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Tale of Tales Review – And how the film compares to the book

25 Apr Tale of Tales.

First off, this review will contain massive spoilers for both the film and the book it is based on. In fact, it may be better to view the film before reading the review so that a lot of the turns are not ruined — though, if you’ve read the book, you’ve had knowledge of the ending for nearly 400 years — assuming you’ve lived that long.

Tale of Tales is a fairy tale movie based on the book “Tale of Tales” by Giambattista Basile which is also known as “Story of Stories” and more commonly referred to as the Pentamerone. The movie takes three of the chapters from this book, out of 50, and makes an anthology film. The book is much like The Brother’s Grimm (Many of the stories, including Cinderella, cross over) or Canterbury Tales and the Decameron (There’s a framing device for the stories that are told).

Tale of Tales was released in larger theaters as well as premiering online. You can rent it on various services such as Playstation Network and Amazon.

Tale of Tales.

Tale of Tales.

The film adapts three chapters from the book including “The Enchanted Doe”, “The Flea”, and “The Old Woman Discovered”. While I usually do a pro/cons list with my reviews, this time I’m actually going to do a film/book comparison because the only con I see in this film is the utter bleakness of the stories.

Each film plot takes a major departure from its corresponding story in the book in order to adapt it more cinematically. These changes are not objectionable in the same way that the changes in other recent fairy tale films are. Like when Snow White sassily refuses the apple in Mirror, Mirror or how no prince can ever prove his love to his princess, thanks to obtrusive screenwriters, in films like Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent.  Since the Pentamerone is lesser known, the narrative of “Tale of Tales” is not hurt by the changes, and I would argue that they actually perfect the adaptation from book to film — a thing that so many fairy tale films try for and screw up. Namely, the film presents the fairy tale world as a story of dramatic truth that thrusts a fairy tale framework over the events rather than taking a fairy tale framework and trying to fill it with believable characters. The approach the screenwriter took to fill each tale with longing and believable characters is quite well done.

The movie is also an epic costume film. We even get to see the life span of a new dress from purchase to being utterly wrecked by the end of the film — a fun process for a costumer to watch.

While the film is edited superbly in a style that intercuts each story, below I will separate the stories to discuss the movie version and the book version and the cinematic changes wrought. This is a really technical account of where the movie adapts the book, and where it changes. I am a big fan of fairy tales, and so I’m not reviewing from just the standpoint of a film viewer.

The King and the Queen played by Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly.

The King and the Queen played by Salma Hayek and John C. Reilly.

The Enchanted Doe

The movie adapts the chapter “The Enchanted Doe” which stars Salma Hayek as a depressed Queen who longs for a child and John C. Reilly as her King who will go to great lengths to bring a child into the world. They are told by a mysterious stranger that if the king can first kill an Albino seamonster and cut out its heart, then next have a virgin prepare it as a meal in complete solitude, the moment the Queen eats the heart, she will instantly become pregnant.

The albino seamonster, a creepy practical effect that recalls the dragon from Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen, is killed by the King, but not before the King is mortally wounded. He gives his life for his child, and his wife ignores his death, greedily snatching up the beast’s heart. John C. Reilly, whose role is very small, nevertheless comes across very distinctly as a man who would yield his life to bring a child into the world and make his wife happy. He plays all those beats accurately, and bolsters the saying that there are no small roles, only small actors.

The seamonster is slain.

The seamonster is slain.

A virgin kitchen maid is summoned to cook the heart, and as she does so, she instantly becomes pregnant. When the Queen eats the heart, she too becomes pregnant. The two women deliver at the same time.

Both children are identical boys, albinos like the seamonster before and its suggested they have aquatic attributes as well, like prolonged underwater breathing. The two boys are best friends, but their social stations threaten to keep them apart. The Queen does not want the poor twin around. The Queen loves her son to the point of smothering him. Their introduction shows the Queen chasing her son through a maze, delirous with joy and happiness. Her son, meanwhile, looks like a frightened deer fleeing a hunstman, and with the help of his twin brother, he escapes the maze, leaving his mother sad and betrayed.

The Queen grows so jealous of the maid’s son that she tries to kill him. This makes the boy decide to pack up and leave. His Kingly brother tries to command him to stay, so the poor boy stabs his knife into a tree from which a spring forms. He explains that if the water runs clear he is alive and well, if the water runs muddy he is in trouble, and if the water stops, he is dead. The poor twin then wanders off into the world.

Soon the water runs muddy and the King heads out to find his brother. His mother is so distressed that she summons the mysterious man, and he gives her the power to changer her form. When the King finds his brother trapped at the mid point of a chasm, the Queen takes the form of a nightmarish bat — a spectacular practical effect and one of the best monsters I’ve seen in years — and tries to kill the poor boy. The King throws himself in front of the bat, who hesitates, and is slain by the boy.

Some reviews have criticized Salma Hayek’s performance, but I almost wonder if it’s not simply because the character is not very likeable. You understand her pathos, but you wish she would make better decisions. Her performance is spot on. Consider the delight she has in her son’s company — something that never comes across as sexual, a trap that many actresses playing mothers fall into. She brings a very accurate love to the screen. If there’s a weak point to her performance, it’s that we don’t like her enough to really care that her jealously drives her to death.

The two boys playing the twins, Christian and Jonah Lees, seem to have been chosen for their surreal presence, for they come across more like models performing in a movie than actors. But they are competent in that you never see bad acting, and they do manhandle each other so much that you instantly know they’re actual brothers in real life. So, while there isn’t a driving emotional angst from them, they do effectively capture the important moments.

The twin brothers played by Christian and Jonah Lees all albino-ed out.

The twin brothers played by Christian and Jonah Lees all albino-ed out.

So, what is the major change the movie brings to this story? Well, if it isn’t clear from reading the synopsis, the movie removes the Enchanted Doe altogether.


The book tells the same story, but from the perspective of the King, who is so angry that he can’t have a child, that he shoots visitors with a crossbow for sport. He was once generous, but as his generosity was not rewarded, he grows bitter and cruel, until a mysterious stranger shows up and tells him about the seamonster. In the book, the Queen actually has twins and just prefers one to the other. The movie diverges from the book by giving two different women identical children, but follows the story in all other places.  In the book the Queen tries to kill the boy with melted lead, in the film she tries to poke him to death with a fire poker in a refrigerator.

The Enchanted Doe change comes when the poor son goes into the world. He comes across a sorcerer ghoul, or magic ogre, who can transform into various beasts. The Ogre turns into a doe and leads the boy off a cliff. The Kingly brother then comes across the villain, but he is not tricked by the doe, and he manages to kill it and save his brother.

I totally accept the screenwriter’s choice to make the mother into the shape shifting beast. It definitely rounds the story out and gives it a pathos that the story might not successfully have if you introduce a villain late into the game, something you can do more easily in a book. I think her story trajectory, from wanting a child, to having this desire cause her so much jealously and hatred that she becomes a monster who is slain by her own child, is a very moral and relatable plot. Often in real life we find ourselves going down paths like this. Many parents know what it’s like to try to over-control their children and have it backfire.

I also wonder if there’s a deleted scene from the film where the Ogre from the story “The Flea” actually chases the boy off the cliff. While you see the poor brother stranded on the cliff in the film, you never know how he got there. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened while the Ogre was out and about in the next tale:

The silly little King and his daughter played by Toby Jones and Bebe Cave.

The silly little King and his daughter played by Toby Jones and Bebe Cave.

The Flea

The movie adapts the chapter “The Flea” with the two best performances in the film from Toby Jones as a ridiculous king who is obsessed with the joys of having tiny things grow, and his daughter Bebe Cave, a wide-eyed and innocent girl whose life is utterly destroyed by circumstance until she decides to take it back. The King dotes on his daughter most affectionately until she comes of marriageable age, when he is bitten by a flea who seems to have some sort of precognizance and can play tricks for him. He captures the flea and feeds it most lovingly, ala Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, until the flea grows to the full size of a sheep! The flea effects are both digital and practical, and they have a surreal cute/creepy thing going on. However, much to the King’s great distress, the flea passes away. He then returns his attentions to his daughter, who now wants to go out into the world and find a husband. The King wants her to stay forever, he won’t lose her like he lost his pet, and so he comes up with a scheme. He tans the hide of the giant flea and says he will give his daughter away in marriage to anyone who can guess what type of beast the hide belongs to.

Naturally, no one can guess, until one day an Ogre bursts into the room and declares the hide to be a flea. The distraught Princess nearly throws herself from the castle roof in despair, but her father stops her. They get into a very tense fight where the Princess insults her father most basely, and Toby Jones turns from comical into scary as he roars that she must obey the King’s commands. In order to shame her father in the public’s opinion, she obeys him, and is carried off by the Ogre.

Now, I want to note that all of this is great drama played by two fantastic actors. And this dynamic is nowhere in the book. The book tells the story straightforward where one event leads to the other, but the Screenwriter brings the King’s affection for small things, the dramatic truth to how it feels to watch a pet die, the complicated relationship between a powerful man and his daughter. It’s like I said before, it seems the screenwriter started with dramatic truth — what drives these people? What are their needs and wants? And then added the fairy tale structure to it. It’s fantastic.

The Princess jams out on her ancient guitar.

The Princess jams out on her ancient guitar.

The Ogre takes her to his home high on a canyon cliff side. It is strewn with bones, and the Princess tries to hide, but is manhandled until she obeys the Ogre’s every command — he never speaks but only grunts. It is hinted that he forces her to perform her wifely duties, and implied that he might be trying to feed her inappropriate meals — like human flesh, which he does in the book. One day, months later, while lamenting her fate, the Princess sees a figure across the cliff chasm. She is on one side and the person is on the other. She calls out to the woman for help, but the woman cannot do anything to help her. She claims she has many sons who will return the next day to save the princess.

The family turns out to be a circus troupe, a group of people who are peppered through every story in the film. Using a tightrope, the youngest son rescues the princes. I was struck by how handsome he was and also how through silent acting he carried such complicated emotions. As he carries the princess on his back, and she struggles, the face he makes captures EVERYTHING. It’s a total “what have I gotten myself into?” look, and I immediately thought, “Yes! That’s exactly what it feels like to help strangers out. To throw yourself into that weird position where you aren’t fully certain what’s going on and it all seems a little ridiculous.” It was all captured in one brief scene.

The tightrope rescue.

The tightrope rescue.

The Ogre sees the Princess escaping and he starts climbing across the rope. The tension in this scene got to me. I was literally on the edge of my seat, hands in the air, trying to cut the rope before the Ogre made it across! Very well done. They cut the rope and the ogre falls in the chasm.

The most happy celebration proceeds as the circus folk race in their carriage through the bottom of the chasm to safety. However, the back of the carriage rips apart and the Ogre proceeds to kill all the circus folk as they try to stop him, some grab weapons, some circus tricks. Finally, the youngest son uses his fire breathing trick on the monster, but the flames only maim the villain, and he kills everyone except the Princess who rushes into corner, trapped, where she gives up and sobs.

The Ogre angrily shakes her about, but, her spirit broken, she resigns herself to her fate, and gives up. She uses her feminine wiles to tame the monsters anger, and leans against him in a sign of resignation. He indicates to her to climb onto his back so he can carry her home. And as she does so, she produces a knife she procured in the fight, and cuts his head half-off from behind. She then drags his head home, back to her father’s palace. He is quite sickly, perhaps from his rash decision to send his beloved daughter away. She is covered in blood and bitterly introduces her father to her husband. The resulting scene is a heartbreaking performance as the King and the entire court beg forgiveness, and the princes struggles between being resolute and giving in, finally breaks down in tears, forgiving her father.

Bebe Cave acts all the emotions. ALL OF THEM!

Bebe Cave acts all the emotions. ALL OF THEM!

In the end it is suggested she becomes High Queen, replacing Salma Hayek as high ruler of the various Kingdoms. And to commemorate, a tightrope walker performs at her coronation. I will say more on this later, as I believe this final image of the film is the succinct visual representation of all that came before. The tightrope walker represents the lives of these people, who at any moment will be forced by their desires to topple to their deaths.

This story also upset me the most because of the horror film slaughter of the circus family who rescues the princess. And THIS is the main change to this story from the book. The rest of the story is almost identical to the book, minus the human emotion element. In the book, the people who rescue the princess each have a special talent, and as the Ogre pursues them, one causes a forest to spring forth to block him, but the obstacle is destroyed, so the next causes a river to spring up, etc. This happens seven times until the ogre is scaling a tower and the final son shoots him in the eye, killing the monster. The family is then rewarded for the rescue of the princess and they attend her wedding to a new prince.

Now, the screenwriter’s choice to kill these people is distinctly NOT fairytale. It actually made me kind of sick. But the reason it happens is very complex from a writing standpoint. The endless chase of a monster whose progress is blocked by magical items is a staple in fairy tales. In fact it happens in nearly half of the stories in the Pentamerone. When you are told this tale, verbally, as most fairy tales are meant to be told, the chase is visceral. Will the beast catch them? Will they escape? What will happen next?

The screenwriter adapts this to film, not by using the tropes of a chase scene — like you’d see in action films — but rather goes the route of recreating horror tropes. He kills the characters, not out of malice, which was my initial thought, but because structurally they don’t matter. This story is about the princess. Again, in books you can introduce a hero late into the game. If the book was adapted accurately, the princess would be rescued with five minutes left in the movie by non-established characters, and her struggle would almost be negated. So, she is put into horror film tropes, and sadly, depressingly, has to rescue herself using everything she has learned from her traumatic experience. The screenwriter gives the princess control of her own fate, and rather than rewarding her with another husband (something that leaves an awful taste in your mouth after you add dramatic truth to the tale) he rewards her with a coronation, showing that her strength, knowledge and power make her the ideal ruler. This is the one major instance of modern thinking creeping into this fairy tale adaptation, but it is done well. She is given autonomy, not by a forced, “I’m a modern girl!” spin, but by the skillful crafting of dramatic truth.

I have said it before, and I will say it again. A woman is not weak simply because she is abused, usurped or controlled. Snow White is not weak because she is laid low. She does not need to grab a sword and kill the evil queen, ala Snow White and the Hunstman. A woman does not have to have traditionally masculine characteristics, like physical strength, or warlike behavior, to make her heroic. Her strength is in her character. She uses her wits to procure a job working for dwarfs. She uses her inherent kindness to become their close friend and form strong familial bonds. The queen outsmarts her by poisoning her with an apple, but it doesn’t make Snow White a bad heroine — as Mirror, Mirror expects us to believe would happen if it followed through on the plot. She has already established her strength of character over her enemy, and her family, the dwarfs, avenge her. Yes, her apple is dislodged by a prince, but he comes so late into the story that he doesn’t actually rescue her. He gives her new life — since her old life of being usurped is over, and she can now start anew. He is the prize, not the hero.

The Princess in Tale of Tales is sorely used, but she is never weak.

The Old Woman Discovered

The movie adapts the chapter “The Old Woman Discovered” with further great performances. In fact, my favorite acting moment comes from this section of the movie where Vincent Cassel, playing a lothario Prince, is told by the woman he wants to bed that she will only show him her finger. His reaction goes from confused, to petulant to turned-on all in one take. It was funny and uncomfortable and pretty much sums up this whole story. When Vincent Cassel’s debauched prince can’t find a woman who is sober or awake enough to bang, he drunkenly wanders the ramparts following a beautiful singing voice. He declares his love, loudly, towards the distant singing figure, who runs quickly into her house. He then sieges the house with tokens of love.

Unbeknownst to him, the woman he heard singing is one of two elderly, ugly sisters, who live in squalor, and whose thoughts of things-that-could-be drive them to make silly decisions. The ugly old crones are both played by young women in fx make-up, but the effect doesn’t seem to want to be realistic as much as it wants to be fantasy inspired. So, it’s like they’re trying to set up visually that something isn’t quite right, or that some transformation is inevitable. Shirley Henderson plays the more naive and submissive sister. She is a performer favorite of mine, always nailing the roles she portrays. I couldn’t even recognize her usual acting traits through the make-up, which makes both the fx and her performance unique. Obviously I recognized her by her voice, for which she is famous.

When the Prince assails the door, declaring his love, the elder sister turns on her charms. Knowing he will not love an old crone, she baits him by saying if he comes back in one week, she will reveal the most delicate and beautiful part of her body to him. This arouses him and he asks which part she will show. The sisters confusedly settle upon “finger”, and his reaction is priceless. Then the women prepare for this throughout the week. The elder sister tries to burn the skin off her finger so new skin will grow and look young, but all she does is irreparably scar her hand. Her sister, meanwhile, sucks on her finger until it is smooth. When the Prince returns they stick this finger through the door and he holds onto it for dear life. They cannot pull the finger back in, so, using her wits, the elder sister claims that she will join the man in his bedchamber, but her maiden modesty must be preserved and so it must be done in the pitch darkness of the night, with all lamps extinguished.

The most beautiful finger ever beheld.

The most beautiful finger ever beheld.

The sisters then prepare for the sexual encounter. The younger one pastes the wrinkly folds of the elder one together until her form resembles that of a young woman. The old woman goes to the castle and crawls into bed where the Prince has his way with her. But he suspects something is off, and while she sleeps he brings a light to her face and discovers she is old. He is so outraged that he has her thrown from the castle window in the bedsheets.

Her fall is halted as the sheets catch in the trees and she is suspended, as if caught in a net. This causes a passing witch to chortle so heartily, that the witch saves her. And in a scene reminiscent of the Grapes of Wrath, the poor, broken old woman is suckled at the breast of the witch. It reminded me of the pathetic feeling of shame that reduces us, as humans, to an almost infant state. Where we are so low that we wish we had parents to come to our rescue. This succor causes the old woman to become young and beautiful. The wicked Prince then stumbles upon her in the woods and vows to marry her.

The old woman turns young.

The old woman turns young.

The interesting thing is that while young women do actually play the old women, when the magical change is wrought a completely different young woman plays the young version. Was this choice deliberate? As in, you see the old age make-up and you think, Hmmm, that’s strange. Something must be going to happen to change them young. But then it plays out in a way you don’t expect. Were the filmmakers toying with the audiences preconceived notions?

The submissive sister is sent an ill fitting dress and wedding invitation, and she joins the wedding feast looking sorely out of place. Her now young sister finds her and explains that she was transformed into a young woman. The submissive sister wanders the palace, overwhelmed by the good fortune of her sister. She also expects that will now live together, happily as they did before, but with all the richest comforts. But when her sister tries to throw her out of the house, the poor old woman can’t understand and she keeps returning, begging to know how her sister became young. Irritated by her simple sister, she angrily snaps, “I flayed my own skin, okay?”The old woman finally  interrupts the wedding night between the young sister and the Prince and she is forcefully thrown from the castle.

Vincent Cassel and his ancient bride.

Vincent Cassel and his ancient bride.

She now believes that her sister flayed herself to change to a young woman. Flaying is process whereby your skin is removed from your body while you are alive. The poor simpleton begs barbers around the city to flay her, but they refuse, on moral grounds. Until she uses the pearls from her wedding-reception gown to bribe an unscrupulous street barber. He takes her into the woods and flays her alive.

The final shot of her story shows a gory corpse wandering the streets with a face of extreme contentment, as she now believes she looks young and beautiful.

The darkness of the scene is made even more disturbing that it was this flayed sister’s finger that the Prince fell in love with. The movie even deliberately hides the source of the beautiful singing voice from the audience. It makes you question whether the Old Woman made young reaped all the rewards of the charms of her simple put upon sister. This ambiguity is stifling.

The story continues when it joins up in the coronation of the Princess from the Flea tale. At the coronation the youthful sister, along with her Prince Husband, discovers the effects of the spell fading, as she begins to return to her old self in front of the crowd. She rushes from the palace, never to be seen again.

The major change to this story from the book is that the silly sister who has herself flayed alive actually survives in the film — probably only a few minutes more from where the last shot of her ends. In the book, the flaying kills her the moment he skins her stomach. But the film gives her that unique and horrifying moment where she is a walking pile of gore but believes herself to finally be beautiful. It is disheartening on a whole other level. The other change is that the spell that turns the first sister young never goes away in the book, and it is a group of fairies who are so delighted by the sight of the old woman in the tree that they bestow eternal youth on her through blessings. The film uses a witch and breastfeeding, which is a strange choice, visually, but does speak to that pathetic feeling of being reduced to a simpering child.

How Tale of Tales Connects

These three stories of the film pass through one another. Until I see it again, I can’t even be sure where all these places are. But the circus folk perform for Salma Hayek’s Queen, sparking her desire for a child. They then go on to rescue the Princess from the Ogre. Are they the same troupe that performs at the wedding of the old woman turned young? I can’t be sure until I see the film more often. At the funeral of the High King, all the guests include the King from the Flea with his infant daughter, and the debauched Prince who marries the old woman. Later, the kingly one of the twin brothers, born of the seaserpent, also attends the coronation of the High Queen. These scenes overlap pretty seamlessly, and do not really even draw attention. As I said, the editing is very well done, often using action match cuts — such as the old woman trying on the wedding dress to transition into the captive ogre Princess trying to clean her gown.

But the final image of the tightrope walker syncs up all the themes of the film. The Princess, now High Queen, recalls how a valiant tightrope walker saved her. And as she looks up at the performer, whose rope is aflame, but who is only halfway across, she smiles. She has made it across that tightrope. We as the audience fear that the rope will snap when consumed by flames. This visually connects to every story. The flames destroyed the Salma Hayek Queen’s life before she reached her goal. The ugly old women teetered precariously on the tightrope of life until finally plunging to their doom. It is a bittersweet image, and most tragic, but the hope of the new High Queen resonates as the credits roll.

Salma Hayek devours a recently undercooked heart. The preparation of this heart as a mealleaves a lot to be desired.

Salma Hayek devours a recently under cooked heart. The preparation of this heart as a meal leaves a lot to be desired.


If I were to make films, this is the type of film I would make… though I’d choose happier fairy tales, no doubt. I know I didn’t mention much about the costumes, but they are quite seamlessly integrated into the story. Everything the courtiers and Salma Hayek wear is worth observing in detail. There is no great arms or armor, except on the King’s sea monster hunting outfit — which is a technologically advanced diving suit. But the monsters are killer! The seamonster, flea and the evil bat delight.

In conclusion, I think the film is extremely well adapted and well acted. It has great costumes, music and monsters. There are shots of scenery and locations that look so impressive that you can’t tell if they’re digital or real. The locations are to die for. The only drawbacks are that the subject material is quite disturbing, and that if you are used to your films having huge spectacle climaxes and your fairy tales being Disney-esque or modernized, you might have a hard time getting into the story. There’s no modern sassy princess, there’s no valiant prince, there’s no big bad guy that the heroes unite to destroy. In short, this is an adaptation of fairy tales as they were told before Disney turned them into the shells, cliches and cash grabs. This film is in stark contrast to how modern people connect fairy tales to children, and consider their main themes to be about overcoming adversity and finding true love. We all know the bare bones of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel (all which have their earliest western roots in the Pentamerone, but all of which are extremely adult in content), but the majority of fairy tales written in the world are like the ones presented in Tale of Tales — longing, horror, despair and redemption. The human condition.

This film presents small scale fantasy stories that each focus on morality and themes of longing, desire, and the lengths to which people go to search for happiness.

Fairy Tales are life, and this film captures that.


Indigenous – Netflix Horror Film Movie Review

7 Mar

I like horror films, but I prefer ones with practical effect monsters. Indigenous is a horror film available on Netflix currently. On the Netflix dashboard, I saw the little slide show of the monster licking the guy’s face, and I was like, “Hmm. I like that.” Then, I read the synopsis and saw the image of the hot people making out, and I was sold. So I watched it at once!

Does this great licking tongue remind anyone else of that vacation Meg Ryan wanted to take in the film IQ?

Does this great licking tongue remind anyone else of that vacation Meg Ryan wanted to take in the film IQ?

Is this movie scary? If you are afraid of a camera being shaken at bushes, then yes.

Shot by some sort of photographic genius (I am not joking) who apparently still uses auto-focus and has no qualms about shaking a camera at trees to pad run time, this movie follows five American tourists, and one Panamanian, who go down to a Panama jungle for a vacation and then four of them get eaten by a chupacabra. That’s pretty much it.

The six people in question.

The six people in question.

Why am I writing about it? Well, now that my Mozart book is finished and available for purchase, I want to make this blog about the things that interest me — and the things that the blog will be about going forward are, namely, photography, women in awesome dresses, shirtless dudes and monsters. And this movie has the first and the latter two for certain. Nobody really wears any clothes in this one, so there’s no costumes to comment on. But there is a very well done monster and some extremely good cinematography.

Let’s discuss the good and the bad things about this film.



  • There are more bushes than you can shake a camera at. It worked in the first horror scene, after the false scare, where this woman was looking for this boy and she was hesitant to go into the jungle, because it was super dense, which is understandable. There’s a great shot of her confronting the jungle. So then the camera shook about as if it were her head looking in various places. However, the effect is repeated for the remaining five cast members for the duration and it is the only part of the photography that wasn’t working for me. Interestingly, this film was photographed by an excellent cinematographer who IMDB tells me is named Brendan Barnes. Nice light, wasn’t afraid to show a monster IN the light, which I like (it means they had a good monster) and good composition. There’s a scene at the bar which is mostly talking heads and dancing women which is very beautifully done. Lots of shots of attractive people making out.
  • Speaking of which, the sex scenes were weirdly G rated. It actually caused me to pause and wonder about it. I mean, the movie does have some gore towards the end, so apparently it’s rated R, but I can’t really figure out why. Besides some gore and a general horror-y vibe, it really isn’t even a hard PG-13 in practice. The “sex” scenes are just really good pictures of very attractive people making out, then a large jump cut. Honestly, Disney’s Aladdin has more erotic scenes. I guess someone says something about a large penis at one point. That’s pretty R rated, yeah?
This is the exact amount of eroticism this movie reaches. Notice the woman's sensually uncovered hair on the left.

This is the exact amount of eroticism this movie reaches. Notice the woman’s sensually uncovered hair on the left as she sleeps beside the man after inferred coitus.

  • It’s like the filmmakers had never been to an actual jungle. I know that horror film characters are generally stupid, and these ones are no exception. They split up, shine lights AT monsters, leave the women behind “to rest”, etc. But this one seems to extend to the filmmakers themselves. I know in Los Angeles you can drive 40 minutes and arrive at Topanga State Park then wander around for 45 minutes and come out the other side unscathed, but really forests in the actual world don’t work that way. The filmmakers seem to bring this “ease of use” into the jungles of Panama, where no one is expressly concerned that they’re lost. It’s like in a stage production, everyone runs in opposite ways into the jungle and then stumble across each other to have little scenes. I mean, the amount of times they lose each other and reunite is practically operatic. They might as well be singing arias about being lost and getting eaten by a chupacabra as they come and go. No one has an express goal to lead them out of the jungle, there are no trails anywhere, no landmarks because it’s all dense foliage. I can handle characters making stupid decisions, but when it bleeds out towards the filmmakers it’s kind of distracting. Like, the chupacabra, potentially, isn’t actually the scariest thing in a real jungle, and the filmmakers ignore all other perils as if the heroes are just running through a small state park.
  • The first 30 minutes of the film is just people talking about food they ate and great photography. I kept actively thinking about Romeo & Juliet and how every line of dialog advances the plot and character development (except for the Queen Mab Speech, which is poetry and is forgiven for not being plot related). It’s so tightly written that if you remove bits of dialog, the rest of the story stops making sense. I urge all filmmakers to read Romeo & Juliet, and when you need to fill 30 minutes of run time in a horror film, remember that Shakespeare is public domain, and you can actually take the scenes from his plays, translate them to modern talking, and put them in your film. Boom! Likeable characters and you’ve padded your run time. Shakespeare wouldn’t even mind, because he actually used that technique in his own writing!
The first half hour of the movie is just shots like this. Attractive people smiling and talking about various food stuffs.

The first half hour of the movie is just shots like this. Attractive people smiling and talking about various food stuffs.

  • The women are only there to be looked at and support the male characters, and they aren’t given any real dialog. When the boys are talking about the mystical jungle waterfall they will be visiting, one says,”Trevor, will this mythical waterfall make your penis any larger?” Trevor replies, “Oh, yeah, it’ll give you a huge penis, like a jumbo cock.” Giggle giggle. Couldn’t at least one woman also joke by saying, “Oh, no, honey, any bigger and I couldn’t take it.” Bam! Repartee. (By the way, I found myself inserting many lines of dialog while the film ran on.)
  • A woman jumps over a twig and breaks her ankle so hardcore that it pops out of her skin. What the hell? Does she have avian bone syndrome?



  • Everyone’s face is beautiful. Like, the main guy you could just look at for hours. He’s really fascinating looking. The internet says he is called Zachary Soetenga in real human life. I’d like to see that lady who owned the restaurant in a movie where she actually has to act. (I don’t know their names, I only came away knowing the douchey guy is named Trevor and everyone else I know based on the job they did back before the vacation) I kinda liked her, but she was sorely underused. The actress is called Sofia Pernas. She’s got a Sutton Foster vibe.
  • The photography, which I have mentioned frequently, is good. He likes these people’s faces. He also seems to be using auto-focus, I can’t say for sure, but the focus drifts as the people move in close-up. I know low light causes this with movement, but I don’t know why they aren’t just using a focus puller. But with the help of the editor and director, no doubt, he also knows the proper duration to film a monster, and where to insert a monster into the frame where you can’t see it until it moves. Something that you will not miss, because the composer insists, very heartily, that you notice, with the help of very loud extraneous orchestral crashes. You will never question whether or not you saw a monster…. oh no, no, the composer simply will not allow it. You HAVE seen the monster and you WILL know it.
  • These people don’t wear many clothes, and they are all very beautiful. It’s nice to see a filmmaker who knows that the medium is visual, and there’s really no aesthetic reason to show normal-to-unattractive people just because. The aesthetic is, perhaps, the most conscious effort put into making this film. Even as the film progresses and the lead guy’s hot brother and his attractive girlfriend are introduced sleeping in bed merely to further the plot back home, I’m okay with it. Like, I get it. I’m not being facetious. This film is based on the idea that people are hot and get chased by monsters. The mise-en-scene of hot people in a jungle seems to actually be given as much thought as the aesthetic of something like Prometheus, but contained within it’s low budget. Lots of horror films just point the camera at the actors and hope for the best.
Let me just introduce my hot brother late into the movie.

Let me just introduce my hot brother late into the movie.

  • The Monster is quite well done. It’s not anything new. I mean, it’s pretty much the monster from Pandorum without clothes on. But it is well done. It looks scary, it moves scary. It has nice monster effects and little details. For example, it has a long bat-like tongue. Bat-tongues are long and use a “pumping technique” to funnel liquid up to the mouth. In the film the news calls the chupacabra a “blood-sucker” but that’s all the backstory we get on it, and I love that the monster designer used actual animal references to make it a more realistic blood sucking creature. From what we know of the thing, it actually behaves very much like a bat. The only issue I have is that it seems perfectly content staying up just as late as the humans. I mean, they’re staying up all night and day because they’re running FROM the monster. There’s no reason the monster shouldn’t take an occasional break for rest an relaxation. It’s not like there’s a pressing need to kill ALL the young people. He’s got at least four by the time midnight comes around. Guess he’s just a workaholic.
It's hard work being a successful monster.

It’s hard work being a successful monster.

  •  The hero gets all of his heart’s desires simply by being a victim. So, good for him! That’s right, he Harry Potter’s his way to the top. And what’s interesting is that it’s fully fleshed out from beginning to end. He makes a new app that updates all social media at once through face recognition. He goes on a trip where he hopes to test it. He gets to test it when he is getting chased by a monster and his cell service is bad. It posts to all his friends and family, like his hot brother. The people on Youtube watch it. It gets 7 dislikes and 8 million shares. (I was secretly hoping for a shot of the comment section that read “Fake!” or “Gaaaaaay.” but realistic Youtube comments might have ruined the tension the filmmakers were hoping for. They opted for “OMG WTF” and “i c dead ppl”) Then the media sends out reporters to cover the event and in that operatic fashion I mentioned earlier, they run right to the place on the stage where the survivors are. Then it is revealed in the closing news segment that Cryptids are real thanks to this boy’s footage. That means, in the context of the film, he will sell his app, which works, and become a renowned monster expert due to being the first human to capture an actual visible shot of a cryptid in the wild! So, like, that sounds almost like a better movie than the one we just watched. I wonder if they removed the 30 minutes of surfing and talking about food at the beginning and gave us 30 minutes of him dealing with his success, it might have been better drama. But, also, it wouldn’t have been the movie the filmmakers intended to make.
Doctor Sheldon Cooper called, he wants his face back.

Doctor Sheldon Cooper called, he wants his face back.

Things that go in between Pros and Cons

  • Spoiler alert. Trevor, the douchey guy with hella ripped veins, gets two full death scenes. The first one is vaguely scary in the found footage way, but when he is dragged back to the lair he gets a full on second death. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I was kinda rooting for him to die. I wonder if you could stage a horror film where the douchey guy is the only person who gets killed, but the whole film is just people running around while an endless set up of scary scenarios are narrowly survived by the douchey guy until the end where he super gets it? This movie shows us that you can sustain it twice. I’ll be watching for a movie that fake kills someone just one more time before I get my results in.
Douche bag, Trevor, has hella veins.

Douche bag, Trevor, has hella veins.

So, did I like this movie? It doesn’t really work as competent drama, because while the actors are believable as friends and lovers, they don’t do much that stirs any emotions. I guess Trevor does have a lot of gushing from his mouth when he’s distressed in the second-death, and I applaud him for going all in. As horror it is passable in that it has some cool monster shots ruined by the composer’s orchestral crashes, and a nicely done monster. There is a nice horror scene where the lead follows Trevor as he’s dragged into the cave, and realizes he’s in too deep when his flashlight goes out. As it flickers on and off, the monster shows up behind him. Though, it raises the question of why he’s the only person who is put in arms reach of the monster that doesn’t have his face eaten, but maybe the monster had to file paperwork first, before each kill, and he didn’t get it done for the lead until the final attack. Overall it’s very beautifully cast and shot. I think it would be a fun one to watch with friends and make jokes about. It’s fun. A lot of these B-horror films are intolerable, but this one is cute. It’s got some really fun stuff stacked at the end that friends could totally enjoy riffing on and making fun of, like the avian-bone ankle-break, the great licking tongue and the delightfully eye-roll inducing event with the girl and the rescue-helicopter. I don’t want to spoil it. Watch it with friends and discover it for yourself.

I also hope the cinematographer keeps working and honing his craft. I see no reason why he shouldn’t get steady work.

Let's just take a moment to look at my hot brother again.

Let’s just take a moment to look at the hot brother again.


Gods of Egypt Review

2 Mar

I love “Gods of Egypt”. It is everything 10 year old me ever wanted in a movie.

I spent my youth reading every single book that was available on Egypt in the libraries. I spent hours drawing pictures, making board games and inventing stories based in that lore. My stories were not dissimilar from Gods of Egypt, except my adventurers went on the road WITH the Sphinx, but I admit it was used appropriately in the film.

Unlike many of these action movies set in an ancient world, the film is pretty accurately respectful to the lore. Look at the new Clash of the Titans and its sequel that don’t seem to care about mythology, or The Immortals which has a creepy weird relationship with it. Gods of Egypt takes its source material and the only real changes that are made to mythology are a.) the aesthetic and b.) the need to be an action movie.

There's Brenton, relegated to the background for a moment.

There’s Brenton, relegated to the background for a moment.

If you know early Egyptian mythology, you know the story. Set comes and kills Osiris, rips him into 14 pieces. Isis takes her mortal life to follow him to the underworld (which is where the movie leaves it, but honestly I’m certain that might have been a better story to tell altogether, as she collects all his pieces, puts them back together and invents mummification, then, as in the film, balance is restored to the underworld as she and Osiris justly watch over the souls of the dead). Next Set steals the eyes of Horus, and then Horus goes on an adventure to defeat Set and they battle for the rest of the movie. Granted, there’s none of the hot gay sex stuff that Horus and Set spent a large portion of their real mythology battle getting into — but adapted accurately, that stuff would raise some extremely uncomfortable questions between children and their parents. Look it up on Wikipedia. It’s extremely odd. It involves ejaculation and lettuce.

The mythological aspects are well handled. The Sphinx has a riddle, gods can steal each other’s body parts and use them (yeah ancient Egypt!) There is also a scene which made child me jump for joy where we literally see Ra, the sun god, sailing his boat across the sky, descending into the night and fighting the night monster, Apophis, to protect mankind. I am absolutely in love with the idea of a god who spends every night fighting off monsters to keep humans safe from the darkness and evil. Just a beautiful idea lifted straight from mythology and put into the context of an action movie. This is the sort of thing Gods of Egypt does well.

The non-mythology story is about a teenage boy who steals the eye of Horus to enlist the god’s help. Brenton Thwaites is the lead actor of the film, or quite possibly the secondary lead, as he is often relegated to the background (often quite literally) but then the gods get to squabbling and he bursts forth to save the day and get the action going. Brenton Thwaites is spectacular, just in general. I have loved him in everything he has done. Strangely, he may be my ideal actor. He’s as likable as Tom Hanks and as handsome as young Brad Pitt. I didn’t expect to like him when I first saw him, because most young good-looking boys are terrible, but he encompasses everything my inner child wanted in a hero and proves again and again (The Giver, The Signal) that at least somebody has my inner child in mind.

Brenton Thwaites is basically my favorite actor these days. Edged out Michael Angarano just because Michael hasn't made a costume/action movie. for a while

Brenton Thwaites is basically my favorite actor these days. He edged out Michael Angarano just because Michael hasn’t made a costume/action movie for a while.

The only other performance that stood out to me was Chadwick Boseman who played the god of knowledge, Thoth. When first introduced I thought, “Hmm, he seems a bit effete for the god of knowledge.” But when his big scenes come up in the second half with all the pontificating and yammering, he was delightful. The twee accent was a perfect choice, and just captures intellect without actually having to always show it. Great choice, Chadwick Boseman. Just perfect.

I know that it is not well received by critics. Here are some Pros and Cons about this film:


  • There are no Middle Eastern Actors in a movie that takes place almost entirely in Egypt (The rest of it takes place in the sky). I get that this is an Egypt before that night monster, Apophis, altered the landscape (there’s lots of shrubs and waterfalls that are not native to Northern Africa in the movie, so obviously night monster ate those things at the end), but it’s getting ridiculous. This film follows Prince of Persia, Exodus and a few other films that populate the country entirely with extremely white people. I can’t say it’s “whitewashing” like all the critics though, because there are black and asian leads, just no Middle-Easterners. It’s actually kind of surreal.
  • Everyone has a British Accent. The only reasons I’m letting this slide is because its good they chose a single accent, wayward accents tend to distract, and that Thoth owns it.
  • In mythology the gods of Ancient Egypt have animal heads. While the characters in the film do turn into robot animals (like Silverhawks!), they mostly look like normal humans until they decide to lay the smack down. I feel somewhere in my inner child that I wouldn’t have minded animal headed characters. I guess the sexy times and the romance wouldn’t have played well between a cow headed woman and a falcon headed man, but if your screen romance can’t work between a cow head and a bird head, maybe your romance isn’t strong enough to begin with? I don’t know. I get the logistical need to have actors who can sell the movie — but, that plan doesn’t seem to be working anyway, soooooo…. (As an aside, remember how awesome the animal heads in Stargate were?)
  • The Egyptians considered the brain useless. When Set steals another character’s brain, it makes sense to us, because we totally love brains! But the Egyptians did not. So that was one instance of them outright defying Egyptian mythology.
Chadwick Boseman and his fantastic accent appear in Gods of Egypt. Can't wait for Black Panther!

Chadwick Boseman and his fantastic accent appear in Gods of Egypt. Can’t wait for Black Panther!


  • Dem costumes. Hell yeah. As a costumer, I love costumes. And these costumes are made out of fabrics that I can’t even begin to explain. What on earth is Thoth wearing? Is it hammered beads sewn onto mesh? Who knows, but it’s awesome.
  • Dem hats, tho. You remember how Eiko Ishioka’s costumes for The Immortals had weird ass hats? And you were like, “Huh?” Well, this one has hats that make you want to go home and become a warrior goddess yourself. You see the hats and you’re like, “Hell yeah!” Those ladies that ride those snakes have the best hats I’ve seen in years! The black lady in particular. Everything she’s wearing is the best thing. Great job, snake ladies!
  • Snake Ladies.
Snake Ladies Rule!

Snake Ladies Rule!

  • Set’s animal head is very well done. Historically speaking Set is somewhere between an anteater and an alligator. Many scholars suggest that Set’s head is so indistinct that it is actually a “monster head” where all the other gods are distinct animal heads. The film does this well, creating a head for his animal-silverhawk form that is an indistinct mash up that turns out monster-y. They put thought into it, at least, and based it off of mythology which I appreciate.
  • Brenton Thwaites.
  • Thoth’s accent.
  • Ra fighting the monster every night.
  • The greatest monster actor who ever lived, Bruce Spence shows up as the judge of the underworld. I am a Bruce Spence fanboy. Love you, Bruce! Keep on terrifying me in the way you do!
  • The stakes.

What are the stakes, you ask? You know how in normal, not over-the-top drama, something is at stake? Like the lead’s girlfriend is kidnapped (Super Mario, Final Fight, most drama) or the world is going to be destroyed (Tranformers, Armageddon). Well, Gods of Egypt has ALL THE STAKES. And I don’t mean like Doctor Who style where everything is always on the verge of being destroyed always. Doctor Who will always re-kagigger time so that the stakes don’t matter. What I mean is every stake ever is at stake in Gods of Egypt. His girlfriend is in danger, his girlfriend’s soul is in danger, his soul is danger, all the world’s souls are in danger, the world itself is in danger of being devoured, the gods are in dangers, the humans are in danger, the gods love lives are in shambles and also in danger, the demons are coming for Hathor (best thing I’ve seen in a movie all year. I love when they just grab her), the people don’t have enough money, war is happening, the monster is coming! And what’s weird about it, is all you really care about is the simple idea that one man misses his love and the other realizes that’s all he needs to focus on, too. The main stake is simple and works, the rest is just bluster and giant serpents (of which there are at least three).

So, obviously, my inner child loved this movie. But did my adult me? Well, there are two scenes that actually made me get the feels. The one where Hathor yields her bracelet to save the girl and gets sucked into demon land. And the scene on the tower during the climax when Brenton returns the eye of Horus. Adult me also appreciated the adaptation of mythology to action film with little to no basterdization. Because I can hardly stand a single one of these fairy tale movies that take out the myth and legend, like Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, or Into the Woods, so I applaud Gods of Egypt.

The hero, Horus, and the Villain, Set, are very mythological, and the two actors who play them are well liked, generally, but don’t really stand out. Like I said, it may have been possible to just do it with animal heads. But I guess we’ll never know. Enjoy the giant Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler as they randomly turn into silverhawks.

I totally recommend this film to your children, and when it comes out on DVD I will do a big costume review.


I want to share my biggest sale of the year with you!

25 Nov

Mozart Reimagined is 30% OFF! Starting now through Cyber Monday!

Mozart Reimagined on!

Mozart Reimagined on!

So, I am having a big holiday sale on my book. You don’t want to miss the best sale of the year on my photo books! Both the digital and print versions of Mozart Reimagined are 30% off now through Cyber Monday! These are the lowest prices of the year!

I am also starting a Product Mailing List. This list is different from the blog subscription, because instead of getting blog posts, you will receive information on new-releases, sales, coupons, costumes and more! If you like to buy my things, this will be a list to join, so sign up here!

  • Sale runs Nov. 25 – 30
  • Subscribe to my product mailing list! This list is different from the blog subscription list and will provide info on new-releases and sales of my books, costumes and more!

Mozart Reimagined Launch Party

15 Sep

Mozart Reimagined, my beautiful photo book that has taken ten years to complete, is now available for purchase on Kickstarter! For 28 days you will be able to get the book for its lowest price!

On Sunday we had a launch party for the book! Many of the people who worked on the book came with their friends and family!

Setting up the room.

Setting up the room.

My friend Trevor came to help me set up some costumes and props that I built which were used in the book.

Trevor helps me set up by wearing Neptune's mask from Idomeneo.

Trevor helps me set up by wearing Neptune’s mask from Idomeneo.


The party was held at the Rockin’ TJ Ranch, a large event center that usually puts on weddings!

My Der Schauspieldirektor costumes were on display.

My Der Schauspieldirektor costumes were on display.

Many of my costumes from the book were available to view.

My Don Giovanni costume from the cover of the book was on display.

My Don Giovanni costume from the cover of the book was on display.

It was a bit like museum displays!

My Amphitrite gown from my Idomeneo shoot.

My Amphitrite gown from my Idomeneo shoot.

The costumes each had their own pedestal for guests to walk around.

Tamiri's gown from Il Re Pastore.

Tamiri’s gown from Il Re Pastore.

A few props were scattered at the feet of the mannequins.

Ilia's costume from Idomeneo.

Ilia’s costume from Idomeneo.

We had large TVs displaying the photos at the back of the room.

Judith's costume with a severed head on display.

Judith’s costume with a severed head on display.


The event planner gave us a full 8 course Rococo feast, the style that would have been put on in Mozart’s day. There was a meat course from every type of game; beef, chicken, fish, ham.

We put on a feast for 55 people.

We put on a feast for 55 people.

Many of the guests were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of food they were being given! Lol.

Mozart Reimagined guests having an 8 course meal.

Mozart Reimagined guests having an 8 course meal.

At the end of the night, we looked at the books together and I signed them.

Here are all the models holding the book open to one single page for our friend who couldn't make it!

Here are all the models holding the book open to one single page for our friend who couldn’t make it!


Our book is launched on Kickstarter, but there are only 28 days to get your copy! Help us bring this book to publication!

Mozart Reimagined Preorders Now Live on Kickstarter!

14 Sep

Hello friends! After ten years, Mozart Reimagined is now available for Pre-Order on Kickstarter!

You can watch some preview videos below, or just click on over to Kickstarter to learn more!

I hope you will all enjoy this labor of love!

If you feel passionately about my project, I would really appreciate it if you would share the Kickstarter link ( )on your social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc.!) You can use the hashtags #tysonvickphotography and #mozartreimagined if you like to tag your posts. It would help out immensely. Thank you all for your support over the years! I’m excited to finally be producing the book!

UPDATE – First Draft Finished

2 May
La Finta Semplice Title, by Tyson Vick. Model: Nora Gustuson

La Finta Semplice Title, by Tyson Vick. Model: Nora Gustuson

The first draft of the text to my photo book is complete. If you are, or know, a Mozartian in Academia who might be interested in reading my book and doing a fact check on the information I’ve written, please let me know. I hope to start doing the layout of the book in the next month or so. The book features one short essay on every opera Mozart set to music, and is from the perspective of a fan-boy rather than a scholar — but I’d still like all the facts to be correct! You can expect some humorous observations, anecdotes about the operas and quotes from Mozart about the music!