I’m battling the flu, and that allows for some Netflix binges while I’m conscious.
I’ve watched Dracula (if you liked BBC’s Sherlock, you’ll like it), Locke & Key, and In the Shadow of the Moon. The last two really made me think about the difference between a solid idea and solid execution.
Some MAJOR spoilers ahead.
Locke & Key
Based on a successful comic horror series, it’s taken years to get an adaptation. The Netflix version is much more fantasy, which removes nearly all of the possible tension. The second issue is that anything set in a realistic setting requires a higher fidelity to logic. Otherwise you get into a deus-ex-machina situation where “magic” always saves the day. The main antagonist wants the keys but can’t take them from the Lockes. But somehow, they can physically attack the family… which seems like a giant loophole to collect the keys.
This means that another level of tension has to be applied, and here it’s the YA threat of high school drama. It’s quite poorly executed, spending a solid chunk early in the setting, then ignoring it for a few episodes, only to jump back into it later. Tyler in particular waffles all over the place, with inconsistent altruism and selfishness.
The final episode has the natural twist, that the teens clearly pick up on but ignore. They do their thing, knowing it’s dangerous. See, if I told you that by opening a door, the stuff behind the door would try to attack you, would you close the door by pushing (thereby protecting yourself from the other side) or pulling (exposing every part to the other side)? That level of stupid is infuriating, given the general level headed seen in all other episodes. Then you get flashbacks to explain the final twist… and somehow you have to assume that the bad guy is able to pretend to be a FULL TIME STUDENT for weeks, all while impersonating other characters at the same time. That’s some impressive dedication.
The good thing about Locke & Key is that it’s entirely watchable by the family. My 7 & 9 year old can grasp nearly all of it. The characters are interesting, and they want to know what the next key does. In that sense, the execution of the series is super solid. It’s the idea itself that needs some work. Maybe season 2 will do better.
In the Shadow of the Moon
A sci-fi time travelling whodunnit, more in line with Twelve Monkeys. The main storyline follows a policeman chasing a killer who appears every 9 years, and becomes obsessed with it. To the point of losing touch with everything else.
The general lack of attachment to anything but the killer puts the protagonist in an exposition mode. You’re never rooting for him, since there’s no empathy as he’s not attached to anything. He doesn’t make bonds over time, he loses them.
The sci-fi part however is very solid. The limits around time travel, the impacts, the technology, the social impacts… it just works. It’s that bleeding edge sci-fi, that’s you feel is just at the tip of our fingers, enough that you know it’s not real but that it’s possible.
The downside is that the sci-fi part is only about 30% of the film, with about 50% more of a procedural detective story. And you need a rather solid actor to transition across 30 years for you to even remotely care about…there’s some solid mis-casting in this area.
So here we have a movie where the idea itself is amazing but the execution is lacking. Which, I find after spending 30+ years engulfed in sci-fi, is the default setting and the reason short stories are so much better to explore an idea.
Hiccups and all, both are worth the watch. No one bats 100%, and they both excel in their own areas. Just hope you don’t have to get the flu to watch ’em.