Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Cinema File #118: "Fairytale" Review


If I didn't know any better, I'd say that this movie was a mockbuster of another movie I recently reviewed, the Guillermo Del Toro produced horror fantasy Mama. It has the same sort of dark fairytale horror set up surrounding a young girl forming an unhealthy relationship with a motherly ghost, with a strong female protagonist desperately trying to protect her. Coincidentally, Fairytale came out before Mama, late last year, but then Mama was to be released last year as well before it was delayed, so maybe there's something to it. Either way, while it is not a bad film by any means, Fairytale definitely suffers by being just okay, coming out so close to a movie with essentially the same premise, executed so much better.


Fairytale is the story of a young girl who begins to act strangely after the loss of her first tooth, claiming that the Tooth Fairy has visited her and is insisting on more teeth than the one she gave up, leading her mother to discover a dark presence in her house posing as the fictional being. The film starts off a bit slow, but builds nicely as the intrusion of this supernatural creature becomes more obvious. Where the story fails is again only in comparison to Mama, in that Fairytale is a much more traditional ghost horror movie take on the subject matter, with none of the surprises or whimsy of the Del Toro film. It does what it does well enough, but never really tries to be different or exhibit an original style.


The one thing Fairytale has that Mama lacked was a twist ending, and to be fair, it is a very good one. Like Mama, through most of the film we are led to see the ghost in a somewhat sympathetic light despite the many horrors she commits, either because the people she's hurting deserve it, or because we understand the roots of her anger. While Mama ended ambiguously, this film is much more clear as to the true nature of its complicated antagonist, ending on a particularly grizzly note that I was not expecting and that I appreciated immensely if only for its daring. The final image in Fairytale is startling in a way that I would say even Mama never quite achieved, even as the two endings suggest similar consequences for their main characters.


The acting is fine, though the lack of ingenuity through much of the film doesn't give the actors much to do to excel. The daughter is creepily stoic and the mother becomes increasingly unstable as she fears for the life of her family, just like you've seen in a million other movies like this without Mama's unique take on it. I know I'm mentioning the Del Toro movie a lot, and I usually try not to do that, but there are so many similarities that I just can't help it. The ghost even transforms into a swarm of flying insects at one point, one of many shared motifs that come off as particularly strange considering I'm fairly certain it was not intentional and was entirely coincidental.


If for the dramatic uptick in quality in the third act alone, I would definitely recommend giving Fairytale a shot, but just don't expect to be wowed by it at all. Its a competently made horror thriller that tells a very familiar story in a solidly entertaining fashion, no more, no less. When so many movies nowadays can't even do the basics right, I find that it is sometimes unfair to judge a movie for not being more than just good. Fairytale doesn't break the mold, but it fits it very well and provides just enough to satisfy if your standards aren't unreasonably high. If you come across it, I easily recommend giving it a shot.

See, if I was a hack, I might have said something about taking a bite out of it. But no, I'm better than that. Chew on that, suckas.
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