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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REVIEW: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren in Michael Chaves’ THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT — Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona) — Screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick.

Cinematic universes and film series with numerous spin-offs — in the vein of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — are all the rage these days. The primary example of this in the horror genre is the Conjuring film-universe, which, at this point in time, consists of eight films. This horror film cinematic universe was essentially launched by James Wan, who is probably one of the most influential horror filmmakers of the last ten years, and his films in the series — The Conjuring I and II — are, frankly, the best and most memorable films in the entire film series. For that reason, I was very nervous when I heard that he would step away from the franchise and let Michael Chaves, who directed The Curse of La Llorona (which I really did not like), continue, or potentially finish, the titular series of films in the Conjuring film-universe. After having now seen the third main-line Conjuring-film, I can say that even though it is nowhere near as good as Wan’s films, Chaves’ second film in this film universe is admittedly significantly better than his previous film.

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REVIEW: The New Mutants (2020)

New Mutants Still Image
‘The New Mutants,’ Still Image — Photo: Claire Folger / 20th Century Studios.

Directed by Josh Boone — Screenplay by Josh Boone & Knate Lee.

For a while there, it seemed like Josh Boone’s The New Mutants would never see the light of day. They wrapped principal photography in September 2017 and originally planned for an April 2018 theatrical release, but, right when Disney executives were working overtime to acquire Fox, the film was delayed over and over again. The film which had been developed by 20th Century Fox was ultimately released by Disney’s 20th Century Studios in the middle of a global pandemic. It felt like the film was quietly being swept under the rug, which may not be far from the truth as the film was the final film from the Fox-era of X-Men. Originally, I was very interested in the film after having seen the early marketing material, which made The New Mutants seem like a true horror film. Now that I have finally seen the film, I can say that the early trailers were more memorable than the film, which is messy and poorly paced. But I will say that it definitely isn’t the complete and utter trainwreck that the constant release delays may have led you to believe. It’s not good, but it certainly isn’t the worst Fox-developed X-Men film. Continue reading “REVIEW: The New Mutants (2020)”

REVIEW: Doctor Sleep (2019)

Theatrical Release Poster – Warner Bros. Pictures

The following is a review of Doctor Sleep — Directed by Mike Flanagan.

How do you please the fans of two very different masters of storytelling (i.e. Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick) when the storytellers’ understanding of The Shining differs so much that the author, Stephen King, once disowned director Stanley Kubrick’s extremely popular adaptation? How do you continue the story of The Shining on the big screen, when King and Kubrick’s endings are in conflict with each other? Those questions made the adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, a sequel to his hit novel The Shining, an incredibly daunting task exactly because audiences would expect it to also be a sequel to Kubrick’s beloved masterpiece. Mike Flanagan, a promising horror filmmaker who adapted Stephen King’s Gerald’s Game into a terrific Netflix film, was eventually chosen for the difficult task. Ultimately, I think Flanagan, who both wrote, directed, and edited Doctor Sleep, did an outstanding job. Flanagan has confidently united two clashing visions in this quite satisfying, but undeniably unnecessary sequel. Continue reading “REVIEW: Doctor Sleep (2019)”

REVIEW: Wounds (2019)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Wounds — Directed by Babak Anvari.

A couple of years ago, Babak Anvari’s underseen and underappreciated Persian-language horror film — and directorial feature film debut — Under the Shadow was rightfully selected to compete for the foreign-language film award at the Oscars as the British entry. Anvari’s debut was a great surprise and a film that I have recommended to many people over the years. Even though poor word of mouth preceded its release on Netflix, I was still excited to see his second effort as a director of feature-length films. Unfortunately, Wounds, his first English-language feature film, is a messy, dreadful, and disappointing sophomore film. Continue reading “REVIEW: Wounds (2019)”