What I'm Watching: Something Wicked
Yesterday I reviewed a movie about a married couple starting their life together in a movie full of shocking moments and mysticism that ultimately fell flat on its face. Today's review has a lot of similarities with another couple trying to start their life together, with just as many shocking moments, its own band of lurking supernatural haunting possibilities, and oh yes. It's yet another movie 'inspired by true events'.
*Ahem* Anyways, here's Something Wicked, probably most notable for being Brittany Murphy's final movie. But is it any good? Let's see!
After her graduation, Christine's boyfriend asks her parents if they can get married, but they shoot him down because they're too young, and James didn't get a 'proper' education. They JUST so happen to be in an accident with a train that JUST so happens to kill only the parents.
Unsurprisingly, James proposes a year later, while Chris is doing the college thing. Fortunately things are already starting to tick the weirdometer with a guy lurking in the shadows and watching her...and shoving her into available pools. And on top of all that, there are strange messages from Macbeth being scrawled on any available surface when the movie needs some added tension.
And on top of THAT, we have Christine's sister-in-law who's not all that stable, and her husband who is a cop that loves to ogle his sister, Christine. This girl just has problem on top of problem, and it's a wonder she has any sort of normality and stability. I'd almost say it's one or two too many things that are creepy, weird, or wrong in her life. There's having problems and a stress filled life, and then there's Christine.
The movie builds nicely with things going missing, the mysterious messages, cloaked stalkers who may or may not be whom we assume, and the occasional murder. Plus there's plenty of lies, secrets, and agendas all vying for just what's going on with Christine. Is she going crazy? Is she being haunted by her parents? Is there something even larger at play here?
Something Wicked's plot is probably overly convoluted. Actually, I'm sure it is. The relationships aren't very clear, between sisters and sisters in law, and who the hell is Bill related to, besides his wife?? I really could've used a bit more clarity as to who was who. And yet, while there is a LOT going on, and wheels within conspiracies to the point of being too much, the ultimate plot thread, the big mystery behind it all, IS actually very well setup, and you can follow the clues that legitimately build up fairly logically. They have a strong through line as a backbone, but then populate the story with a lot of other things, and it can become too cluttered and muddled at times, while still maintaining focus on the big idea.
The movie starts off with the accident, then jumps back an hour to lead up to it, then jumps MORE forward by a year. It's really a lot of unnecessary time jumping. I get wanting to start a movie with mangled bodies, but since the post-graduation dinner is just a few minutes long, there's really no reason to not start there and build towards the crash. Also, I'm not happy with just HOW obvious what 'caused' the crash was. The big reveal isn't a surprise, and the audience risks checking out, because we all know where that plot is going.
The only reason that the reveal of what happened with the crash isn't that terrible, is it ultimately turns out that once the 'mystery' behind it is revealed as exactly what it looks like...the movie keeps going, still twisting, and revealing more of what's been going on. The car crash is a minor mystery overall and ultimately is more of the inciting event instead of the main plot itself. It is SO in your face at the beginning, and you're waiting for that shoe to drop, that you miss out on the *entire* other plot going on, until that all unfolds before your eyes. There's a little bit of wonderfulness to that plotting and misdirection.
The plot of this movie has so many twists and turns, that it becomes absurd. But it's just about that right kind of absurdity that somehow works in spite of itself. You almost have to admire the audacity in trying to come up with this plot, both by the characters, and the writers.
It does rely a little TOO much on everything going perfectly, but aside from the *amazingly* coincidental good fortune of the initial rainstorm, it manages to stay away from being those sorts of superhuman predictions that break reality for me. With the proper planning, I can just about buy these events being pulled off. It also helps that Shakespeare is such a large part of this, so you can almost roll with the heightened reality and coincidences of the theatricality at play here.
Shakespeare is so rarely used in horror and thrillers to give a sense of dread and atmosphere. The movie honestly could've done with a little *more* of it.
And just as a brief aside, you would think a movie with a major setting at a sawmill, loaded with gigantic saws, and blades, and grinders, and shredders, would actually be involved more in the plot and death, and yet...
Something Wicked may have a labyrinthine mess of a plot, but it does eventually lead you out of the maze to a conclusion that is both satisfying, mystifying, and pretty awesome in its shocking conclusion. (Well, up until the final moments that feel shamelessly tacked on, but up until those last two seconds...) Fortunately, it has a strong cast to carry us through the maze with solid performances and make you care about these people enough, even though so many of them are totally lying liars who are plotting against everyone.
The final 20 minutes, once James and Christine reach their honeymoon cabin at long last, is a roller coaster ride of revelations. Just when you think you've figured it out, BOOM another twist, and another mastermind is revealed. It straddles the line of being too much, and likely falls over it a few times. For some people I'm sure it will dive over that line, but I enjoyed the building tension, and ultimate reveal after reveal.
I've been a fan of Shantel VanSanten's for some time now, and seeing her get a role like this, something where she really gets to sink her teeth into something really meaty and dramatic, was a pleasure.
The weakest performance comes from Brittany Murphy, I almost hate to say. She's just going along fine for most of the movie, and then BOOM she's sitting in a tub, makeup running down her face, and screaming about demons in the house, and that Christine is possessed. Since this was her last movie, I can only assume that some scenes with her didn't get filmed, because the shocking, jarring transition just does not work, and is SUCH a hard 180 turn, that I have to assume it wasn't supposed to be that sharp.
That's actually a problem with the movie, since a lot of people seem to be one thing, and then the next time you see them, its like a switch has been flipped. Mostly it's fine, and not a problem, since no one is consistently one thing, and they're all fairly normal variances. Bur Murphy's change is SO extreme, and SO sudden. The ever-shifting personalities and alliances make it hard for an audience to find its footing.
While the plot may be a gigantic ouroboros devouring itself, and admittedly too convoluted for its own good, and thinks its cleverer than it probably is, I still really enjoyed Something Wicked. It's daring, it's entertaining, and it's throwing SO many plots and red herrings at you, that it's constantly keeping you off balance. This movie shouldn't work. It should collapse under its own weight, but the audacity of it all is actually a large part of its charm and why it works. At one point you could be shouting COME ON, while still being totally on board.
It's got more plot holes than you can drive a logging truck through, but it's a lot of fun, has an over the top plot, backed by a solid cast, that I absolutely recommend this movie. Although you might want to take a few Tylenol first, because you will likely walk away with a headache, but it's so worth it just to watch them pull this off.
By all logic, this movie should be an utter trainwreck. Instead, it just features one in the opening scene. ...Too soon?