prop, there is an entire house for sale. The house that Julia Roberts moves into in Iowa (really Abbeville, South Carolina) has been on the market and valued at 160K. You’d make that up in no time doing full time tours and entry fees for the museum.

Where?! This is a truly great BMT setting film. Clearly takes place on Cape Cod, Iowa, and in small parts Minnesota. It’s a wonder we didn’t end up doing this one for the mapl.de.map because it really is super duper duper Iowa and that seems somewhat rare. Loved it. B+

When?! Secret Holiday Film Alert! While much of the film takes place generally in the summer, there is a big scene at a Fourth of July parade that leads straight into a scene where Julia Robert and Mullet McGee try on costumes, laugh, love, and live along to the song Brown Eyed Girl. *chef’s kiss* A-

I can fully understand why this film is a bit of a cult classic. Julia Roberts was quite good and I thought the writing was pretty good too. As I said, I think the depiction of the husband as an abuser seems scarily accurate and makes some of the later scenes really interesting from a psychological perspective. And it was thrilling to boot. I think the biggest critique is that the directing really lets everything else down. Has the look and feel of a Lifetime film with the acting and writing of a Hollywood film. Let down by schlockiness… which is pretty much the tagline of this website. As for T.N.T., it was my first Olivier Gruner viewing experience, which probably brought more joy in itself than anything the actual film had to offer. He seems like a poor man’s JCVD but somehow way worse at acting. His weird smiling face seemed to throw everyone off until they all seemed like aliens trying to pretend to be human. It was quite the experience and definitely made me excited to see more of his films. Patrick?  

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! There’s nothing like a hefty dose of harrowing domestic violence drama to really make one wonder: should I make jokes about this film? Let’s get into it!

P’s View on the Preview – I straight up had to ask Jamie whether Safe Haven was a readaptation of Sleeping with the Enemy … before remembering that that movie was based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Not surprisingly a ton of reviews from when Safe Haven was published made the exact same comparison, so I wasn’t alone. I hoped for an amazing Ghost Wife twist at the end of this film, but I didn’t expect it. What were my expectations? A solid performance from Roberts, and otherwise I just wanted the craziest thriller possible. Give me Color of Night, please. One Color of Night for Patrick.

The Good – I genuinely liked this film. It probably helps that I went into it expecting precisely what I got: a thriller. It seems like at the time reviewers were rather put off by the apparent bait-and-switch performed by the director by starting the film off as a very intriguing drama, and then tacking towards the more rote thriller tropes at the end. I can understand that, but this movie gave me mostly what I wanted: A solid Roberts performance, a crazy thriller stalker man, and a love interest with quite literally a mane of hair. I’m hoping Jamie finds an online auction where I can buy that man’s wig / real hair because mein Gott!

The Bad – The aforementioned thriller tropes. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled. But yeah, the movie didn’t need it. Give me an opening with Roberts seemingly happy at the beach. Give me a flashback to how they met, the wedding, a concerned warning from a friend, and the first time he hits her. Give me the establishment of the boating accident, and the suggestion that maybe she killed herself. And then bam! While he is out looking for her she kills him to make it look like an accident and goes off with her assumed identity. Let Roberts carry the drama, and drop the thrills. I don’t have much of a complaint about what I got, but I understand why critics hated it now, it was definitely not what you were hoping the director would do.

The BMT – I think this is a weirdly special BMT. It is another amazingly Iowa-y film. I’m honestly not too sure how we didn’t end up doing this for Iowa, but then again Iowa basically only produced weird dramas so whatever. Other than that I just kind of like when we get dramas in the mix, and especially when we get films where I think contemporary critics disagree with the critics at the time about the merits of the film. Gives us a lot to chew on. Did it meet my expectations? Not as a bad movie, it had to be maybe 10 times crazier. But I liked it. So … whatever.

Roast-radamus – I think we could definitely consider this as a Setting as a Character (Where?) because Iowa represents everything quaint and small-towny that the cosmopolitan Roberts is looking to escape back to. I’ll throw in a Worst Twist (How?) for the moment at the end when the ex-husband baddy basically comes back to life to try and kill Roberts. A classic Halloween / Michael Myers thing, but it works especially poorly when contrasted with the domestic violence drama we were sold in the first half of the film. And finally it’ll almost definitely be one of my nominations for Good for the year because guess what? I genuinely think this is a fine film all things considered, so there.

StreetCreditReport.com – I legit can’t find any worst-of lists with this film on it. I’m genuinely surprised because Ebert absolutely eviscerated the film. While I agree with the thesis, I actually mostly disagree with the nitpicks he reluctantly lobs out at the end of the review. (1) Yes the toilet hadn’t been used for weeks, the distraught Bergin I think rather obviously packed up the house and hadn’t visited again. (2) The woman saw the obituary in the newspaper which would have mentioned that she was survived by her husband, a financial adviser at Yada Yada Inc. (3) Roberts has been secretly squirreling away money for years it looked like, so why is it hard to believe she had done so for that purpose? (4) He knows she loves books and previously worked at a library so he could have just asked them where the “new girl” lives. (5) He only did the rearranging when she was out, either prior to his arrival or during the picnic and (6) because he is a psycho. This is why I don’t like dumb plot hole nitpicking of films, it is pretty easy to nitpick back. But I get the point: the movie isn’t very well written. And I generally agree.

Bring a Friend Analysis – This week we went with possibly one of the less well-known sibling pairs with Julia Roberts’ brother Eric Roberts (famous for playing the titular role in A Talking Cat?!). He has been in over 300 film (wowza) so we had the pick of the litter. Unfortunately we chose T.N.T. which mostly just reminded me of Black Friday in that it appeared to have been put together with little thought or care as a starring vehicle for a martial artist. Starring kickboxer Olivier Gruner, the film is effectively a knock off of a Van Damme feature: this French guy who is inexplicably in the U.S. military is just too good to do bad things and retires to the quiet life. But the baddies don’t want him to have a quiet life, so they’re here to make some noise. The End. Gruner has an impressive kickboxing background and gets to show it off a bit. Eric Roberts is barely in it and, I swear to god, is just playing Steve Jobs (perhaps not coincidentally Jobs rejoined Apple in 1997 and so would have been in the headlines around the time). The film is pretty worthless and trashy, but I’m glad I got to tick off my Olivier Gruner box on my martial arts bingo card. I’m going to give it a … B-. It would take some convincing to get me to watch it again, but for a martial artist actor completionist it is must see.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

Sleeping with the Enemy Quiz

Hmmmmm, let’s see I was on my new friend’s boat in a storm, and then got tossed overboard by the boom … and then I can’t remember anything. Where’s my wife again?

Pop Quiz Hot Shot!

1) In the beginning of the film the happy couple takes a boat ride with their new next door neighbor. Why doesn’t Julia Roberts like to go sailing, and why does she spash two lights on shore before leaving?

2) What state did Julia Roberts live in? Where did she move? Where did she apparently grow up (i.e. where was her mother’s original nursing home)?

3) What song if Julia Roberts’ new beau singing in the garden he he dances his fro out into a curly god-like lion’s mane?

4) What job does Julia Roberts get in town, and what job does her beau Kevin Anderson have?

5) What four pieces of evidence does the baddy collect before becoming convinced that his wife is alive?

Answers

Sleeping with the Enemy Preview

Rolled up in the carpet in the back of the semi, Patrick is disoriented. Normally in such a situation either he or Jamie would wriggle free of their binding and then free the other. But alas, Jamie is gone and the ropes containing Patrick’s raw athletic ability seem tight… almost too tight. Getting an idea he slowly dribbles sweat over his rippling abs into the rope. As it swells the tension becomes too great and the rope breaks! Ha! Who needs stupid Jamie anyway. Unrolling himself he comes face to face with a beautiful lady. “Hey!” says Patrick, “If you were back here the whole time why didn’t you help me?” But as a sultry smile graces her lips he realizes exactly why, “oh, you’re the enemy aren’t you?” She simply nods, but her eyes are telling him that maybe she’s thinking about him in a more friendly way. He looks at his wedding ring and thinks of his children. Jamie would sure come in handy for this part. Putting on a stylish hat to complement his shirtless bod and wrangler jeans, he winks at her and asks, “but maybe we can be more like frienemies.” That’s right! We’re watching Sleeping with the Enemy, the Julia Roberts thriller about the husband from hell. This is one of those films that has a bit of a cult following presumably because it played on cable TV back when people either watched cable TV or stared at a wall (legends say). Always nice to get a star vehicle. Let’s go!

Teamed with the dark figure, Jamie is able to dispatch the mailmen with ease. It’s like there’s some telepathic link with the man, but Jamie shakes off his unease. “Hiya, bro. I’m just trying to find my way back to New Angeles and could use a ride. You got another pair of those sweet RBlades?” The man grimaces but quickly turns it into a friendly smirk. “I’ll do you one better… bro,” he hisses as he reveals a totally pimped out hang glider. “Cool,” Jamie breathes as he buckles up for the ride of his life, “This is going to be T.N.T.” That’s right! We’re pairing the Julia Roberts entree with an Eric Roberts dessert in T.N.T. That of course stands for Tactical Neutralization Team. And lest you think that some lame backronym… there actually was a Tactical Neutralization Team in the Air Force. So… jokes on you (and probably us because we’re watching this film). Let’s go!

Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) – BMeTric: 25.7 

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(Wow this really actually genuinely made a comeback. That is more than regression to the mean, because that usually regresses to around 6.0 or a little higher. It is a little higher, but the trajectory is suggesting people actually like this film more now I think.)

Leonard Maltin – 2 stars –  Practically suspense-less thriller about a young woman who flees from her brutal husband and tries to start life anew in Iowa. Unabashed star vehicle for Roberts (complete with “cute” montage set to the oldie “Brown-Eyed Girl”) is relentlessly predictable.

(Suspense-less would be bad. That’s all I’m here for. The rest of it I don’t really see as criticism … so what if it is a star vehicle for Roberts. She was one of the big up and coming stars of the time. Just a strange idea, although maybe that came across more cynically back when this review was written.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcQqsrf2gik/

(WOW, they start the trailer like it is a romantic comedy! That is a crazy way to advertise what is legitimately a thriller, and then by the end it looks like a horror film complete with creepy John Carpenter synth music. Nope, don’t like it.)

Directors – Joseph Ruben – (Known For: Dreamscape; Return to Paradise; True Believer; The Stepfather; Future BMT: Money Train; The Forgotten; The Good Son; The Ottoman Lieutenant; BMT: Sleeping with the Enemy; Notes: He’s amazingly still working having directed The Ottoman Lieutenant in 2017, a rare WWI movie.)

Writers – Nancy Price (novel) – (BMT: Sleeping with the Enemy; Notes: This appears to basically be her only novel. She has a few others, but nothing significant. Amazingly this film was made within four years of publication.)

Ronald Bass (screenplay) – (Known For: My Best Friend’s Wedding; What Dreams May Come; Rain Man; Stepmom; Waiting to Exhale; The Joy Luck Club; When a Man Loves a Woman; Black Widow; How Stella Got Her Groove Back; Gardens of Stone; Future BMT: Amelia; Entrapment; Passion of Mind; Dangerous Minds; Snow Flower and the Secret Fan; Before We Go; Snow Falling on Cedars; BMT: Sleeping with the Enemy; Notes: Apparently very prolific employing his own team of research assistants to help him out.)

Actors – Julia Roberts – (Known For: Wonder; Steel Magnolias; Notting Hill; Charlie Wilson’s War; Ocean’s Eleven; My Best Friend’s Wedding; Pretty Woman; Mystic Pizza; Closer; Ocean’s Twelve; Erin Brockovich; Stepmom; August: Osage County; Flatliners; Ben Is Back; The Pelican Brief; Michael Collins; Runaway Bride; The Player; Conspiracy Theory; Future BMT: Full Frontal; Ready to Wear; Love, Wedding, Marriage; I Love Trouble; America’s Sweethearts; Eat Pray Love; Something to Talk About; Mary Reilly; Larry Crowne; Smurfs: The Lost Village; Dying Young; Secret in Their Eyes; Mona Lisa Smile; Fireflies in the Garden; Grand Champion; Hook; BMT: Valentine’s Day; Mother’s Day; Sleeping with the Enemy; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Actress in 1997 for Mary Reilly; and in 2017 for Mother’s Day; and Nominee for Worst Supporting Actress for Hook in 1992; Notes: Somewhat notorious early in her career for leaving Kiefer Sutherland at the altar and running away with his friend Jason Patric. Her niece Emma Roberts has herself become rather famous.)

Patrick Bergin – (Known For: Free Fire; Ella Enchanted; Patriot Games; Mountains of the Moon; Map of the Human Heart; The Boys & Girl from County Clare; Silent Grace; Future BMT: Eye of the Beholder; The Invisible Circus; Strength and Honour; Love Crimes; Age of Kill; The Wee Man; BMT: Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace; Sleeping with the Enemy; Notes: I kind of used up all my fun facts on Lawnmower Man 2 … he was apparently at a Dog Festival in Dublin with his dog Kayla the other day, that’s fun.)

Kevin Anderson – (Known For: Risky Business; Charlotte’s Web; Hoffa; Heaven Is for Real; Salomé; The Night We Never Met; Firelight; In Country; Liebestraum; Miles from Home; Orphans; Eye of God; Future BMT: Rising Sun; BMT: Sleeping with the Enemy; A Thousand Acres; Notes: Has portrayed both JFK and RFK which is apparently quite rare.)

Budget/Gross – $19 million / Domestic: $101,599,005 (Worldwide: $174,999,005)

(That is a massive success. Obviously they kind of stopped releasing these to theaters over the years, possibly because it is so difficult to capitalize on the success … like it isn’t like you’re going to make a sequel or anything.)

#2 for the Thriller – Psycho / Stalker / Blank from Hell genre

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(Easily the highest grossing bad film. And amazingly the only other one that grossed over $100 million besides Fatal Attraction. Amazing. The wave-like pattern is nice. Like they just regurgitate the same thriller ideas over and over every ten years.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 21% (7/33): A game Julia Roberts gives it her all, but Sleeping with the Enemy is one stalker thriller that’s unlikely to inspire many obsessions of its own.

(Obsession feels like an odd way of putting it … like, this is a domestic abuse situation, and one more about control and paranoia at that. Not really an obsession right? Whatever. Reviewer Highlight: There are good performances all through the movie, but the filmmakers don’t keep faith with their actors. – Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times)

Poster – Sleeping with the Frienemy (C+)

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(Very odd. Looks more like a book cover (spoiler alert on the tagline). Font is weird and bland and even the spacing is a little jarring. I’m not sure what to think… I think I appreciate it?… Like how I appreciate modern art.)

Tagline(s) – She is a stranger in a small town. She changed her name. Her looks. Her life. All to escape the most dangerous man she’s ever met. Her husband. (D)

(If I wanted to read a book I would have went to my local public library.)

Keyword(s) – psychopath; Top Ten by BMeTric: 88.9 Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997); 83.9 The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011); 82.7 Prom Night (I) (2008); 82.3 Halloween: Resurrection (2002); 82.2 I Know Who Killed Me (2007); 79.7 Highlander II: The Quickening (1991); 79.3 Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994); 78.9 Jason X (2001); 75.0 Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993); 74.5 The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) (2015);

(Noice. All basically horror films as you would expect. Highlander II and Speed 2 out of nowhere. Speed 2 is a weird one as well. Dafoe was a psycho? He was a man who was made sick by his job seeking revenge on the corporation who screwed him over … is that a psycho? That is just a weird take on that character.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Julia Roberts is No. 1 billed in Sleeping with the Enemy and No. 2 billed in Mother’s Day, which also stars Jennifer Aniston (No. 1 billed) who is in Just Go With It (No. 2 billed), which also stars Adam Sandler (No. 1 billed) who is in Jack and Jill (No. 1 billed), which also stars Al Pacino (No. 3 billed) who is in 88 Minutes (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 3 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 2 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 3 + 1 + 3 + 1 = 16. If we were to watch Hook, Jack, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 12.

Notes – Julia Roberts caused a controversy after she left Abbeville, South Carolina, where the film shot some location work. She said the place was “a living hell” and a “horribly racist” town and she would never return there. (Holy shit!)

Julia Roberts’ lead female role in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) was originally written for Jane Fonda. (Really? Huh, it works really well for Roberts)

The name Laura chooses for herself is connected to her past life. The first name of Sarah means Princess, which is what Martin used to call her, and the last name of Waters symbolizes Laura’s supposed drowning. (Cool)

Julia Roberts, aged 22 when the film was shot in spring 1990, became the youngest actress to earn a seven-figure fee for a single performance. (She deserved it, this movie made bank wholly supported by her main performance and not much else)

It was Patrick Bergin’s idea to use composer Hector Berlioz’s song, one of his favorite pieces of music, as Martin Burney’s song of choice. (I liked it … although it seemed a bit over wrought in the end)

At the time director Joseph Ruben was hired, Kim Basinger was attached to the project as Laura Burney. She ultimately turned down the part, though, feeling she wasn’t right for the role. The character in the end was cast with Julia Roberts. (Kimmy B could have been good there, just a bit after her Batman role)

When this movie was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)for a rating it was given a rating of NC-17. An NC-17 rated film can only have limited advertisement in the US and many theaters will not show an NC-17 rated film. So to make a profit, the movie had to have a rating of R. In order for the MPAA to give this film an R rating, several seconds of the first sex scene between Martin and Laura had to be cut. The version of this film with the entire sex scene is known as the International version which was seen in the UK and other parts of Europe. (Huh, none of the sex scenes were crazy, and that is pretty crazy in retrospect)

[There was a long note here about Bergin’s potential sociopathy which just seemed a bit too speculative for my liking]

Upon its release, the movie ended an eleven week and almost three-month reign of Home Alone (1990) at the top of the North American box office. Both pictures were from the same 20th Century Fox.

The stars that were originally attached to the film’s lead roles were Kim Basinger, Sean Connery and Aidan Quinn. (Sean Connery would have been amazing).

The use of Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique” is appropriate since the piece is a programmatic symphony depicting a young man, under the influence of opium, dreaming that he kills his girlfriend, is executed and ends up in hell. (Cool)

The film was made and released about four years after its source novel of the same name written by Nancy Price had first been published in 1987. (That is quick!)

The scene that Ben’s students are rehearsing when Martin spies on the class is from the play ‘The Seagull’ by Anton Chekhov.

Swimfan Preview

With the collars popped on their jean jackets and bubble gum a-poppin’, Rich and Poe ‘board their way to Seattle Tech (or as the kids call it, Seattle Blech. Rad). They’ve been on the case for a week and have deftly used their social skillz and disregard for the rulez to glean info from the high school rumor mill. With that they have targeted the auto vocational class as suspect numero uno. Word on the street is that they’ve developed some new tech that let’s them boost some of the sweet wheels around town. Selling them on the blackmarket can fetch a pretty penny, but these punks better be ready to step up to the streetz or all they’ll fetch is a world of hurt. “This has got to be the tech Gruber is after. Let’s take down this punks, get the ‘ware, and save my family,” says Rich, but Poe doesn’t like this one bit. Will they themselves become fugitives from the law by helping Gruber? No time for hesitation, though, as they stroll into class and immediately win over the gang of car thieves. One of them is wary, but the leader, Blaze, is pretty sure he can trust these new cool bros. They are soon pulled into the heists, and ultimately become part of their family. “Blaze,” Rich says, “you’re real cool, bro. I have something to tell you. We’re the fuzz. I’m sorry.” Blaze is shocked and horrified, “you gonna turn us in, bro?” tears glistening in his eyes. But they can’t and just ask him to hand over the tech. But Blaze is confused. Tech? What tech? They’ve mostly just been jimmying the locks and using their mad driving skillz to get away. But Blaze does remember some rumors about the Swim Team and their unlikely run to the championship last season. “They gotta have the tech, bros,” Blaze says, “so I suggest we grab some speedos and become some swim fans.” That’s right! We’re watching the teen thriller classic Swimfan starring our boy Jesse Bradford of Hackers fame. It’s a wonder he became such a swim champ after drinking coffee, smoking cigs, and hacking his life away just a short while before. What’s not a wonder is that he caught the eye of the crazy high school stalker. He’s Jesse Bradford! Let’s go!

Swimfan (2002) – BMeTric: 56.3 

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(Holy shit, it was in the 4.0s? That seems quite low for a cheesy teen thriller. Then again, IMDb does tend to skew against films that target female viewership, so I shouldn’t be so surprised.)

Leonard Maltin – 2 stars –  Waterlogged teenage version of Fatal Attraction with Christensen as a new girl in town who sets her sights on high school swimming champion Bradford – who already has a girlfriend – and doesn’t take rejection well. Even as a formula film this falls short, becoming outlandish, with laughable plot turns and dialogue.

(Yes, that is really all I want Leonard, outlandish and laughable plot turns. Yellow card for the terrible “waterlogged” use at the beginning, but then again, this is a Maltin review, so I don’t know what I expected really.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-RGVruG7Y0/

(That looks thrilling. I am thrilled. I’m officially super excited to watch Jesse Bradford swim around. I might be a swimfan … hold your breath!)

Directors – John Polson – (Known For: Tenderness; Siam Sunset; Future BMT: Hide and Seek; BMT: Swimfan; Notes: Started out as an actor, even having a named part in Mission: Impossible II. He’s transitioned to directing and producing, including producing Elementary starring none other than Jonny Lee Miller.)

Writers – Charles F. Bohl (written by) (as Charles Bohl) – (BMT: Swimfan; Notes: Died in 2018, he basically wrote this and then a bunch of television movies, notably one about Martha Stewart’s time in prison.)

Phillip Schneider (written by) – (BMT: Swimfan; Notes: Nothing about this guy except that weirdly he’s had an “announced” film on IMDb since 2017 called Homicidal which I fear will never see the light of day.)

Actors – Jesse Bradford – (Known For: Romeo + Juliet; Bring It On; Flags of Our Fathers; W.; Presumed Innocent; The Year of Spectacular Men; My Blue Heaven; Happy Endings; Falling in Love; Cherry Falls; King of the Hill; Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog; Heights; Bound; Prancer; A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries; Future BMT: Clockstoppers; 10 Rules for Sleeping Around; Dead Awake; Hackers; Dancing at the Blue Iguana; Speedway Junky; Eulogy; BMT: Swimfan; I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell; Notes: Both of his parents are actors, he debuted as an infant in a Q-Tip commercial. He graduated from Columbia with a degree in film.)

Erika Christensen – (Known For: Traffic; The Case for Christ; The Upside of Anger; The Banger Sisters; Home Room; Mercy; Future BMT: Riding the Bullet; The Perfect Score; The Tortured; Leave It to Beaver; Flightplan; How to Rob a Bank (and 10 Tips to Actually Get Away with It); BMT: Swimfan; Notes: A Scientologist, and was clearly born into it, going to a Scientologist school as a kid. Was in over 100 episodes of parenthood.)

Shiri Appleby – (Known For: Charlie Wilson’s War; The Devil’s Candy; Havoc; I Love You to Death; The Meddler; Lemon; Undertow; I’m Reed Fish; When Do We Eat?; Future BMT: The Battle of Shaker Heights; The Other Sister; What Love Is; BMT: Swimfan; Notes: Was in over 50 episodes of Roswell right before landing this role. Is married to the celebrity chef Jon Shook.)

Budget/Gross – $10 million / Domestic: $28,564,995 (Worldwide: $34,411,240)

(That’s a solid haul. Where is Swimfan 2: Olympic Dreams? WHERE?!)

#18 for the Thriller – Psycho / Stalker / Blank from Hell genre

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(Wow this made less money than The Roommate and The Boy Next Door?! On a bit of a hiatus, but they always do come back. Might already be sequestered to VOD though.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 15% (14/92): A Fatal Attraction rip-off, Swimfan is a predictable, mediocre thriller.

(Basically what everyone says it that is well made, but predictable. Wait … is Fatal Attraction the film the following review is talking about? Reviewer Highlight: Director John Polson mutes the conservative sexual politics of the original film, focusing on the lightweight, efficient suspense story. – J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader)

Poster – Sklogfan (D+)

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(Terrible poster, but also a little ahead of its time. I feel like this is a type of poster that has only gotten more popular AS (After Swimfan). But yeah, it sucks and even the font is a little lackluster. I give it a bump for being a little artistic.).

Tagline(s) – His biggest fan just became his worst nightmare. (C)

(My brain is having trouble figuring out whether this is good. It’s on the verge of being too long and on the verge of being clever (I think). It does paint a very clear picture of what the film is about… but is that good. It’s like they were trying to land perfectly at mediocre.)

Keyword(s) – fatal attraction; Top Ten by BMeTric: 78.3 Basic Instinct 2 (2006); 70.2 The Boy Next Door (2015); 68.6 Vampire in Brooklyn (1995); 64.5 Body of Evidence (1992); 63.0 Obsessed (2009); 60.1 Sliver (1993); 56.3 Swimfan (2002); 55.8 Eye of the Beholder (1999); 55.2 Queen of the Damned (2002); 49.3 In the Cut (2003);

(I love this keyword. It is now officially my goal that we complete this keyword. They do indeed all qualify, phew!)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 27) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Jason Ritter is No. 5 billed in Swimfan and No. 16 billed in The Wicker Man, which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 5 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 5 + 16 + 5 + 1 = 27. If we were to watch Hackers, and Mindhunters we can get the HoE Number down to 13.

Notes – The scenes inside Madison’s house are the only ones where a light blue tint was not added to the screen. (Whaaaaaaaa?)

Erika Christensen took cello lessons for three months prior to filming. (WHAAAAAAAA?)