REVIEW: Barbarian (2022)

Bill Skarsgård as the mysterious ‘Keith’ in BARBARIAN — PHOTO: 20th Century Studios.

Direction and Screenplay by Zach Cregger.

Zach Cregger’s Barbarian, one of the most entertaining surprise hits of the year, follows Tess Marshall (played by Georgina Campbell), as she arrives at a remote house that she has booked, only to find out that someone else, Keith (played by Bill Skarsgård), is already staying there due to the house having been double-booked. When Tess finds out that there isn’t really an open motel close by, she has to decide if she feels comfortable staying at the house with this total stranger. What she doesn’t know is that the house isn’t exactly what it seems.

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REVIEW: Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities – Season One (2022)

Tim Blake Nelson and Sebastian Roché in ‘Lot 36’ from GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES — PHOTO: Netflix.

Series Created by Guillermo del Toro.

Just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, Netflix released a spooky four-day event with eight episodes (two released each day) of the brand-new horror anthology series Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has assembled eight directors and had each of them direct their own hour-ish-long episode. Admittedly, not every one of them is an outright hit, but, as a collection of horror curiosities, del Toro’s anthology series definitely does its job, and, if you follow the two-a-day release schedule, then you may find that their spot in the season wasn’t entirely random. Horror aficionados gather around because this one is for you.

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REVIEW: Werewolf By Night (2022)

Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in Marvel Studios’ WEREWOLF BY NIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Directed by Michael Giacchino — Screenplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron.

Since the launch of Disney+, Marvel Studios has pumped out a plethora of straight-to-streaming series. It has, honestly, been a little bit overwhelming at times, and not all of the shows are equally good. One of the things that excited me about this streaming service, and the potential for Marvel Studios on it, was the general idea that this gave Marvel an opportunity to break from their formula and try new things. To give examples, Marvel has done that somewhat with Ms Marvel but also with She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, which is this sitcom that doesn’t take the overall universe as seriously as most of the Marvel films do. With Werewolf By Night, Marvel Studios has released their first so-called ‘special presentation.’ This is essentially a Halloween special just like how we know a Christmas special is coming down the line from James Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. And think outside of the box they certainly have, as Marvel Studios have hired their frequent composer Michael Giacchino to direct for them on the streaming service. and this special presentation proves that if they need a director for a future feature-length theatrical project, then Michael Giacchino could very well be their guy. Werewolf by Night is surprisingly good.

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REVIEW: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022)

Donald Sutherland in John Lee Hancock’s Mr. Harrigan’s Phone — PHOTO: Netflix.

Directed by John Lee Hancock — Screenplay by John Lee Hancock.

At the time of writing, we are now in October, which means that, for a lot of people, it’s time to focus on horror and Halloween. Streamers such as Netflix have to cater to that crowd, and one of the ways that they are doing that this year is by releasing yet another Stephen King adaptation. Netflix has actually been a pretty decent home for these adaptations, as it has previously released such King adaptations as In The Tall Grass, 1922, and Gerald’s Game, with the last one being easily the best of the Netflix-King films. Like In the Tall Grass and 1922, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is based on one of King’s novellas, and, like those other two films, while there are things I really like about the film, I think there are a couple of things about it that make it difficult to recommend to general horror fans.

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REVIEW: NOPE (2022)

Steven Yeun’s character looks upward and tries to monetize what he sees in Jordan Peele’s NOPE — Photo: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Jordan Peele — Screenplay by Jordan Peele.

With Get Out and Us, Jordan Peele’s name became synonymous with the social-horror genre. A master of horror on the rise, who is still building his oeuvre, Peele’s films as a director thus far have felt like event films, to me. Get Out was a masterpiece and one of the best films of the 2010s, and Us was a fantastic horror film that I think is exceptionally rewatchable, rewarding, and thought-provoking. He didn’t land all of his big ideas with Us, but it was still one of my favorite films of 2019. I absolutely loved it. So, when his third outing as a director was announced and revealed to be a sci-fi horror flick starring two of my favorite actors of the 2010s in Daniel Kaluuya, re-teaming with Peele after Get Out, and Steven Yeun, who made his name known with The Walking Dead but whose best performance can be seen in Lee Chang-dong’s masterpiece Burning, my expectations reached a fever pitch. So, does NOPE work? In a word, yep.

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REVIEW: MEN (2022)

Jessie Buckley’s traumatized character Harper takes a bite out of the ‘forbidden fruit’ shortly after arriving at the house that she has rented for her village holiday. — Photo: A24.

Directed by Alex Garland — Screenplay by Alex Garland.

Alex Garland’s folk horror film MEN follows the widowed Harper Marlowe (played by Jessie Buckley), who, after having recently lost her husband to what may or may not have been a death by suicide, has decided to go on holiday in a small village in Britain because she needs to unwind and heal. However, she continues to be haunted by her trauma when she arrives in the village. Although she doesn’t point it out, each and every man she meets has the same face as Geoffrey (played by Rory Kinnear), the owner of the house she has rented, including a mysterious naked man who starts stalking her, as well as the local vicar who, after hearing about Harper’s trauma, suggests that she is to blame for what happened to her husband.

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REVIEW: Choose Or Die (2022)

Iola Evans and Asa Butterfield in Toby Meakins’ CHOOSE OR DIE – Photo: Netflix.

Directed by Toby Meakins – Screenplay by Simon Allen.

This is the kind of film that, not too long ago, would’ve been the kind of horror picture that could be released in theaters and earned quite a bit of money, like Jeff Wadlow’s Truth or Dare, which this film reminded me of at times. Who knows, maybe it could’ve even done that right now in a post-lockdown America. We will never know because instead of being released theatrically this nostalgic tech-focused horror film was released without much fanfare on Netflix on April 15th. If you like those kinds of gimmicky horror films, then this might be the kind of film that you’d like to put on. But, with that having been said, I cannot recommend this fairly disposable horror feature, in spite of its relatively short 84-minute runtime.

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REVIEW: Speak No Evil (2022)

Christian Tafdrup’s SPEAK NO EVIL is much more than just an unsettling culture clash – PHOTO: Nordisk Film.

Directed by Christian Tafdrup – Screenplay by Christian Tafdrup & Mads Tafdrup.

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, critics and festivalgoers alike were introduced to one of Denmark’s latest filmmaking provocateurs, Christian Tafdrup. The actor-turned-director got his career as a filmmaker started with his first two feature-length efforts Forældre (int. title: Parents) and En Frygtelig Kvinde (int. title: A Terrible Woman), the latter of which starred Amanda Collin (who you may have seen in HBO Max’s Raised by Wolves) and was a relative hit that provoked some audience-members. Speak No Evil — Tafdrup’s latest feature film — was received fairly well at the festival, and is, reportedly, one of the best films that actor Robert Pattinson has seen in many years. I won’t go that far, but I will say that I think this very unsettling Danish thriller is Tafdrup’s best film yet.

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REVIEW: Midnight Mass (2021 – TV Series)

Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill in MIDNIGHT MASS — Photo: Netflix.

Series Created & Directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House; Doctor Sleep) — Available on Netflix.

At this point, I feel like Mike Flanagan is becoming a master of horror. I don’t think it happened over night, though. I think his output was fairly consistent in the beginning, but the latest works in his oeuvre are just outstanding. While I think Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Hush were all right, I think Gerald’s Game, Doctor Sleep, and his Netflix shows (The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor) are all great must-watch horror films or shows. I think he has this ability to find beauty in even some of his more frightening works, and that is also true of his latest horror series, Midnight Mass, which I think is pretty much on par with the truly excellent Hill House.

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REVIEW: Candyman (2021)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in Nia DaCosta’s CANDYMAN (2021) — Photo: Universal Pictures.

Directed by Nia DaCosta — Screenplay by Nia DaCosta, Win Rosenfeld, & Jordan Peele (Get Out; Us).

Horror remakes, reimaginings, or sequels decades after a popular antagonist’s inception are inevitable. This movie studio trend was especially prevalent in the 2010s, when it was emphasized just how profitable decent-to-good horror films can be. One of the more stylized attempts was Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, while one of the more disappointing attempts was Kölsch & Widmyer’s Pet Sematary remake. Horror remakes are a dime a dozen these days, but the current horror movie trend is the legacyquel — a portmanteau of legacy and sequel — which is a continuation of a previous film but one that takes place a long time after the events of the original film and often with entirely new characters. Another trend is that of ignoring some films in the franchise, for the purpose of taking the franchise in another direction. Such is the case with a legacyquel like David Gordon Green’s Halloween. Another legacyquel that ignores certain chapters in its own cinematic mythology, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, which really ought to have a different title for simplicity’s sake, follows many horror movie trends, but perhaps most notably those kickstarted by her producer and co-writer Jordan Peele.

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