Local Opinion Editorials

Indiana’s John Green Releases Film ~ At The Movies With Kasey

I sometimes wonder if John Green is the best thing to come from Indiana. He writes the voices and experiences of teenagers beautifully, is a passionate advocate for mental health, and he plays the gym coach in the latest movie made from one of his novels, Turtles All the Way Down.

In the film, Aza Holmes (Isabela Merced) struggles with OCD after the death of her father. When a local billionaire goes missing, Aza’s best friend Daisy (Cree) proposes they find him to earn a $100,000 reward. She figures they have an advantage because Aza met the man’s son, Davis (Felix Mallard), at a camp for bereaved children. Reunited, Aza and Davis start a relationship that pushes the boundaries of Aza’s anxiety and her friendship with Daisy.

The missing man who kickstarts the plot of Turtles All the Way Down is almost an afterthought, but who has time for fugitive billionaires when fears of C. diff and mysteries of philosophy consume Aza? The drama comes from inside Aza’s head, as the story movingly depicts her daily struggle with intrusive thoughts and their impact. Isabela Merced captures Aza’s quiet demeanor in contrast to her loud mind while Cree’s energetic performance provides a balance that infuses their scenes with both comedy and heart. It was hard to be as invested in the romance as I was in their friendship.

I wonder how a film with so many scenes in an Applebee’s lands for people not from Indiana, but to me, it is just one of many details that lends the movie and Green’s work so much authenticity. Turtles All the Way Down uses many such small moments to create a vivid portrait of living with mental illness while giving plenty of teen comedy, drama, and even that central mystery.

Turtles All the Way Down was written by Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, based on the novel by John Green, and directed by Hannah Marks. It runs 111 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Marking the halfway point to Halloween, Shudder broke its streaming records with the horror-comedy Late Night with the Devil, the story of a late-night program that accidentally unleashed a satanic power. Host of The Night Owls, Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) plans to boost his dwindling ratings with a must-see Halloween special featuring a psychic (Fayssal Bazzi), a skeptic (Ian Bliss), a paranormal expert (Laura Gordon), and a child possessed by a demon (Ingrid Torelli).

What could go wrong?

Late Night with the Devil takes a gimmicky premise and delivers on it with a funny, exciting story. The production does an excellent job creating an atmosphere that feels like a 1970s talk show, with muted colors, great costumes, and a dynamic between skeptics and psychics pulled from the pop culture ether. It would have been easy to lean too hard on the period piece elements or the found footage vibes, but the screenplay also builds ample suspense and two outstanding scenes of possession and debunking that play off each other to create well-structured plot twists.

David Dastmalchian’s considerable stage presence grounds the ensemble cast, moving between on-stage antics and stress behind the scenes. He is believable as a grieving star whose hunger for fame might have gotten out of control. As Lily, the girl possessed, Ingrid Torelli gives a fantastic performance with Linda Blair undertones and also direct-to-camera glances that are both chilling and funny. As Charmichael, a guest meant to challenge the occult, Ian Bliss commands scenes, balancing the schmoozy charm of the late-night host with a sinister twist.

Late Night with the Devil at times gets a little ridiculous, but it was very fun to watch and works from a tightly-structured, suspenseful screenplay.

Late Night with the Devil was written and directed by Cameron and Colin Cairnes. It runs 93 minutes and is rated R.

After a limited release in theaters, Lisa Frankenstein is available on demand. Set in the 1980s, the horror-comedy focuses on quiet, misfit Lisa (Kathryn Newton) whose crush, a young man buried in a local cemetery (Cole Sprouse), is reanimated after a violent lightning strike. As she struggles to fit in with her stepmother, Janet (Carla Gugino), and popular stepsister, Taffy (Liza Soberano), Lisa’s unconventional romance breaks her out of her shell.

Lisa Frankenstein tries to pay homage to teen films of the 1980s but, unlike Late Night with the Devil, more often than not it feels like a knockoff. The style of the costumes, sets, and cinematography are fun and visually interesting but do not quite live up to the vibrance implied by the Lisa Frank reference or the 80s setting. Similarly, the romance plot derived from Frankenstein features some silly twists, like flesh reanimated by a glitchy tanning bed, but does little to further the story.

There are splashes of violence that seem inspired by Heathers but the romance between Lisa and The Creature is too sweet to give the story much bite. Overall, the movie has some creative and funny moments but fails to make good on the promise of its premise.

Lisa Frankenstein was written by Diablo Cody and directed by Zelda Williams. It runs 101 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer