31 Days of Halloween — Day 20: Gravy (2015) — by Dr. Shock

Gravy 2015

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

“Directed by James Roday, Gravy is, thus far, the find of the Halloween season, a horror / comedy that delivers on both counts, and in a big, big way.

Another All Hallows Eve has rolled around, and brothers Stef (Jimmi Simpson) and Anson (Michael Weston) are ready to celebrate it in their own way. Joined this year by Stef’s abrasive girlfriend Mimi (Lily Cole), the brothers walk into a Mexican bar / restaurant at closing time, take the entire staff hostage, and announce they’ve all been invited to attend a special feast.

Alas, most of the unfortunate employees won’t make it to the dessert course; in what has become a holiday tradition, Stef and Anson (and Mimi) intend to eat each and every one of their prisoners before the night is out!

Balancing comedy and horror can sometimes be tricky, but Roday and his exceptional cast manage to pull it off. The laughs come courtesy of a smartly written script (penned by director Roday and Todd Harthen), which gives weight to its characters without the benefit of delving too deeply into their back stories (for instance, we never learn why Stef and Anson carry out this macabre annual tradition, or, for that matter, how long they’ve been doing so).

Simpson and Weston are hilarious as the siblings with a palate for human flesh who, unlike their victims, are having the time of their lives (from start to finish, they’re as giddy as kids on Christmas morning). Though a bit more sadistic than her cohorts, Lily Cole’s Mimi also gets in on the “fun”, taunting and ultimately torturing the pathetic Bert (Ethan Sandler), whose girlfriend recently left him for another woman.

Also making a brief but memorable appearance is Sarah Silverman as Bethany, a nervous cashier who, in the film’s opening scene, captures Anson’s heart.

As for the horror, Gravy does have its moments of violence and gore (most of which occur in the kitchen), but the true terror lies both in the situation itself (innocent people knowing from the get-go that they likely won’t survive the night), and the fact that it’s happening to these specific characters, who, in the handful of scenes we spend with them before all hell breaks loose, seem more like a tight-knit family than a team of co-workers.

Funnyman Paul Rodriguez, playing against type, is the boss / father figure Chuy, the one they all look up to, while Lothaire Bluteau’s Yannick is a world-class French chef who, it turns out, is hiding a secret or two of his own.

Even more upsetting is that a few of the potentially doomed employees had bright futures ahead of them; Sutton Foster’s Kerry was working her last shift and about to start a new career as a healthcare professional, while security guard Winketta (Gabourey Sidibe) spent the earlier part of the evening preparing for her final history exam.

Rounding out the victim’s list is Hector (Gabriel Luna), Chuy’s nephew who dreams of becoming a cage fighter; and Cricket (Molly Ephraim), an occasionally obnoxious waitress whose bad habits prove useful later on. Each of these ill-fated characters is as well-rounded as their captors, and we root like hell for them to somehow make it out of this nightmare alive.

To be honest, I have no idea if Gravy will hold up as well on repeat viewings; there are a lot of twists and turns in this film, and its makers rely heavily on the element of surprise to keep the audience on its toes.

What I can say, though, is that, the first time through, this is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen this year. It’s a bit early to be talking about a top 10 list for 2015, but if I were a betting man, I’d lay money Gravy will land somewhere on mine.”

—Dr. Shock

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6 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 20: Gravy (2015) — by Dr. Shock

  1. 31 Days of Halloween day 19

    42. Scars of Dracula (***) – Standard Hammer Dracula. I did like how a bat attacked a girls boobs so the camera could focus in on the girls boobs. I like boobs.
    43. Bloodsucking Bastards (***) – Reasonably funny vampire movie with Joey Kerns, Fran Kranz and Emma Fitzpatrick. There is not one outside window in the whole movie. The money saved must have gone into the exploding vampire blood budget.

  2. Day 20 – The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

    For over a decade and a half, the Universal Monsters ruled the world after the talking era of motion pictures began with such legendary creatures as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy being the stand out stars. As all good things have to end, so did the Universal Monsters. For many, the Universal Monsters ended in 1946 with The Brute Man and the awful She-Wolf of London. Despite this death of the Monsters, everyone tends to put Gill Man in with the other Universal Monsters, mostly due to how memorable the creature was. After World War 2 though, these make believe monsters were no longer the source of terror. After all, we witnessed true horror with the holocaust and the atom bomb. The monsters were pushed out of the way for horror built in the aftermath of the atom bomb (Godzilla) or the monsters that may exist elsewhere in the galaxy as man looked towards the sky and dreamed about finally exploring space. I bring this all up as the final film in the Gill Man trilogy kicks off with one scientist wanting to alter Gill Man, to see if it’s possible to alter man, to allow us to leave this planet before our planet’s resources crap out on us.

    The Creature Walks Among Us is two films combined into one. The initial plot is based around Gill Man. Dr. Barton wants to capture Gill Man to experiment on him to better his understanding of the human body as he slowly tries to give man the ability to exist on other planets. It doesn’t take long before that plot falls into the background to the plot that dominates the picture. The plot that actually matters is a simple drama build around a rocky marriage where the wife feels trapped and the husband is incapable of trusting her around hungry suitors. This plot ends up hurting the movie for me as it makes everyone so unlikable. The longer the movie plays out, the greater a jerk Dr. Barton is revealed to be. I suppose we’re to feel sympathy towards his wife, Marcia, but I don’t because she’s established to be a gigantic moron. Early in the movie, there’s a scene where the gang is heading into the waters to try and find Gill Man, but she insists on jumping into the water with the guys. This is a dangerous situation and one she shouldn’t be in. Despite this, she’s just hanging out and having fun in the water. She’s spinning in circles, removing her flippers, and all of this stupid behavior causes her to pass out due to diving too deep. Literally all she has to offer is that she’s a good looking woman. That’s it. One of her suitors, Grant, is one of those creeps that doesn’t understand the meaning of “No”. In a more graphic movie, Grant would be someone who would have been revealed to have been a rapist. Then there’s the nice suitor, Dr. Morgan. Morgan is completely forgettable and devoid of any personality that my only impression of him is that I hate that this sap is actually falling for Marcia when she’s an awful person herself. To make matters worse, Barton, Morgan, and Grant all look very similar. There’s points where I struggled to tell them apart. Naturally, that made it more difficult to absorb myself in the story.

    Even though I’m not a big fan of the Gill Man series, I’ve never had a bad thing to say about Gill Man himself. The creature is awesome. I love that he comes across as a bit different from the other Universal Monsters and it’s a real shame we don’t see guys in rubber suits anymore. It’s a bit cheesy, but I much prefer it compared to CGI creatures. Since this isn’t exactly a glowing review of The Creature Walks Among Us, Gill Man is another negative to the film. Basically, the filmmakers took this fantastic creature and took away everything that made him special. The fire destroyed a layer of Gill Man’s scales. Dr. Barton then forced Gill Man to use his lungs instead of his gills, which caused Gill Man to further transform into more of a human like creature. In fact, Gill Man is even wearing clothes in the entire second half of the movie! I don’t want to see a human-like Gill Man. It’s about as interesting as Boris Karloff not being under wraps during the original The Mummy. I’ll go as far as to say Gill Man reminds me more of Frankenstein’s Monster than he does Gill Man in movie. I LOVE Frankenstein’s Monster, but that’s not what I want to see out of Gill Man. Gill Man becoming a product of his environment, causing him only to get physical when he sees violence playing out doesn’t work.

    Just as it was the case for both Creature from the Black Lagoon and Revenge of the Creature, they relied on the main creature theme far too often. It’s a great theme, but when you hear it every few minutes, it grows old fast. Again, like with the other two films, it doesn’t progress fast enough for my tastes. It comes across like they’re sticking with scenes longer than they should just to pad the film. With how slow going everything is, it feels as if the movie is lasting far longer than it actually was. It was at one point I paused the movie to see how close I was to the ending and I was only thirty-five minutes into the film.

    I can praise the fact that the final five or so minutes nearly made up for it’s disappointments. The human like Gill Man snaps after seeing a death in front of him and he goes on a war path. It’s maybe the scariest that Gill Man ever comes across in the entire trilogy. Rooms and windows are being smashed, the characters are cowering in fear, and Gill Man gets in one kill before leaving. They even managed to have this scene with the main theme only playing a couple of times instead of throughout the entire scene. As I only watched the film a single time, I haven’t had enough time to digest the ending, to determine whether I like it or not. The end sees the now lung breathing Gill Man return to the water with the credits coming up. The assumption is that Gill Man inadvertently commits suicide as he can no longer breathe under the water. On one hand, it kind of sucks that this awesome monster dies by just going in the water, his former home. On the other hand, it’s tragic as Gill Man was never this evil monster. He was what he was. He ended up dying because one man decided to play God and change him into being something that he wasn’t. This one of a kind creature goes extinct all because of man.

    Overall, The Creature Walks Among Us is the weakest of the Gill Man trilogy, a series that was never actually good. The awesome Gill Man is altered into being a shell of his former self while taking a backseat to a drama that didn’t work. Since I’m not a fan of the series, I went into the film with very reasonable expectations. The Creature Walks Among Us didn’t come off as big of a disappointment as a movie like She-Wolf of London. I’ll give the film credit in that it tried to bring something a bit different to the table from the other two films. Still, it doesn’t work for me.

    I’d give it a 3/10. This has not been a strong Universal Monsters year for me after having some great ones in recent years.

    • Oh, ouch! OK, yes there’s too much relationship stuff though I don’t hate Dr. Barton or Marcia. She’s only 27 and has been married for 10 years to Dr. Barton. That’s why she’s so eager to jump in the water and live dangerously. She’s been a housewife for so long she’s never had to survive on her own. Dr. Barton is doing the same thing to the Gillman by taking him out of his natural habit to control him. It doesn’t work for him in either case.

      There’re a lot of sci-fi and philosophical discussions that the characters have with each other. Today these talks don’t feel subtle but I still enjoy them.

      I agree once his lungs open up and he mutates, his look isn’t great. I look at this as the deterioration of the Gillman. As he becomes more unnatural and caged, he becomes more violent. Then he breaks out and gets shot a few times. The mutations have weakened him and the bullet wounds are fatal. Then at the end, he is going back to the water to die.

      Hahaha, the cast does look similar. I have trouble telling them apart too.

      • My hatred for Marcia mostly just comes from the really terrible choices she makes. I recognize that she wasn’t happy in her life and felt trapped, which does garner some basic sympathy, but it’s really hard to support a character in a horror movie with such poor impulse control. Since women had so little to do with horror movie plots then, virtually all they were good for was being put in peril and needing a white knight. If you can’t get behind her because you think every other thing she does is illogical, then you don’t care when she’s in harm’s way.

        I can’t say I saw Gill Man as being more violent after he becomes a lung breather. If anything, I thought he was far more docile than his normal self. It was only when he saw the violence that he was pushed into being violent again. This is the only time in the Creature trilogy that Gill Man isn’t a threat 24/7.

        • Well I wouldn’t have minded if they all died. I guess to me the humans, especially Dr. Barton are the bad guys and The Creature is the good guy in this movie.

          I see what you’re saying about the Gillman’s violence. I assumed he was all drugged up, getting use to his environment and just waiting for his moment to kill. It is true thought that the human’s violence is what get the Gillman going.

          Anyhow, I enjoyed this movie more than you but I agree it does feel long for like 78 minutes or whatever. Breaking the movie into two parts as you described seems like it would help move this story along but it doesn’t.

          These universal movies are interesting to look at because, as far as I know, they are some of the first movie franchises.

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