the first half or so, i wasn't really feeling because it felt overly flip - really enjoyed the dead alive/braindead style opening scene but the fake NCIS stuff is just mocking the audience. this is probably my least favorite of wan's horror movies other than the original saw, i don't think he actually does insincerity very well. that said, the man simply bears the crosses of modern horror, he resurrected the jumpscare, traded gore for ghosts and here he goes again, tripling down in a truly absurd third just to prove the point that people really do love a twist.
there's a lot of weird details in this that make it seem fake, for example, the titular character has a huge upper back tat that appears to be written in comic sans. each and every motel and casino has a big, fake, CG placard or sign, every tertiary character is a poorly observed "type", likely emphasizing the total irrelevance of everything outside oscar isaac's interior life. i will say that dafoe always makes it look easy, for such a beloved actor he switches so well into unpleasantly edgy that its disturbing. best use of 360 VR since gonjam: haunted asylum
some of my least favorite films are late 90's prestige edgy ensemble dramas. i always like these because of the smaller actors, in this case chris cooper and thora birch. this movie cops a major 'tude but the more i watch older movies, it seems like they have a much greater thematic range when trying to twist the nips of the american dream, despite being self-censored.
never liked this one because it centered on the insufferably smug spacey character, playing possibly the ultimate great american novel protagonist, some middle aged dipshit pining for a 17 year old girl.
there's something about alex garland's writing that i don't like that assumes you've never even heard of scifi before. exposition has a big place in genre film and shouldn't be excised entirely, but part of what makes weird fiction work is leaving some work to the imagination and above all, trusting your audience. an extended, mostly wordless sequence in the third act breaks free for a short, abstract little jog, too bad so much of the film is characters telling you their backstory.
BIG props to buff gina rodriguez in the vasquez from aliens role.