Monday, March 4, 2024

Spa Day of the Dead

Some people get goosebumps at the classic Universal logo that rolls out before the opening credits. Others cheer at Marvel's new collage. Me? I hear the calming oceans of Marvista and say, "oh yes, this will be something special."

Quick Plot: An unnamed woman steps into the sauna at Serenity Gardens, fancy spa, expecting to sweat out her troubles. Instead, she sweats out...her LIFE.

One year later, we're led back to Serenity Gardens via Stella, a business consultant brought in by owner Ivy to help take things to the next level. The staff bristles at the interference of an MBA. Crystal healing specialist Jett worries her lack of clients will get her fired. Trainer Boxer is a creepy stalker-in-the-making. Yoga heartthrob Kilman follows his own rules, while his casual girlfriend Zoe is the office manager one wheatgrass shot away from pure insanity. 

Unbalanced employees can certainly create an unhealthy work environment, but it ultimately comes down to management. Ivy is an incredibly toxic boss. She pits her team members against one another and punishes meeting misbehavior with forced planks. THIS WOMAN IS THE DEVIL. 

Despite her business sense and education, Stella proves herself to be quite an idiot. Red flag after red flag waves in front of her face and yet she hangs on to her consulting gig, even after obsessive customers are stalking her house, drunken employees threatening her safety, and she becomes the prime suspect in a spa-set murder.

Killer Co-Worker is a tubi original, and that my friends, is a beautiful thing. Lifetime has long held a special place my heart as a reliable source of satisfying melodramatic cheese. tubi seems to have stolen its template, made a copy despite the machine being low on ink, then filled in the outline with whatever spilled wine product was near. 

This is a zany, zany little thriller. Everyone is operating at an 11 save for our 'normal' lead, who instead operates as if 11 was her IQ score. Somehow it all balances out. Director V.T. Nayani gets all her actors on the same page of stupid and by golly, it works. 

High Points
As an actor, it takes a fair amount of bravery to just GO FOR IT (particularly when the material doesn't necessarily support IT), and I have to call out Kendra Williams for taking Zoe to glorious heights of insanity

Low Points
Obviously, Killer Co-Worker isn't working on Titanic (or possibly even Titanic 666) levels of budget, but to establish its main setting as a thriving business with a huge waiting list, it probably would have been more effective to show more than one client

Lessons Learned
Laughter inhibits the power of crystals

MBAs speak fancy language, using terms like 'value adds'

Never trust a woman in a blazer

Like I say anytime I review a Lifetime thriller, you know just by the words "Lifetime thriller" if it's going to work for you. Killer Co-Worker reads exactly the same way, and I had a blast. Keep 'em coming, tubi!

Monday, February 26, 2024

Alpha All the Way

Welcome to the Annual February Shortening! In honor of the shortest month on a blog written by a short woman, all posts are devoted to stories about vertically challenged villains. If you, reader of any height, have your own mini-horror to share, do so in the comments and I'll include you in a final post roundup as the calendar changes!

Monday, February 19, 2024

Bigger Than Bat Boy


Monday, February 12, 2024

Not All Heroes Wear Collars

Welcome to the Annual February Shortening! In honor of the shortest month on a blog written by a short woman, all posts are devoted to stories about vertically challenged villains. If you, reader of any height, have your own mini-horror to share, do so in the comments and I'll include you in a final post roundup as the calendar changes!

and for the English speakers:

Quick Plot: Li Tung is growing annoyed by his upstairs neighbors and their late night floor banging (noise-making, not the sexy kind). He knocks on their door to discover an old apologetic man, his attractive daughter, and an even more attractive black cat. The next day, the household has moved, but Li Tung can't quite shake the feeling that something was off. He sneaks into their empty apartment to discover a horrifying bloodstain.

The cops aren't thrilled to waste their morning on what turns out to be cat remains. Li Tung joins police inspector Wang at the modern mansion of suave novelist friend Wisely' to discuss the case further as the city experiences its own unusual crime: the mysterious museum theft of an artifact called "the octagon". 

By a cat.

And mushroom blob monster.

No, they're not working together. See, the cat is actually an alien general in the body a kickass cat, and the mushroom blob monster is its sworn enemy with the power to possess the puny human bodies it touches.The adventurous Wisely is now fully entrenched in helping to save the world, though he, like so many mere mortals, initially suspects the cat of villainy. 

Yes, I know: The Shortening is a month of vertically challenged villains, but The General is actually quite heroic. I THINK he saves the world? But it takes a LITTLE time to make that clear, and when we see him pitted against a lovable mastiff in an all-out brawl, we're not necessarily rooting for him. 

Until, of course, we see his incredible battle skills.

Cinema is filled with memorable fight scenes. Rocky vs. Apollo Creed, Luke vs. Vader, The Bride vs. Vernita Green, Nada vs. Frank. I'm sure there are plenty of listicles with scientific rankings, but I tell you now, dear reader, that if said ranking does not include The General vs. Lau Pu, aka Alien Cat v. Good Dog In Junkyard, then said list should only be used as litter. It means NOTHING.

The Cat was made by Lam Ngai Kai, an extraterrestrial in the form of human director best known for the magnificently zany Riki-Oh: The Story of Riki. The Cat is on par. There are just as many explosions and bug-eyed dummies, plus the added thrills of an electrifying mushroom blob monster and, you know, THE CAT. 

They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Most never make this ANYWHERE.

High Points
I can't possibly oversell the puppet cat vs. paper mache dog junkyard battle because it is EPIC and so much more than you can possibly imagine, so much more than you can ever deserve

Low Points
Until someone promises me that no animals were harmed in the making of The Cat, I'll withhold SOME of my intense enthusiasm 

Lessons Learned
Vodka is the strongest wine in the world

Always stock your home bar with top shelf alcohol, both for optimum cocktail service and most effective molotov cocktail service

Cats are the social equivalent of blacksmiths

The Cat is streaming on the Criterion Channel. Your life will be better after you experience it.

Monday, February 5, 2024

What's the Matter With Kids Today?

Welcome to the Annual February Shortening! In honor of the shortest month on a blog written by a short woman, all posts are devoted to stories about vertically challenged villains. If you, reader of any height, have your own mini-horror to share, do so in the comments and I'll include you in a final post roundup as the calendar changes!

Quick Plot
: It's a double date cabin vacation for two couples at very different points in their respective relationships. Thomas and Ellie are in a bit of a rut after a half-successful night experimenting with an open relationship (their weird little children Lucy and Spencer being weird little children aren't helping). Slightly more carefree Margaret and Ben continue to waffle on whether they want to be parents, particularly with some of Ben's mental health history.

These problems are nothing that a little nature hike couldn't fix, right? The group discovers a strangely alluring, incredibly deep cave that seems to have a particularly strong effect on Spencer. The next morning, the babysitting Ben awakens to discover the kids have gone missing. He tracks them back to their favorite new spot just in time to watch them both leap to their deaths. 

Or not.

Though Ben (and the audience) witness their odd suicide, Lucy and Spencer immediately appear back at their parents' cabin in a perfectly cheerful, none plummet-off-a-cliff mood. Ben is relieved, but his peace quickly curdles when realizes the kids aren't quite all right. 


We get quite a few more plot twists in the script by T.J. Cimfel and David White, all handled with great energy by director Roxanne Benjamin. For the first 45 minutes or so, there's some deeply unsettling tension. Is Ben cracking under the effects of lithium, or are his friends' children pure evil? And ultimately, which makes a more interesting movie?

For me, There's Something Wrong With the Children chose the wrong path, though I don't mean to imply that it doesn't fully work. The stretch where Ben (Zach Gilford, who's spent enough time in horror to know how to convey disoriented terror) and by extension, we are full on edge wondering how far these little monsters will go is incredibly tense. Granted, I'm a mark for homicidal minors, but personal preference aside, it's great stuff. And what follows is...fine. 

I won't spoil the last act or ultimate reveal. Much like with her first feature Body at Brighton Rock, Roxanne Benjamin nails a unique kind of tone that takes small human awkwardness into wickedly dark and funny territory. That feeling roars for There's Something Wrong With the Children's first hour, but once the main game is revealed and the plot kicks into cat-and-mouse chase, the surprises just aren't there.

High Points
I appreciate how much time and specificity is spent in defining both couples' current conditions, and perhaps more importantly, the four actors' skills at making their characters work as human beings even before they're running for their mortal lives

Low Points
The more you start to think about the nature of the actual villains and their specific decisions, the more some of There's Something Wrong With the Children's details start to become very, very fuzzy

Lessons Learned
Powder puff is girl's football for girls that don't want to have it called football

Generally speaking, it's better to get in a car than under it

When hanging around evil children, always drink out of sealed containers (actually, children are pretty gross even when not evil so apply this lesson to all manners of life)

At barely 90 minutes, There's Something Wrong With the Children feels like a brisk but swerving ride. For me, it was just one of those cases of a movie taking a turn in a different direction than my instincts, but that doesn't mean I'm the barometer on what kind of story we should have had here. It's enjoyable, but it also misses out on being great. Still worth a watch (currently streaming on Amazon Prime and MGM+, which allegedly is a real thing).