Friday, January 1, 2016

Review: POD (2015) [Paul's Take]

I have to admit, I was pretty excited about “Pod” going in.   Look at that cover image, a cabin in the woods in the snow?  That’s cheddar and sour cream Ruffles for the horror fan’s soul.  Here’s what that image sings to me:  A supernatural horror stalks sexually-experimenting teens in a hostile and isolated venue, enticing several of them to go “check things out” one by one until they all die in inventive ways except for one.

However, “Pod” makes some substitutions to this tried-and-true formula.  Slotting in the new terms yields this:  “A supernatural horror sits in a basement while three largely unlikeable hipster-ish siblings bicker shrilly, enticing one of them to commit suicide and the other two to check things out until they both are shot, for no apparent reason, by some random dude who literally just drives into the movie ten minutes before its over.”  It’s a new take on the old formula!  But will it work?  Let’s go to the basement and find out!

Ed and Lyla and Martin are siblings.  Martin, sporting camouflage fatigues and a Miley Cyrus haircut, is a mentally unstable vet who is living at the family lake house in Maine.  Ed, the patronizing doctor in a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, is worried about him and enlists the help of his sister Lyla, the easily-annoyed alcoholic, to go up and check on him.  Here’s a quick paraphrase of the rest of the film:

“There’s a monster in the basement.”

“You’re schizophrenic.  There’s no monster in the basement.”

“Yes there is!”  [Kills self]

“Let’s get out of here.” [While going to check out basement]

“There IS a monster in the basement!”

[Strange man shows up on scene, shoots everyone left, is killed by monster]

The film tells this story slowly, somehow managing to seem like it is yelling at you because you just don’t get it, nevermind that what is being explained is neither clear nor interesting nor, in many cases, even relevant. . . I just attempted to summarize one of the more annoying conversations in the film as an example, but I got bored and frustrated and deleted it.  There is a lot of talking yelling in this horror film, and none of it goes very well.  This isn’t entirely on the actors, who regularly confuse increased volume with increased passion, but also on the writer, who has turned every exchange into a backstory-laden bickerfest that dispenses with wit entirely.  It all ends up feeling like an improv class disaster.  There’s a reference to a possibly dead father, some psychiatrist named “Doctor Nick,” and to some other dude (Rick maybe? I'm not going back to check), all of which adds up to nothing.   Lyla’s alcoholism subplot is similarly forgotten about, despite all attention given to it.  Sidenote:  “Doctor Nick” sounds totally legit!

Meanwhile the monster has to just sit in the basement and be assaulted by this nonsense.  No wonder it’s so pissed when it gets out.

Another reason the monster is pissed: it isn’t a pod so stop calling it that.  The film’s characters call the naked humanoid creature a “pod” throughout the film, but we never find out why.  There’s actually no pods in the film at all.  Because I hate myself, let’s break this down a bit further.
Martin first calls the monster a “pod” which is sort of okay because he’s nutso.  Devil’s advocate might say, well, maybe the monster could have come from a pod, and Martin locked up the pod in the basement, and it later hatched and sat, waiting until the end of the movie for someone to come check it out.  But then, how did the pod kill Martin’s dog before Martin captures it?  And why wouldn’t the film show the pod at all during these oh-so-important explaining-the-title moments?   But still, Martin gets a pass.  Sure, it’s a POD Martin, whatever.

But then, when Lyla, having escaped the house and flagged down a car, is asked about what attacked her, here’s how it goes:

“Was it a man?” “No.”  “Was it an animal?”  “NO!” (said louder, because why not), “It was a POD!”
Can we give Lyla a pass?  She didn’t really see the very un-pod-like monster.  So maybe she just assumed that something like a pod was beating on the basement door trying to get her and, I don't know, pod her to death.

But then the stranger pulls a gun on her and says, “That was no secret experiment” and shoots her.  Which can only mean that her attempt at communication succeeded!  He understood that when she said “pod” she meant “un-podlike monster.”

To be more generous than the film deserves, we might understand the creature to have originally hatched from a pod somewhere within the obscure yet paradoxically belabored backstory of the film.  So Martin calls it a pod, and Lyla calls it a pod because Martin did, and the stranger understands her because he knows that the monsters come from pods.  

But still.  Do we call chickens “eggs” because they come from eggs?  It makes just as much sense to call the monster by anything else it breaks out of.  “Was it an animal?”  “NO!  It was a DOOR!”  Gosh I’ve spent a long time talking about something pretty unimportant to the film.  But that’s just like the film itself!   It’s contagious!

When, by the end of the film, Ed finally explores the basement, there are actually a couple minutes of scary.  It’s cheap horror, but never underestimate the effectiveness of “there’s a monster in the closet/under the bed/in the basement” followed by a “let’s go check it out.” 

But this rare moment of genuine suspense is totally overwhelmed by the general pissiness, griping, and yelling of the rest of the film.  It’s so aggravating that you really can’t wait until the monster kills them.  But of course, the audience is spared even that tiny gratification.

The stranger-in-the-trenchcoat (which just shouts “creepy government agent” just as loudly as Ed’s moustache shouts “d-bag”) shoots everyone at the end and then sort of explains/further mystifies the backstory by making a phone call in which he mumbles something about “no one survived so this must mean that we are getting closer to the colony.”  But YOU SHOT THEM, we think, our tempers going up irrationally as if we were a character in the film, SO WHAT YOU SAY IS BATSHIT STUPID.  

Questions for Joe:

 PH:  Ed’s license plates are from Florida and the stranger’s plates are from California.  Did they both decide to drive to Maine?  If so, which left their house first?  Using math, compute how long it would take for the secret government murder agent to get pissed at his bosses for making him drive.

JD:  Our readers might think it’s amazing that you noticed the license plates in this film, but I understand. While all this bullshit is going on, you’re actively looking for things to be interested in. Hey, license plates!

PH:  How close to the colony were they, really?

JD:  Dude, what if the colony was back in California! And the stranger had driven all that way! HA!

PH: When we first meet Lyla, she’s lounging in bed naked.  Discuss the weirdness of that scene. 

JD:  What’s impressive to me is that she’s still in post-coital afterglow, and her boyfriend is dressed and out the door. That is a super-fast departure. He must have been getting dressed while they were still doing it.

PH:   Which takes longer, Ed trying to figure out a circuit breaker or Ed trying to beat the monster to death?

JD:  Definitely beating the monster to death. Also, that was after he emptied a syringe full of sedative into its eye, right? And then didn’t he weakly try hitting it with the empty syringe? Did that really happen? Also, the point of the monster is that it’s like a terrorist attack that leaves no survivors and no trace. But, it gets killed by a hipster, and then an agent has to come shoot everybody with a handgun. It’s like raaaaaain.

PH:  Almost forgot!  Were those the fastest opening credits you have ever seen?  Do you think that was out of embarrassment or just unbridled enthusiasm to get to the exciting talking scenes?

JD:  They were super fast! I think it’s because no one wanted anyone to see that they’d worked on this film and they knew you wouldn’t make it to the closing credits.

Also, this is largely the creation of Mickey Keating, who wrote, directed, and produced it. I googled him, and he looks about 20. Also, according to the wikipedia page for Pod:  “The title is a reference to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but Keating wanted to use it partially as misdirection, as he wanted to play with audience expectations based on the title.”

Ho ho! So because you titled the movie "Pod," you knew people would expect there to be a pod in it, and there wasn’t one! How playful.

Feel free to ask and answer your own questions below!

And click here to read Joe's take on Pod.

No comments:

Post a Comment