“Monster Hunter” and “Scare Me” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.
As I begin to write this review while listening to Bernard Herrmann’s score to Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal 1958 masterpiece “Vertigo,” I’m reminded of something the Master of Suspense said during his series of interviews with Francois Truffaut in 1962. He said that an audience will try to stay ahead of a director and say, “I know what’s coming next,” and it’s the director’s job to challenge that notion and answer back, “Do you?”
It’s in this regard that I have to give director Deon Taylor, working from a script by David Loughery, some credit. From its premise, to its title, to the slatted gate in front of the elevator leading to Detective Val Quinlan’s (Hilary Swank) apartment, “Fatale” owes a lot director Adrian Lyne’s 1987 thriller “Fatal Attraction.” So when it’s established that Derrick Tyler (Michael Ealy) is a successful sports agent and co-owner of his own business, and that he’s married to the beautiful yet emotionally distant Tracie (Damaris Lewis), to whom he is unfaithful with Quinlan, I thought I knew every story beat from here on in. I resigned myself to twiddling my thumbs as the movie goes through its motions, hoping that no one in “Fatale” has a pet rabbit.
Then much to my delight, the rug was pulled out from under me. I was surprised by a significant turn and will admit that I did not see it coming. It felt good to be in new territory as things went from bad to worse for Tyler and he got in way over his head in a cat and mouse game he was not equipped to play. The innovation played out up until the big finale, which went back to the familiar and copied a scenario involving a gun, a knife, and a surprise attack right out of “Fatal Attraction.”
Particularly fascinating in “Fatale” is the performance by Hilary Swank in the role of the scorned lover. She and Tyler meet in a club in Las Vegas and have a refreshingly adult interaction, though it’s not a totally honest one. He lies and says he’s from Seattle, when in reality he is from Los Angeles, same as her. After a break-in at his luxurious home, Quinlan is the detective assigned to the case. There’s a quiet menace to Swank’s performance. Something is subtly off about her tone and mannerisms that are ever so slightly on the side of discomforting. These scenes are punctuated by the theme, if it can be called a theme, that composer Geoff Zanelli created for her. It reminded me of whale song, but not a pleasant, joyful whale song. This is a song filled with pain, regret, and just the right hint of anger—precisely like the character.
While “Fatale” doesn’t reinvent the thriller genre, it does have an unexpected plot with enough twists to keep you guessing. On the surface, I can see why some would wonder why likeable two-time Oscar winner Swank (who is also a credited producer) would take on the role of such a devious character, but after watching her in it, and what she does with it, a better question to ask is: why wouldn’t she take it? Rent it.
After impatiently squirming through the mindless action spectacle “Monster Hunter,” I had two questions about its writer-director, Paul W.S. Anderson. First is whether he ever played the action role playing game on which the movie is based. I have to wonder because at one point in their encounter with a flame monster, our heroes Artemis (Milla Jovovich), Hunter (Tony Jaa), and the Admiral (Ron Perlman) all use flame weapons against it. That’s not the way it works. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of RPGs knows that you can’t use an elemental weapon against an enemy whose strength is that same exact element. Water or ice would have made more sense. I’ve never played any of the “Monster Hunter” games, so if this is actually the fault of game creator Kaname Fujioka, I’ll lay it at his feet. Either way, I have played enough RPGs to know what makes sense and what doesn’t—and this doesn’t.
Second question: Has Paul W.S. Anderson ever had a Hershey’s chocolate bar? This question I ask because after traveling around in the hot desert and having two pointless and idiotic fights with Hunter, Artemis decides to make peace with him and to do this, she reaches into her pocket and pulls out a Hershey’s that’s supposedly been in there for hours. To my amazement, the bar wasn’t melted at all. Unless Hershey’s has created some new, incredible formula that doesn’t melt in pockets in hot temperatures, that bar should have been mush. Even if he’s never had a Hershey’s bar, Anderson should know better.
Then again, I should have known better too. This is a movie based on a video game with the same director and star as the tiresome “Resident Evil” movies. Thank goodness those are done, but “Monster Hunter” isn’t that much better. Skip it.
Here’s how to capture the experience of watching “Scare Me” without having to sit through one cringey, gag reflex inducing second of it. Think of two people who really, really annoy you. People who just rub you completely the wrong way and you detest having to be around. Now, call them up and invite them to your place for an hour and forty-four minutes. There you go—that’s what it feels like watching “Scare Me.”
I seriously hated these characters. Fred (Josh Ruben, who also wrote and directed) is a weak, spineless simp who’s such a pushover that he feels bad after he rightfully and justifiably stands up for himself in a rare moment of chutzpah. Even worse is Fanny (Aya Cash), a brash, rude, obnoxious, racist, misandrist bigot who does nothing but tear Fred down every chance she gets. The situation that brings the two of them together—both are writers who swap scary stories after a power outage—is contrived, and none of the stories they tell are particularly original or compelling.
The only good parts of “Scare Me” are Fred’s annoying Uber driver Bettina (Rebecca Drysdale) and the pizza delivery guy Carlo (Chris Redd), both of whom are funny. I would have much rather watched their stories over that of Fred or Fanny, who I couldn’t get away from fast enough. Skip it, and if you know anyone who likes this movie or these characters, Run!
“Zappa,” a documentary about the life and work of musician Frank Zappa.