REVIEW: WHAT/IF – SEASON 1

Renée Zellweger, Jane Levy, and Blake Jenner in What/If (2019)

 

Main Cast

Renée Zellweger (Appaloosa)
Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe)
Blake Jenner (Cousin Sarah)
Daniella Pineda (The Originals)Renée Zellweger in What/If (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Dave Annable (666 Park Avenue)
Louis Herthum (Westworld)
Allie MacDonald (Cardinal)
David Barrera (Generation Kill)
Juan Castano (Sharknado 2)
Samantha Marie Ware (Glee)
Keith Powers (Famous In Love)
Gabriel Mann (Revenge)
Julian Sands (Smallville)
Kristen Hager (Wanted)
Brenda Bakke (Under Siege 2)

Renée Zellweger and Gabriel Mann in What/If (2019)It’s tricky to explain Renée Zellweger’s new Netflix show What/If to somebody who hasn’t seen it, because it’s an exercise in diametrically opposed contradictions. It’s a sexy thriller, even though it’s about as sexy as slow-transit constipation. Its unique selling point is that it follows the consequences of actions, even though that also describes every single story ever told by anyone in the entire history of humankind. It’s a television series, even though its title is punctuated like a sub-tier early noughties boyband.Jane Levy and Juan Castano in What/If (2019)What I can say with confidence is that What/If is trash. The pilot episode was directed by the man who directed Sharon Stone’s 1993 boobathon Sliver, who appears to have been preserved in amber ever since the moment that film wrapped. The characters, the dialogue, the sets and costumes and music are all firmly in mid-90s, low-budget erotic thriller territory, and there’s barely a concession to modernity to be found anywhere. It’s confusing, too; the second scene takes place a year after the first scene, but the third scene takes place three days before the second scene. What’s more, almost all of the episode’s establishing shots take place during a thunderstorm for some genuinely unfathomable reason.Renée Zellweger in What/If (2019)One of the lead characters runs a struggling molecular sequencing company, despite being so aggressively stupid that it’s a wonder she ever figured out cutlery. The profession is an afterthought – clearly, nobody from the writer down cares a jot about the nuts and bolts of molecular sequencing – but it adds a vaguely futuristic sheen to the series, giving it shades of a Hallmark Channel Black Mirror reboot.Renée Zellweger in What/If (2019)Taken on the surface, What/If looks like a grand error; like another Cloverfield Paradox sold off to Netflix in a fire sale because its studio couldn’t believe what a clunker it was. But that’s the weird thing about What/If. I think – and I might be wrong, because this is pure conjecture – that its trashiness might actually be sort of deliberate.The best case for this argument lies with Zellweger’s character, a sexually voracious billionaire puppetmaster taken to wandering around her sprawling apartment late at night pontificating about the nature of destiny versus free will into a 2010-model dictaphone. Read that sentence back. That has to be deliberate, right? No sensible person, with the possible exception of EL James, would ever create a character this preposterous on purpose, surely. And I haven’t even mentioned her primary hobby yet. It’s doing archery in her kitchen. Of course it is.And Zellweger relishes every second of it. It’s a huge, camp, scenery-licking wink of a performance that channels every broad rich bitch trope you care to imagine. She’s the sort of person who writes “AT ANY COST” in block capitals on a piece of paper before we smash-cut to a day when her new book At Any Cost has become an epoch-defining bestseller. She’s the sort of person who keeps her keys in an enormous plexiglass cube in the middle of the room. She’s the sort of person who, when her butler sniffs that one of kitchen arrows has hit the target “left of centre”, smirks: “Three words no one has ever used to describe me”.
In What/If, Zellweger’s character meets a barman and invites him home. He declines, and so she escalates her offer. For one night with him, she offers to pay his wife (the molecular sequencer) $80m to rescue her ailing molecular sequencing business. It’s a plot, as the sequencer states in a rare moment of self-awareness, that’s been “ripped out of a bad 90s movie”. But it doesn’t end there, because it starts to look as if Zellweger chose the barman deliberately in order to ignite a bizarre Rube Goldberg sequence of events. Which is silly, right? The whole plot is so gaudy that it has to be tongue in cheek. But the thing is, Zellweger is the exception here. The rest of the characters, and all the subplots, are tedious and witless and played absolutely straight. Had What/If been The Renée Zellweger Show, it would have been fantastic. As it stands, she’s the only thing saving the series from terminal mediocrity.whatif_102_unit_00954rcSo, yes, What/If is tricky to explain. It isn’t the best show you’ll ever see. It isn’t even the worst best show. It might be the best worst show, but then again it also might be the worst worst show. Honestly, I’m stumped.

 

 

 

REVIEW: EVIL DEAD (2013)

CAST

Jane Levy (Suburgatory)
Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood)
Lou Taylor Pucci (Fast Food Nation)
Jessica Lucas (Gotham)
Elizabeth Blackmore (The Vampire Diaries)
Jim McLarty (Power Rangers Operation Overdrive)
Bruce Campbell (Maniac Cop)

In the woods, several men pursue and capture an injured girl. The girl, who turns out to be possessed by a demon, is brought into a cabin’s cellar and tied up. Her father sets her on fire and shoots her in the head.

David (Shiloh Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) meet up at a cabin in the woods with his younger sister Mia (Jane Levy). Along with them are their friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and David’s dog. They plan to stay in the cabin until Mia overcomes her heroin addiction. It is later revealed that David moved to another city years before, leaving Mia to take care of their dying mother. Eric remarks how David has grown distant over the years, but Olivia notes that their old friend is back and trying to make a change.

The group discover the cellar, where they see rotting animal corpses, a shotgun, and a book entitled Naturom Demonto. Eric, having some knowledge of witchcraft practices, begins studying the book. Despite the written warnings, he reads aloud an incantation, awakening a malevolent force. It rushes towards the cabin and into Mia, who is standing outside alone. Mia begins seeing someone in the woods and asks the group to leave. They refuse, believing that she is suffering from withdrawal. Mia steals the car keys and drives away, but a mysterious girl causes her to crash the car. As Mia walks back to the cabin, she is frightened by a ghostly shape and becomes entangled by the branches of a tree. The girl, who looks like a demonic form of Mia, releases black tar-like vines from her mouth. The vines crawl inside Mia, beginning her possession. David and Olivia find Mia and take her back to the cabin, ignoring her warning. David finds his dog killed and dumped under the shed, and confronts Mia. In the bathroom, he sees her scalding herself in the shower. David tries to drive her to a hospital, but heavy rains caused a flood, blocking the way out.

That night, the possessed Mia wounds David, threatens the group with death, and falls to the floor unconscious. When Olivia retrieves the gun, Mia overpowers her and vomits blood on her face. Mia is then locked in the cellar. Olivia goes to the bathroom to clean herself, and becomes possessed. Eric checks on her and sees her cutting into her cheek with a mirror shard, another scene from the book. Olivia attacks and wounds Eric, who grabs a broken piece of the toilet and bludgeons her to death.

In the shed, while David tends to Eric’s wounds, Eric tells David of what he learned from the book. According to the book, a demon called the Taker of Souls must consume five souls in order to unleash a being called the Abomination. Mia lures Natalie into the cellar and violates her, before Natalie is saved by David. Natalie cleans the bite wound inflicted by Mia and sees an infection spreading from it. As it quickly crawls up her arm, she tries to stop it by cutting the arm off. Eric explains to David that Mia must be “purified” either by live burial, dismemberment, or burning. The purification will end her possession. As they debate, Natalie becomes possessed and attacks the two. David shoots Natalie’s other arm off with the shotgun. The demon leaves her body and Natalie bleeds to death, confused, in David’s arms.

David plans to burn down the cabin with Mia in it. Mia starts singing their mother’s lullaby, and David changes his mind and decides to bury her instead. He digs a grave, then enters the cellar to subdue his sister. Mia ambushes him and attempts to drown him. Eric intervenes and knocks Mia out, but not before suffering a fatal stab wound in the process. Before Eric dies, he and David reconcile. David sedates Mia, puts her in the grave and buries her. After she loses consciousness, he digs her up and uses an improvised defibrillator to revive her. The demon is exorcised and her self-inflicted wounds are healed, and the two reconcile. As David enters the cabin to retrieve the car keys, the possessed Eric stabs him in the neck. Before dying, David locks Mia outside and shoots a nearby gasoline can, killing Eric and himself.

With five souls now claimed, the Abomination rises from the ground as blood rains from the sky. As Mia fights the Abomination, she severs her own hand in the process, before she cuts the Abomination in half with a chainsaw. Its corpse sinks into the ground and the blood rain stops. Sunlight begins to shine through the forest as Mia, hardened by the events of the night, walks away into the forest. Unbeknownst to her, the Naturom Demonto lies on the ground nearby and slams shut on its own.

In a post-credits scene, an older Ash Williams says “Groovy” and looks at the camera.Exposition at its most blatant and unapologetic is demonstrated, within 5 minutes you are told exactly who everyone is in relation to one another and what you need to know about them. Doing this in any other film always feels forced and clunky but it works in Evil Dead, we just don’t care about how long they’ve been friends or the fact that one of them is a high school teacher and thats why he loves old books. It get’s all that necessary information out of the way so we can dive into the horror and trust me, once the horror actually starts there’s not a second of a breather.