STREAMING REVIEWS: From horror to near-horrible

Published July 3, 2022, 9:00 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Chris Pratt and Taylor Kitsch in ‘The Terminal List’

A lot of content on the streaming platforms today will rely on star power – and we’re lucky when this star power can pertain to the Director, and not just the lead stars.

Men (Video on Demand) – This new film is directed by Alex Garland. Once known more as a novelist, he wrote The Beach; he’s also been celebrated as a movie director, with Ex Machina being the one that admiring critics will often point to as the best introduction to his film-directing. While Ex Machina was an excursion into tense, psychological SciFi; with this new one, Garland takes on the horror genre – but once again, creates his own unique take on the genre, mixing in a lot of psychological insight and acting fireworks. It stars the excellent young actress Jessie Buckley, and has Rory Kinnear (son of Roy) in what should be a career-defining performance. More on this turn by Kinnear later; but let it be said that this Horror film carries much emotional weight, and does so with confidence. 

The bigger issue for the film would be if movie audiences are ready for such a slow burn type of horror film. A young wife, Harper (Buckley) is still recovering from the suicide that her late husband indulged in to create the ultimate guilt trip for her seeking a divorce from said husband. She takes over a country house as a refuge and place to recover. Upon her arrival at the house, the keeper does the requisite tour – and this is our first introduction to Geoffrey (Kinnear). To this point, the film operates like a pastoral/traumatized psychological portrait and it’s easy to be duped into thinking this alone is the intent of Garland. But in a beautifully staged sequence, Harper goes for a walk, enters a tunnel, and it’s here that we see Kinnear’s second role – no spoilers here, but do look out for this and his succeeding appearances. 

The Terminal List (Amazon Prime) – Directed by Antone Fuqua (best known for Training Day), and starring Co-producer Chris Pratt; this Limited series has to do with the classic scenario of a SEAL veteran, who’s the sole survivor of an overseas operation, now back in the States and having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. It’s a scenario that we’ve seen in countless films, and my big criticism for this series is how, despite having Fuqua on board, there’s really nothing new being brought to the table. And what I found especially frustrating is how the narrative has been stretched every this way and that, to turn it into a Limited series, and not just a film. I think that’s the greatest crime being committed today by these streaming platforms – turning concepts and thinly written material into a series.

Taylor Kitsch as the brother of the character played by Pratt is the only other character who’s more than a rough sketch and makes the most of the opportunity. The wife and child of the Pratt character are not much more than shadows, and I really wonder why this is so often the case. It’s like the only thing the screenplay wants to achieve is give Pratt as much screen time as possible, thinking this is the formula that will drive audiences to watch this. But as we’ve seen with content like Reacher, if the story is tightly written and enough unexpected twists in the narrative are made part of the scenario, rapt audiences will watch. I realize this is Pratt trying to prove he can do more than the Guardians and Jurassic franchises, but you’ll wish they also invested in a script that can surprise and not be such a predictable one.