October will always mean Halloween and horror suspense films. With new cinematic releases still a question mark here in the Philippines, we can be thankful for the streaming services, and how they follow the same pattern as the cinemas. Here are some of the new ones that have dropped on Netflix.
Hubie Halloween (Netflix) – If I say Adam Sandler and Happy Madison (Adam’s production company), it’s a safe bet that you know we’re talking about stupid-funny comedy, and Mr. Sandler making a mint from the reliance Netflix has on the man’s slew of films. Hubie won’t be springing any big surprises, and you can be assured his built-in audience of fans will happily watch this. No surprise to find there’s a strong Halloween theme, and directed by Steve Brill, the new film falls back on the old, but reliable formula of having cameos and guest turns from Adam’s close set of friends, and stars of yesteryear. I won’t even mention them by name here, as part of the enjoyment is seeing them pop up on the screen.
It’s a one note narrative that has to do with bullying, in this case, bullying Hubie duBois, the sad sack character Sandler portrays. There’s more humor and fun in the asides and wisecracks than in the premise or story narrative itself. There’s a lazy screenplay, almost as if the producers know that putting Adam’s name on the marquee is more than enough to get people clicking on this release. In fact, they’re probably right, as I can see this shooting up the charts of the Most Watched in the Philippines. Never let it be said that Sandler does not know his audience.
Vampires vs. the Bronx (Netflix) – Here’s a Halloween treat that has some imagination & originality we can admire. It’s part coming-of-age, part horror film, and part social commentary on gentrification. I’ll salute Director Oz Rodriguez and the writers for at least, trying to come up with something unique. The story revolves around three young boys from the Bronx, as their uncover a sinister conspiracy to take over the community and their neighborhood. The charismatic leads carry the film, so that when things get incredulous, we’re sharing the sly wink and nudge with the filmmakers.
I like how they put thought in the production – mixing the mythology of vampire lore, with the street and urban culture of today’s Bronx. The villainous company buying up the neighborhood is called Murnau Properties, a salute to the man who directed Nosferatu. And giving the vampires’ familiar the surname of Polidori is a nod to the author who’s credited with having created the genre. Watching a Blade DVD is how they prepare to battle the vampires. No big name star in the cast, but the energy and earnestness of this film turns it into a minor gem for its genre. For young adolescents wanting their first ‘bite’ of horror films, this is an ideal choice.
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet (Netflix) – If you want true life horror, this documentary chronicles the horrible things we’ve done to our home, the planet Earth. Since the early 1950’s, David Attenborough has been a much-lauded explorer and natural historian. He has won Emmys as narrator for such films as Our Planet and Planet Earth II. In this latest project, now 93 years of age, he uses his own life as a history lesson about what we have been doing with the biodiversity of this planet. It’s a sobering lesson that unfortunately is still not heeded or taken seriously enough by most of us.
The documentary opens with Attenborough visiting what stands in Chernobyl today, and he talks about bad planning and human error as pertaining to a single event. He then draws the parallel of the folly and unmitigated disaster of Chernobyl with what we’ve been doing on a large scale with the whole world. Each new chapter of his life is prefaced by the screen showing what were the World’s Population, the Carbon in the Atmosphere, and the Remaining Wilderness at that time, and it’s a sad indictment of us as caretakers of the planet. For example, he talks about the biodiversity of the Borneo forests that he visited first in the 1950’s and how today, there’s still agriculture, but it’s a monoculture for palm oil production – threatening the existence of the orangutans.