Tag Archives: Michael Dougherty

Lizard King

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Must we destroy everything that challenges us, or is humanity’s only salvation an intentional and aggressive thinning of our herd?

Or is there another way?

Nope, this is not the plot of the last two Avengers movies. Well, I mean, it is, but it’s also the basic underpinning of the monster movie that has always had societal anxieties on its mind.

Born in 1954 of a society reeling from nuclear annihilation, Godzilla was a parable of a world in need of a new god to save it from war and science. Sixty five years later, Godzilla: King of the Monsters recognizes that it’s not just the military and scientists who are destroying us. It’s all of us.

Columbus, Ohio’s own Michael Dougherty (Trick r’ Treat) takes the reins of the king of all kaiju franchises, grounding tensions in family drama and bombarding the audience with monsters, explosions, nuclear monsters, nuclear explosions, good-sized leaps of logic and so much nonsensical dialog.

Kyle Chandler is the handsome, damaged, underwhelming white guy at the center of things. Lucky, because the rest of the cast—primarily women and people of color—can’t quite figure out how to move forward without him to articulate the plan for them.

They talk about it a lot, though. Even when machines are in the midst of exploding, someone has the good sense to tell us, “Something’s wrong!”

When people aren’t droning on with exposition and explanation, we’re treated to plenty monster on monster action—exactly what Gareth Edwards’s 2014 Godzilla did so well. Unfortunately, for all the very cool Titans that director/co-writer Dougherty has to work with, he can’t create a thrilling fight sequence. There are lots of loud noises, plenty of toothy close ups and bright lights galore, but as for distinguishable monster bodies following a logical battle trajectory – nope.

In fact, repeated mentions of activity on “Skull Island” only remind you of the tonal and visual bullseye of Kong: Skull Island, a comparison that does not work in this Godzilla‘s favor.

Longtime kaiju aficionados should appreciate Dougherty’s clear respect for genre history – as well as Bear McCreary’s wonderfully retro score – but this new King is just treading water.

You Better Not Pout


by Hope Madden

Hometown boy Michael Dougherty, whose 2007 directorial debut Trick ‘r Treat is a seasonal gem, returns to the land of holidays and horror with his second effort behind the camera, Krampus.

This Christmas tale – not unlike Joe Dante’s ’84 smash Gremlins – hopes to spin a weird and horrifying yet not entirely family unfriendly yarn suitable for seasonal viewing. Young Max (Emjay Anthony) secretly still believes in Santa, but Christmas just isn’t what it used to be. Sure, his German grandmother Omi shares his sentiment, but not the rest of the family – stressed out upper crust parents (Toni Collette and Adam Scott), boorish relatives (led by the ideal oaf, David Koechner), and a cranky great aunt, played by Conchata Ferrell.

When family dysfunction pushes him too far, Max tears up his letter to Santa, unwittingly inviting in his stead, the evil shadow-Santa, Krampus.

The film looks good, the performances are solid, but Dougherty has trouble finding and keeping a tone. Though Koechner does deliver a handful of decent lines, the film, on the whole, is not funny, nor is it particularly scary.

Perhaps hamstrung by a PG-13 rating (unlike the similarly themed 2010 Dutch film Saint), Krampus feels too restrained for horror lovers, too horrific for families.

The ancient demon and his anti-merry makers get too little screen time, and though a couple of them get a fantastic design, Krampus himself is never as visually articulated as he should be.

Dougherty has put together a very talented cast and crafted some interesting characters for them, the writing (duties he shared with Todd Casey and Zach Shields) feels lazy. Often the film pauses for what would be a one-liner zinger, and instead we get the talented Conchata Ferrell delivering a line no more interesting than, “I got this.”

Heavy with sentiment but light on redemption or terror, Krampus is one of those Christmas treats that doesn’t feel quite worth the caloric intake.