There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
2020 Netflix Halloween Countdown
As crazy as it is to believe, it is already October 2020—it has been a bizarre year, for sure. For the past three years, I have been spending October watching and reviewing some of the spooky, scary, gory, chilling, and horror-themed movies on Netflix. With each review, I will include a table that ranks these movies from best to worst. This year will be my fourth year doing this, and I plan on publishing a new review each day. Some will be from movies that I have reviewed before, but there will be some new movies on here is well. So if you are looking to get in the Halloween spirit by watching some Halloween-style movies, then these articles are for you!
Hold the Dark
When Medora (Riley Keough) discovers that her son has gone missing, she knows it could only mean one thing. She lives in a small town in northern Alaska, and three children have already gone missing. Authorities suspect a pack of wolves in the area, which have been seen getting dangerously close to the town. They are hungry and they are desperate, which makes them willing to risk getting so close to town. When children go unattended on the edge of town, the risk of wolves taking them is significantly greater.
Medora is not so willing to sit back and accept what the wolves have done to her son. She chooses to reach out to Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) to help track the wolves and kill them for what they have done. Russell Core is a successful author, wolf expert, and outdoorsman. He should have no problem tracking down this group of wolves, but the closer he gets to the pack, the more he begins to suspect that there is more to this story than he originally anticipated. It seems unlikely that the wolves would have taken Medora's son, so Russell will need to try to determine what happened. However, the boy's father (Alexander Skarsgard) has just returned from Iraq, and the news of his son's fate sends him on a violent search for answers.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Mystery (+6pts)
The Ending (-5pts)
Pro: The Mystery (+6pts)
The filmmakers did a really good job of delivering an intense mystery. I had my issues with characters' motivations, and I had my issues with the ending, but the mystery was an intense ride to go on. I do not want to get into any specifics, but as Russell made more discoveries, things started to get crazier and the stakes got higher. The filmmakers also kept me guessing from start to finish.
The boy went missing and the wolves were the number one suspects. I knew what kind of film this was, so I did not believe the wolves were responsible. Nonetheless, every time Russell made a discovery, I would come up with a new guess of what I thought had happened, but the story would always go in a different direction. The movie was a slow-burn, but the mystery was a compelling one that kept me engaged and it continued to go in unexpected directions.
Con: Medora (-5pts)
The further this story progressed, the less sense this character made. After the setup of the story, everything about this character falls into spoiler territory. Let us be honest, this story is a mystery, and this character is the focal point of that mystery, so it makes sense that I need to be very vague with this character. As we learned more about Medora, her previous actions seemed to make less sense.
This issue gave me the impression that the filmmakers were too focused on making the movie more mysterious. As a result, some of Medora's earlier actions seemed counter-productive. No logical person would make the decisions that she made, given what she was hoping for. I know, this was really vague, but I really cannot say more without spoiling the movie. If I had to sum up this issue, I would say that the writers seemed to sacrifice this character's logic in order to deliver a more mysterious story.
Pro: Russell (+6pts)
I liked this character because, while he was a wolf expert, he was also a relatable character for the viewer. He was the only character in the story that was not from the town, he was not a cop, and he was not involved in the mystery in any way. This made it so that we, the viewers, discovered everything about this town at the same time that main character did. Jeffrey Wright, the actor in the role, also gave a compelling performance that made the mystery much easier to get invested in. This was not an action-packed movie by any stretch of the imagination, but Jeffrey Wright in this role was captivating enough to keep me watching.
Con: Vernon (-4pts)
Much like my issues with Medora, Vernon seemed to make less and less sense as the story progressed. I just did not understand why he went to the places he went to (figuratively). I get that he lost his son, and I get that he would be angry because of it. However, the way that he exercised that anger felt unjustified.
It was not that I did not understand his pain, I just thought there was a bit of a mismatch between his pain and his actions. The story needed him to go off the rails in order to progress into crazier territory, but it felt like the character’s story was missing a chapter and that the missing chapter would have been the link between this character's pain and the dark place he went to. I understand that this story was a book before it was a movie, so maybe the book does a better job at developing this character. Unfortunately, the filmmakers did not, as Vernon felt underdeveloped. This ended up contributing to the somewhat incoherent nature of this story, as everything Vernon was doing felt random and disconnected.
Pro: Donald (+4pts)
Donald (James Badge Dale) is a veteran cop in town. I initially thought this character would be a generic one, but I actually really enjoyed what the writers did with him. He is starting a family with his wife, so has an emotional connection to the missing kids in town, more so than the emotional connection anyone would have after multiple kids go missing in their hometown. Donald also knows Vernon and Medora personally, as it is a small town and they grew up together.
Where Medora and Vernon were tied up with their issues, and with Russell being unfamiliar with the town, Donald served as the moral compass of the story. With Vernon on the loose, this case is a very dangerous one. Yet even with a baby on the way, he was willing to risk his life to save others in his town. The character was an honorable man, which made him easy to root for, and James Badge Dale gave the character layers that made him compelling and easy to relate to.
Con: The Ending (-5pts)
I will keep this brief to avoid spoilers, but the ending of this movie really confused me. I honestly have no idea what happened, or why the characters behaved the way that they did. When I try to think about why the characters did what they did, some things make some sense, but other things still make no sense at all. Again, I understand that this was a book before it was a movie, so maybe the book does a better job at explaining what happened here and why. However, this is my review of the movie, not the book. With that in mind, I think the filmmakers did a really poor job of setting up this ending, as it made absolutely no sense to me, and raised more questions than it answered.
Grade: C+ (77pts)
Hold the Dark was one of those movies where I felt like the trailer gave too much away. Nonetheless, I gave this movie a shot. The premise was an interesting one, and the filmmakers did a great job of playing into the story's mystery. The writers kept me guessing throughout the entire movie, and never quite went in the direction that I expected them too. This was one of the movie's strengths, but it also led to some issues. I got the impression that the writers were so concerned with delivering a mystery, that they had no problem sacrificing their character's logic.
Characters (such as Medora) seemed to act in ways that contradicted their own goals, just for the sake of making the movie more mysterious. Vernon's rampage also got too little development, which made it feel like a chapter of his story was missing. Fortunately, Russell was an interesting character that was easy to relate to because we were experiencing this town, and the events that occurred there, right along with him. Then there was Donald, who was the emotional and moral center of this story, which made it easy to relate to him as well. The movie was not bad, and it certainly had potential. I just think that the filmmakers did not have enough screen time to flesh this story out properly. This led to a confusing ending that could have been a lot better, and made a lot more sense, if this had been a limited series instead of one movie.
Train to Busan
In the Tall Grass
The Babysitter: Killer Queen
Hold the Dark
Would You Rather
The Open House
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House