Monday, January 4, 2016

Review: THE CHOSEN (2015) [Joe's Take]

The premise of The Chosen is absurd – a little girl named Angie is possessed by Lilith (she-Satan) and her Uncle Cameron must sacrifice six (SIX!) family members in order to free her. There are a few things to think about here:

1)            Six? That’s a freaking lot. That’s one and a half nuclear families.
2)            Everyone is Catholic, so maybe it’s not that many. Still, six?? Damn.
3)            Jesus, six!
4)            It’s family members. It’s not vagrants or rapists or clowns (clowns would have been a WAY better movie), it’s Grammie, Grampa, Mom, etc. SIX!
5)            Is one less than…
6)            SIX! Good grief. Why six? First of all, one is too many. A normal person would be like “Devil is telling me to kill someone, but I’m not gonna do it, because I’m not someone who kills people because the devil tells me to.” But in this case, an uncle has to kill six family members in order to save his niece.

Story Arc
He does it! Cameron kills six family members in exchange for the soul of one niece! Of course, the first one to go is Grandma. She’s supposed to be easy, because she’s old, she’s weird, and she falls and breaks her hip right in front of the bed where the smoke monster (Lilith, rendered as CG smoke) lurks. The viewer is supposed to think “Oh, how convenient. How easy. Phew!”

NO! It’s not EASY to feed your grandmother to a smoke monster. You don’t do it. That’s a no. Grandma fell and can’t get up? She’s probably going to die. You still don’t feed her to the smoke monster. You sit with her, you cry with her, and you comfort her, because that’s your Grandma! Grandmas are the best. Way better than nieces. What did your niece ever get you for Christmas?

Anyway, he feeds her to the smoke monster. You don’t see it, but you hear it, and it sounds a LOT like the Cookie Monster is eating Grandma.

From there, a significant bit of the arc is dedicated to an attempt to kill the douchey Uncle Joey, who’s an unemployed, middle-aged mooch. Except, as soon as they begin their scheme to kill him, he expresses how much he cares about the little possessed girl, and comes off like a bro, rather than a bruh.

While they’re trying to figure that out, the white relatives show up (the family in this movie is ambiguously Hispanic). Cameron immediately sacrifices the obnoxious WASP-y aunt to the smoke monster, and ties up her son in the basement. I’m okay with this, because if you’re going to feed people to a smoke monster, racism is a reason that at least puts you in some pretty good company. But even racists don’t kill their own grandmas.

Then, the Uncle Joey discovers the bound and captive cousin in the basement. Cameron throws bleach in Uncle Joey’s eyes and taunts him upstairs, where he beats him with a bat and sacrifices him! WHOA!

He later sacrifices his grandpa to the smoke monster, just to prove it exists to his mom, whom he also sacrifices to the smoke monster!

So this isn’t a movie about possession. This is a movie about a psycho who kills his own family because the devil tells him to. Normally, a movie would introduce some ambiguity to cause the viewer to wonder if there really is a smoke monster, or if the protagonist is just insane. But there’s no such nuance here, just “Welp, your niece is possessed, so you better kill your Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle, Aunt, and Mom.” Doh, geez, well if I gotta…

So who wrote and directed this film? The director, and one of the writers, is Ben Jehoshua, an Israeli who is also known for producing and editing the TV series, Outrageous Kid Parties. The other two writers are Barry Jay and Andrew Schepmann. Jay’s IMDB profile reveals that he has done nothing other than co-write The Chosen. Schepmann’s profile reveals that he is 6’1’’ and likes to be called “Scheppy." In addition to The Chosen, he also wrote The Apple Tree, a short film about an elderly queer man who has to go back into the closet when he goes into an old folks home. Which is a pretty interesting premise!

Unlike the premise of The Chosen, which is just garbage. And it took three whole people to write this! Why not six?

Anyway, they did one thing right. One. The hero has a girlfriend, and he gets her pregnant, and you just know that as he closes in on killing the sixth and final family member, that Lilith is going to jump to the baby and ruin everything, and then they’ll have to kill six more (because that is more or less how Angie gets possessed in the first place).

But they turn the tables on you, because instead of haplessly bringing the pregnant girlfriend into contact with Lilith, Cameron intentionally brings her there, restrains her, and writes the Lilith-summoning-sigil on her belly! He attempts to abort his child by smoke monster! But just as your mind is reeling from the possibilities of how Lilith will extract the fetus, the sigil disappears, because it’s not his baby! Move over, Maury Povich!

Pure trash. The bro uncle is convincing as a douchebag, and as a douchebag who actually cares. Oh, and the little possessed girl shows up and does spooky stuff now and then. And there’s a nun who implores the hero to kill everyone, and she really goes all out on the part. She is probably a serious actor who has played many roles and really enjoys it. In fact, who the hell is she? Let’s find out. It’s Penelope Richards, according to IMDB, and this is the only thing she has ever done! Yikes.

At the end, Lilith comes out. Aside from CG smoke, she has to be 100% of the special effects budget, and she’s a scary lady with a weird mouth.

Otherwise, most of the spooky moments orbit Angie’s bed. Anytime someone swings by there to see how she’s doing, she either coughs up a hairball, strikes a spooky pose, or hisses. So, she’s like having a cat.

Questions for Paul:

JD:  When Cameron finds Angie at the bottom of the stairs, and her mouth disappears, and he makes it come back by whipping the gunk off her face, do you think he saved that gunk? I mean, what was that stuff? Could it be valuable? Would you have kept it?
PH:  I would have probably kept it.  I keep everything.  I’d probably keep it in one of those disposable plastic containers that I hoard from taking home leftovers.  That is, I keep leftovers, I keep the boxes the leftovers came in, and I keep mouth gunk harvested from possessed family members.  But just to be safe, I'd probably put it in the waaaaay back of the refrigerator.

JD:  Is there a Hollywood hairball maker for movies like this? Because it seems like barfing up ambiguous black stuff is all the rage.
PH:  A google search yielded no hits for “Hollywood hairball maker,” but I did learn that April 24th is “Hairball Awareness Day.”  I think we should all thank this movie for raising awareness about this important issue facing so many of us.  Are you coughing up hairballs more frequently than usual?  Don’t wait to get it checked out.  You might be possessed by the devil.  Or you might need to stop cleaning yourself with your tongue.

JD:  What would be an appropriate going away present for the pre-teen who is about to be dragged to hell?
PH:  Your first instinct would be to get her something nice and fun, like a karaoke machine, so she can enjoy her final days in our mortal realm singing and dancing up a storm!  But most people don’t think about the eternity of burning hellfire that she’s going to have to endure for, well, forever afterwards.  So I think maybe a good-sized bottle of aloe or Preparation-H would be more appreciated.  Some kind of ointment, definitely.

JD:  Why did Lilith take the last soul? Did she just lose count?
PH:  You got me.  I never understood why she would want any of the sacrifices, given that they were going to banish her to hell (but doesn’t she like it in hell?).  So she must be compelled to take the sacrifices against her evil will.  Isn’t this bizarre?  The human protagonist who is supposed to be the good guy is sacrificing his whole family to her and she doesn’t even want them! It’s like, you think they could broker some kind of deal where she gets to hang out under the bed and he just won’t forcefeed her the souls of his family. 

JD:  And if she’s not already in hell, why is she all smoky?
PH:  I think she would point out that it isn’t really smoke.  It’s vapor.  And she thinks it’s totally cool to vape in the kid’s room because no one has really worked out vaping etiquette yet.

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