Tomb Raider: A Franchise Is Born?

The following is a review of the 2018 film Tomb Raider initially composed for my personal newsletter. It has been lightly edited for a broader audience, but should still be interpreted predominately as me expressing my personal thoughts on the film rather than a foolhardy attempt at “objective” evaluation.

Video game movies have an impressively awful track record, particularly with critics, and if early reviews are any indication it’s unlikely that this film-based-on-a-game-inspired-by-a-franchise will break that record. However, good grief does it try. Alicia Vikander’s performance is nothing short of phenomenal, selling the evolution of young Lara Croft from curious twenty-something adventurer to hardened killer in two hours arguably better than the game it’s based on ever did. Beyond that, the film’s most polarizing components will likely be the numerous set pieces it lifts from the game: from shipwrecks to deadly rapids, spike traps to ice axes, Tomb Raider feels at times like a sizzle reel for the 2013 game. And while that is great for someone like me who loved the game, it may be off-putting for those with no prior knowledge of Lara or who are not keen on the recent direction of the franchise.

I saw Tomb Raider opening night, and shortly after getting home I posted a photo in support of the film. That unwavering and immediate support has made me acutely aware of subsequent negative reviews and makes me feel somewhat compelled to defend the film against them. Because whether or not it is a “good movie,” I really loved Tomb Raider. What I’m most wrestling with is how we ought to judge adaptations, particularly of games — source material with dozens of hours to develop characters and plotlines, and which are as much predicated on player interaction and mechanics as they are vehicles for story. I think it’s fair to question the wisdom of even making film adaptations of games. But if they are going to exist, on what merits should they be judged? Do we evaluate them as films — which, of course, they are — or on the basis of their fidelity to source material, even if it resists linear, hands-off presentation?

I also think it is perfectly fair to question whether Tomb Raider would have been better trying to tell its own brand new Lara Croft story rather than explicitly drawing on and re-presenting scenes from a game. That may have alienated strong fans of the games, but those fans may well be alienated anyway by the places where the film takes liberties and significantly departures from plot points in the game. Yet catering to cinematic audiences — that is, people who will see Tomb Raider because it’s an action movie or because they loved The Danish Girl, not because they like or know anything about the games — almost requires this to be an origin story, and it’s hard to argue for a complete reworking of Lara’s origins after she has so recently had them reworked multiple times.

And so we go with an adaptation that borrows heavily from the game without duplicating it, with enough preface material to establish the general things that make Lara who she is: her rebellious spirit, her antagonistic relationship with the family wealth, her physical prowess, her clever personality. And then it’s a speedrun: finding Yamatai, facing and escaping capture, acquiring weaponry, and attempting to thwart Trinity. The pacing is brisk to the point of jarring, and leaves little room for nearly any of the other characters to breathe. Which is a shame, because a decent supporting cast certainly had more to offer than it had a chance to give here. On the other hand, this may have been a blessing, because the sidelining of everyone else in order to focus on Lara almost (almost) justifies the absence of some of the most memorable and effective characters in the 2013 game, especially Sam and Jonah.

Ultimately, Tomb Raider is working under a lot of pressure. It’s trying to relaunch a franchise still memorably (if winkingly) associated with Angelina Jolie; refreshen an already-told origin tale; and condense a sprawling exploration-driven experience into a tight, brief plot; all while juggling the difficult task of turning a happy-go-lucky college-ager into a survivalist in an under-120-minute window. And while it’d be dishonest to say the film succeeds at everything it tries to be, I think it’s also important to ask what else it could have done with so many boxes to check.

Alicia Vikander pours her Oscar-winning heart into this performance and I have no doubt that, if given the chance to thrive in a film untethered by the obligations of a daddy-issues origin story, she (and the Tomb Raider franchise) can breathe new life into a dusty genre whose most recent offerings have included Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a surprising amount of Nicolas Cage, and whatever that disaster with Tom Cruise was supposed to be. I desperately want to see future Tomb Raider movies, and so critical reception aside I am really pulling for this one to pay off at the box office. Meanwhile, if you like the games at all, if you like Vikander, or if you just want a fun popcorn flick packed with action and adventure (if not much else), go see Tomb Raider this weekend.

Note: Featured Image taken from the official Tomb Raider movie Instagram account.

“Greatest” Sure Ain’t What It Used to Be

By now, if you’re anything resembling a fan of cinema you have more than likely seen the BBC’s so-called “21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films” list. (If not, you’re welcome and I’m sorry.) You may notice, as you scroll past its unnecessary introduction, that the BBC has helpfully linked to an adjacent article defending the list’s top entry. I did not read “What makes Mulholland Drive so good?” but I presume the article doesn’t begin and end with “It isn’t.” Pity.

I could probably devote an entire essay solely to the rebuttal of naming Lynch’s failed-television-pilot-cum-Frankenstein’s-monstrosity-of-a-movie the crowning achievement of global cinema in the last sixteen years, but I’m sure someone else more irate (and, preferably, better cited) will handle that self-evident chore soon enough. So rather than discuss why I think the list and its leader are rubbish, I just wanted to take note of a few no-shows I think deserve distinction.

First, for the sake of full disclosure, the movies on the list I’ve seen are:

96. Finding Nemo

95. Moonrise Kingdom

94. Let the Right One In

93. Ratatouille

88. Spotlight

87. Amélie

84. Her

78. The Wolf of Wall Street

68. The Royal Tenenbaums

67. The Hurt Locker

62. Inglourious Basterds

57. Zero Dark Thirty

53. Moulin Rouge!

51. Inception

44. 12 Years a Slave

41. Inside Out

36. Timbuktu

33. The Dark Knight

29. WALL-E

27. The Social Network

25. Memento

22. Lost in Translation

21. The Grand Budapest Hotel

19. Mad Max: Fury Road

17. Pan’s Labyrinth

13. Children of Men

10. No Country for Old Men

7. The Tree of Life

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

5. Boyhood

4. Spirited Away

3. There Will Be Blood

1. Mulholland Drive

That makes 33/100. My first observation is that the makers of this list and I are apparently both fond of Wes Anderson and Pixar, though the fact that The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou didn’t make the cut while Budapest did is disconcerting. My second observation is that I’ve just opened the door for the sort of mouth-agape horror that always befalls film fans upon hearing that no, I have not in fact (yet?) seen, among many others: Requiem for a Dream; The Pianist; A.I.; any of the Linklater trilogy; Brokeback Mountain; City of God; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; either Oldboy; Zodiac; or Spring Breakers.

Spring Breakers? Really? Okay.

Having missed 2/3 of the movies, I can’t really speak to the quality of what is there (Mulholland notwithstanding). The majority of the ones which I have seen, I’ve deeply respected (if not always enjoyed). But browsing through the DVDs and Blu-ray discs in my collection, I found a handful that matched or exceeded the way I’ve felt about that 1/3, and their absence ranges from disappointing to intolerable.

The Fall. This is, bar none, the film whose absence I find most egregious. I suppose I oughtn’t be surprised, as both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic depict massive disparity between how critics and audiences have historically responded to Tarsem Singh’s absolutely stunning fable. I don’t want to flood this post with media, but I’ll make exception for this one trailer:

Persepolis; The Artist; Birdman. Three of the very few films I’ve made a point of buying in recent years; I’m not sure whether any of them is more deserving of a spot on the list than the films that are there, but I think they are all at least as deserving. Persepolis is gorgeous and moving animated memoir of war, prejudice, and coming of age; The Artist is mastercraft filmmaking and ancestral homage; Birdman is breathtaking editing and provocative contemplation of the theatrical vis-à-vis the cinematic.

Offside. Kiarostami rightly gets a few nods on the list, but his countryman Jafar Panahi’s story of Iranian girls trying everything they can to see a soccer game has just as much heart and daring as any movie here. That, plus the funniest use of an athlete’s poster you will ever see in a film.

The Big Short. It may not have had the moral clout of Spotlight, but last year’s story of the greedy mortgage serpent that ate its own tail was arguably the better film. Perhaps critics felt that Wolf of Wall Street scratched that particular itch in their nominations, but when it comes to over-the-top tellings of Wall Street avarice featuring Margot Robbie, my money’s on the one that didn’t make me feel like I needed to watch a porno to get clean again after.

Hot Fuzz, or really anything from Edgar Wright this side of Spaced. Hot Fuzz in particular is a brilliant demonstration of narrative cohesion, genre mastery and subversion, and just overall craft.

Little Miss Sunshine. I’ll never understand why anyone tried to reboot the Vacation series when this rollicking (yet also painfully poignant) family trip already hit all the Griswold beats (dead grandparents and all) in a perfectly modern way.

I think it is worth noting two caveats to what I have said here. The first is that, by the very virtue of my not being a critic by trade (or even, really, by hobby) I should be expected to have a less developed (and thus, if not less valid, at least more flawed) sense of what does or does not deserve exceptional merit or recognition. I have studied film cursorily, and while my tastes have occasionally ventured into deep cuts territory I am still more dilettante than connoisseur. Do I think critics have a tendency to sleight popular taste on one side and embrace controversial taste on the other more in the name of staying avant-garde than anything else? Absolutely. But bias doesn’t guarantee error; it merely increases error’s likelihood.

The second, and arguably far less frivolous of my concerns, is that my exposure to films outside mainstream American cinema has been very limited over these sixteen years, and while I’ve made efforts in recent years to rectify this slightly there remains not a likelihood but a certainty that I’ve missed many worthy and outstanding cinematic contributions in the twenty-first century, and this not only from foreign filmmakers but from non-mainstream domestic filmmakers too. One friend referred to the list as very white and very male, and for the most part my suggestions here do not change that composition. I am left with two different, and likely complementary, implications: first, that I have neglected to see (and thus consider) many excellent films made by nonwhites, women, or anyone else outside the prevalent social hierarchy; second, that lack of resources and support have hindered these alternative voices from achieving their full cinematic potential (which is to say, if the movies aren’t good enough to be the greatest, that’s on us, not them).

With that in mind, I’ve enjoyed thinking back over so many great films, and I look forward to using this list for about the only two things an amalgamation of other peoples’ tastes is ever really good for: First, seeking stories I might not otherwise have discovered; and second, starting conversations (and, given Mulholland, probably arguments) with fellow lovers of story.

Wheels Are Turnin’

Being a goal-oriented person reminds me of those bottomless fries at Red Robin: great, until it isn’t. Even at my most long-winded and tangential, I’m someone who is striving towards a point. Those who’ve attempted to spend time with me know how wont I am to ask What’s the plan? Where are we going? What time? I can be pretty laissez-faire about the journey, but only once I’m positive of its destination.

An orientation towards goals is awesome for the first twenty or so years of your life, because here in America we’ve done a good job of telling people during those years where they should be going. The days are structured around assignments and schedules, syllabi and rubrics. You’ve been told where you should be one, two, four years from now, and often you’ve also been given a roadmap to getting there. I loved that, because I never needed to participate in the decision process. Not really. I just asked What’s the plan? and then shrugged and smiled stupidly out the passenger side window as life carried me there, while I fell asleep to the comforting bumpy rhythm of that road.

I woke up from that nap alone in an abandoned parking lot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, twenty-one years old and for the first time completely clueless as to what the plan was or where I was going. I’d cruised through the overlong tutorial section on the game of life and realized I had no idea how to play the real thing. That day, a panic set in that would stay with me for the better part of the next year as I bounced from state to state and futon to futon. Internally, I screamed out the usual clarifying questions, but no one could answer them for me and I’d never learned to answer them for myself.

I still never have. The end of that episode in my life ended when a friend’s charity landed me a job at an Internet startup company where I was paid well and got along with all of my coworkers. This coincided with the Olympic games, which lit a fire under my lethargic and oversized tuchus and saw me turning down extra helpings of glorious food from my friend’s mother and heading out for “runs” while blasting the likes of Gym Class Heroes’ “The Fighter.” Overcome with the hospitality and hope of the moment, I did something I had never before done: I established a vision for my future. I set goals for myself.

One of those goals was to become a professor. And I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I had to leave the new job instead of accepting their generous full-time offer. I had to learn and take the GRE in two months and hope the scores were high enough to get my applications through the door of worthwhile institutions. I had to figure out what those institutions were. And then I had to hope and pray that I hadn’t just made the single greatest mistake of my life. Well… maybe second greatest, after majoring in English on the cusp of the worst recession since the 1930s.

A couple months later I was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief, upon my acceptance to my top choice school, an offer wrapped in the kind of money that will make any neophyte temporarily abandon critical thinking in favor of inflated self-worth. But it wasn’t just acceptance or financial stability that made my acceptance so relieving; it was the fact that, for the foreseeable future, I was once again not responsible for driving. My school would tell me where I needed to be in one, two, four years. I’d curl up in the passenger seat and once again nod off to sleep.

And then last year I was jolted awake as the car crashed (I was, in reality, responsible for this crash, but pardon it for the metaphor) and I flew headlong through the windshield. I spent the better part of the summer in recuperation, wincing at the bandaged cuts and internal hemorrhaging, consulting with doctors and nurses to get a sense for how bad it was, how much worse it could have been, and whether I’d ever walk again. Autumn was physical therapy, and the knowledge that I needed to get back on track was hindered by the impossibility of me doing so. I wanted to accomplish too much too quickly, but life very sternly reminded me that this was going to take time.

Blame it on watching international soccer or the unseasonably warm temperatures, but December found me feeling like I was back in summer 2012. A long stretch of directionless drifting, dreams deferred and then abandoned. I was back to having no destination, and back as well to failing to choose one for myself. In a bitterly twisted way, I resented my parents for supporting me, not because I hated comfort but because I wanted to hold them responsible for not telling me where to go and what to do.

The push this time came, as in 2012, from a friend, who in this case spent a few hours with me and proceeded to tell me, lovingly if firmly, that as far as he was concerned my senses of self and purpose were nonexistent and I needed desperately to stop making excuses for my inaction and find something to live for again. He gave me a lead on a job. I followed it, swallowed my reservations, and waited to see if it would pan out.

It did. And then a second job did as well. That familiar euphoria washed over me as it had with my acceptance letter in 2013, the sense that people actually valued me and had use for my talents. They wanted me. Heck, they even wanted that English degree. And now, as if to accentuate the point, the commercials are starting to run for this summer’s Olympic games and I’ve found myself listening to “The Fighter” again.

But I haven’t won yet; I’m not yet yelling “kiss my ass.” I’m closer to Eminem’s “back to the lab again” stage than I am to tearing down “haters’” balconies. The fact that other people praising me and my resumé so impacted my self-esteem suggests I don’t honestly have much self esteem at all. And if I treat this new stage of life as yet another excuse to relinquish autonomy and leave the keys to my life in someone else’s hands, then I’m an exceptionally poor learner and we may as well skip ahead to the next time that cycle works out poorly for me.

I’m thrilled because last time I was in a place like this — reconnecting with friends, newly employed, enkindled by Olympic spirit — I used it as an opportunity to develop a vision for my future and the landmarks I wanted to hit along the road trip. I decided where I wanted to be going and then I actually took the steps necessary to get there. That side of me has been dormant for three years, but lately it has been awoken.

I know many friends and family members have been concerned (and increasingly) over these last months as I sank further and further into sullen decay. Hopefully you are relaxed and relieved to hear that that long and ugly slumber is over. Hopefully you’re excited to see where this train goes in 2016, now that the wheels are turnin’ again .

I know I am.

When you’re cut down to the bone, you bleed, but it heals. You hurt, but still you must carry on. Cuz the wheels are turnin’, the feeling’s burnin’, the thrill’s returnin’, my soul is yearning, my heart is churning, the wheels are turnin’ again.
– REO Speedwagon

Never Sleep Again. Or Do.

Roughly one month ago I set out to fill my October with horror. Admittedly, I got sidetracked by reading (still horror — Stephen King’s Night Shift anthology) and by a frankly unhealthy amount of Dragon Age Inquisition. So instead of getting a weekly terror update, you’re getting a postmortem.

Again, while I have grown to dislike the idea of rating for quality, I figured I’d toss in an appraisal of enjoyment, a la the Goodreads system. So: 1/5 Didn’t like it, 2/5 Meh, 3/5 Liked it, 4/5 Really liked it, 5/5 Loved it.

Saw (2004). I loved this movie. I loved it enough to be get mad at its money-grubbing legacy, because I’m firmly convinced that had the franchise not led into a seemingly endless trail of gratuitous violence and voyeurism, this would have gone down as one of the best crime thrillers in decades. While subsequent movies have reveled in disgusting you with on-screen macabre, Saw opts mostly for subtlety: you are given the setup, the premise of something terrible, and then it’s up to your imagination to follow things to their gruesome conclusions. The film is a slow, almost plodding mystery, and even at its most twisted it’s a story about redemption. No one wants to wake up in one of Jigsaw’s traps, but the message of those traps is one worthy of consideration: most of us take our lives for granted. We shouldn’t. 5/5

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane (1962). I find that horror is frequently more aptly categorized as suspense or thriller (depending on whether the dread is creeping or relentless). As such, this classic “horror” tale of a crippled actress and her caretaker-cum-jailer of a sister isn’t so much frightening as upsetting, taking a long time (perhaps, by today’s standards, too long) to truly become the film you want it to be. It’s not the easiest movie to watch, but if you have the patience I daresay Bette Davis and Joan Crawford deliver a third act well worth sticking around for. 3/5

American Psycho (2000). Years after having “Hip to Be Square” permanently associated with axe-murdering courtesy of a youtube clip, I finally got around to watching that movie in which Christian Bale should probably see a psychiatrist about the dark secret behind his late-night activities. No, the other one. Ultimately, I have to say I was mostly disappointed. The use of music (and Patrick Bateman’s jarringly incongruous history lesson monologues) to accompany moments of fetishistic violence is intriguing, but for the most part the film feels pointless and banal, an exercise in ego and shock more than crafty storytelling. 2/5

The Blair Witch Project (1999). I still remember hearing classmates discussing this movie when it first came out: utterly terrified, especially of the woods, and especially at night. Sixteen years later, I’ve finally seen it, and while it hasn’t made me any less apt to stumble into a forest (dark or otherwise), it has impressed me. This was the first of what became a nauseating (sometimes literally) array of shaky-cam found footage “documentary” horror, and it’s probably the best I’ve seen. About two-thirds of the way through the film, I suddenly remembered that these were actors with a script, and smiled at how real the acting and filming was. There are smarter movies out there, but it’s rare to see such vision and talent make the most of a shoestring budget, or to see such believable character development over such a short period of time. 4/5

The Babadook (2014). I have lost track of how many people and publications I heard going on and on about how terrifying and original The Babadook is. A single mother and her child read a picture book that they perhaps ought not have, and it isn’t long before the imaginary monsters Samuel has been fighting turn out to not be imaginary. The film certainly has its moments — the book’s mysterious return and, shall we say, updates, for example — but for the most part it felt rather predictable and not so much frightening as creepy. A well-conceived tale, for sure, but hardly the masterpiece others have painted it. 3/5

Crimson Peak (2015). Imagine if Emily Brontë had played Silent Hill before writing Wuthering Heights, and you’ll essentially have Guillermo del Toro’s latest movie. Despite the advertising, this is not really a horror movie. It’s a dark gothic romance with horror moments. Yes, there are gruesome deaths and the odd haunting here or there. But those are merely window dressing to a story about people and forbidden passion. A strong cast is upstaged by the staging itself — “gorgeous” and “breathtaking” do not really do the aesthetic of the film justice. Ultimately, Crimson Peak is a place you want to visit in spite of all the reasons to stay far away from it, and it was a highlight of my October. 5/5

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994). I truly did not intend to watch any of the Freddy Krueger films until I’d seen the first one (which, eventually, I did; see below), but it simply turned out that I saw his last film first (not including the ones that followed, right?). I was warned that the goal of this movie had been to give Freddy a better ending than the one he received in the movie that had killed him, and that Craven had wanted a more sinister, less funny version of the knife-fingered wonder. So I expected this to be “gritty” and “serious” in a way it really, really wasn’t. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, get ready for something very meta: this is a Wes Craven movie starring Freddy Krueger about the people who make Wes Craven movies starring Freddy Krueger trying to make a Wes Craven movie to stop Freddy Krueger from escaping. It also stars Wes Craven. It goes about as well as you could hope for with a premise like that: a little too cheesy, a little too self-aware, but not unwatchable. I’m just glad that Craven moved on to make Scream next, because it’s a far better showcase of his talent and understanding of the genre (and, for that matter, the medium). 2/5

Halloween (1978). Music in a film isn’t everything (see above re: American Psycho), but having good music doesn’t hurt. And when John Carpenter’s piano theme starts playing, I smile. The story of Michael Myers, revenant psychopath whose homecoming is something nobody asked for, makes very little sense, from the opening moments in which a person incarcerated since he was six years old manages to successfully steal (and subsequently quite adeptly operate) a car he should by no means be able to drive. We don’t really have any justification for his choice of victims (they’re not even living in his old house). All we get is a creepy, silent guy, with a pasty (almost, almost comical) mask, who likes standing across the street and staring at the people he will eventually try to (and, often, successfully) kill. And I guess it works, because they have made an awful lot of these movies. For what it’s worth, I also watched Halloween 4, in which (among things) Myers impales someone through a wall with a gun and shoves his finger through someone’s skull (not their eye, their skull), so sensibleness really doesn’t seem to be the target for the franchise. 3/5

Child’s Play (1988). It took twenty years, but I finally faced my fears and watched the movie whose advertisement alone gave me two weeks of nightmares as a kid. And boy was it stupid. I’ll give the film credit for at least trying to incorporate mysticism into its monster (something Halloween didn’t care to do), and there are some good heh heh heh moments (read: batteries). But the movie stays in a comic mode for the most part, rarely becoming actually frightening, frequently going over-the-top on purpose (did you hear the one about the doll who leveled an entire building?). And while this isn’t necessarily the movie’s fault, it’s obnoxious that a string of sequels followed, because the mythology explaining Chucky’s possession (and subsequent defeat) was neatly-wrapped and didn’t really provide for his resurrection. Knowing that the doll comes back cheapens things for me, but maybe I’m still not over my childhood trauma. 2/5

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). “Never Sleep Again,” the film warns and promises, though a few hours after watching Freddy Krueger’s inaugural slashing spree I was sleeping (alone, in the dark, in the basement) quite contentedly. The film teeters between unnerving and ridiculous, and as with Saw I can’t help feeling that the fear is more rooted in the conceptual — what if “it’s only a dream” didn’t work anymore? — than in what actually is happening on the screen. The special effects in this film deserve the recognition they often receive; it’s difficult to make someone being pulled up a wall and onto the ceiling not look completely ridiculous (never mind actually frightening), but seeing the real-world repercussions of Freddy’s dream-world machinations was always impressively believable and, accordingly, legitimately suspenseful. The ending is stupid in the way only horror movies can winkingly be (shoutout to Evil Dead for a similar “REALLY?!”-inducing final scene), but then I’d already lost hope in franchise movies bothering to be reasonable. 4/5

Friday the 13th (1980). I’m just going to go ahead and put this out there: This movie sucks. Not “it hasn’t aged well,” or “it’s cheesy.” It is simply not a good movie. From the obnoxious “ch ch ch ah ah ah” soundtrack to the squeezing of all exposition into the final five minutes to the fact that everyone is dead before anyone even recognizes that people are dying, I honestly cannot fathom how this movie was popular enough to become a perennial classic. As the credits rolled, I scratched my head, wondering seriously how a franchise about a hockey mask-wearing Jason with a machete got launched by a movie featuring, really, none of those things. 1/5

Last night, I watched someone livestream her attempt to play Konami’s P.T. for the first time. She relied frequently on the pause button to catch her breath, asking if she could please stop and play something else (it was a charity stream; the answer was no). She had wrapped herself up in a blanket and was curled up as far from the TV as the room permitted, and had to nearly strain her neck to see over her knees and the controller which she had pulled up close to her face. Someone in the room jokingly yelled off-camera, and she legitimately screamed. There was a real fear there, an actual anxiety, a deep-seated loathing of what she was seeing. Or, rather, what she might see, or thought she might see. Because, in fact, P.T. involves little more than walking down empty hallways for the first twenty minutes or so. Nothing had even happened. Yet, terror.

Watching last night, it struck me that not only had I never felt this emotion to that extent, but I might never have experienced it at all. As I scrolled through reviews of that Stephen King collection (after posting my own), I saw readers confess that they could not read these stories after nightfall. I saw some say they’d been unable to finish. Having done most of my reading after midnight, when everyone else in the house was asleep upstairs, I legitimately cannot comprehend the experience others have had with this same material. And if it’s true of games and it’s true of books, then I have to guess it’s true of these movies. What I laughed or yawned or rolled my eyes at last month, others have doubled their electricity bills and seen psychiatrists over.

As November takes the reins and I turn my focus elsewhere, my mind goes back to the six year-old child, unable to look away from the television screen as a toy races to the bottom of a slide while holding a butcher knife and laughing. It took me two decades to confront that horror and when I finally did, I laughed. And so I wonder: would everyone else laugh too, if they could just stick it through to the end? Is it really just the imagination — the fear of what might happen — that lends this genre the grip it has? Does seeing the monster also defeat it? Are the reviews I read simply so many adults who haven’t learned to stop being children?

I’ll have to sleep on that.