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Category: Movies

Movie Review: IMPETIGORE

I’ve only seen two Indonesian horror flicks, so I can’t fairly comment on the overall health and quality of the region’s horror industry. Especially considering how much I truly enjoyed both films. It would be like watching Halloween and Alien as your first two American horror movies and immediately declaring, “This country never makes a bad horror movie! They can’t miss.”

So I have to rein in my praise for Impetigore slightly. Only slightly. This movie is a bit of a banger. It has some of everything. To open, it features a tense slasher / thriller sequence involving a violent man and a woman–our protagonist, Maya–and a toll booth. Later the movie will feature ghosts, a decidedly decrepit and spooky house with its very own and entirely too-populated graveyard, secret-keeping murderous villagers, curses and sacrifices and rituals and more. It’s packed with so much, yet doesn’t feel crammed with all of this content. Somehow there’s sufficient room for it all. It’s quite an achievement. READ MORE

Movie Review: ST. AGATHA

Darren Lynn Bousman directed the last of the even slightly defensible Saw films. He directed Repo! The Genetic Opera, among the last competently made, critically dismissed but sincerely defended cult films to be released. 1. He directed Abbatoir, a film that is almost impossibly disappointing considering its premise.2 He is the director of the eventually forthcoming Spiral, the Saw revival that unexpectedly stars and is spearheaded by Chris Rock. He’s worked steadily for fifteen years, and depending on how you feel about Repo!, has made at most one really good film in that time3. READ MORE

Movie Review: MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU

Good horror movies understand and respect gravity. Okay, this isn’t a hard and fast rule by which to judge all horror films, I’m sure there are some great ones that don’t have any respect for gravity. But watching May the Devil Take You brought this to mind.

By gravity I don’t mean “dignity or sobriety of bearing,” which is somehow the 1a definition on merriam-webster.com. I mean weight and “a fundamental physical force that is responsible for interactions which occur because of mass between particles,” the 2 and 3a definitions, respectively. The fact that certain things are heavy. Human bodies, for instance. If one should begin to levitate due to supernatural forces, it should still look like gravity has some influence over it, not like it’s paper on the wind. READ MORE

Movie Review: AURORA

Aurora is a particular kind of letdown. Its excellent premise and relevancy to a specific national event means it isn’t something you can just run back and do-over in a couple of years to get it right. If a future Filipino director wants to try his or her hand at this, it might have to be one from their next generation of filmmakers.

About that premise: Aurora is the name of the film and of a wrecked ship that sits ominously off the coast for most of the film. Based on the Doña Paz disaster–the deadliest peacetime maritime accident in history, and by a considerable margin–the Aurora‘s wreck causes considerable death and suffering. More than you might initially suspect, in fact, unless you’re like me and you’re already fairly familiar with the Doña Paz and how it managed such a heavy death toll. In that case the film’s ultimate “revelation” won’t be much of a revelation at all. And I say that as a man living half a world away. I imagine for Filipino audiences it must have been even less surprising. READ MORE

Movie Review: BULLET HEAD

Sometimes your creative eyes are bigger than your imagination’s stomach. Sometimes your attempt to pack multiple interesting ideas into one story results in you failing to fully develop any single idea into the best story it can be. That’s largely how I feel about Bullet Head, a watch made worthwhile due to its cast and its promise, but that I can’t really recommend because it seems to leave so much on the table.

The general premise is strong: three cons pull a heist that results in them getting locked in a building with a super-vicious, desperate dog, a poor mastiff abused and trained to kill. As “trapped with the monster” setups go, it’s different enough to draw you in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t prove quite as intense as you’d think. READ MORE

Movie Review: THE VAST OF NIGHT

Knowing the little bit I do about the budget and constraints of The Vast of Night, and then seeing what appears on the screen, it’s a little difficult to properly assess the movie, because it does so very much with that apparently limited budget that it doesn’t feel like it warrants a pass for some of its missteps.

But let’s lead with the positive: this movie looks great to me. I’m not exactly a technical film genius; I know that in Chris Stuckmann’s review, he notes that the color-grading in some scenes isn’t what it could be. That sort of thing largely escapes me, so I’d have to take the word of people with a better eye for it. What doesn’t escape me is when a film looks amateurish to one degree or another. The Vast of Night doesn’t look like amateur-hour at all. I wish I could’ve seen it in a theater. I plan to rewatch with my VR headset in the near future, in Amazon’s theater-replicating environment. READ MORE

Movie Review: TERRIFIED (ATERRADOS)

In my review of Don’t Knock Twice, I knocked it for being a “Stuff Just Happens” horror flick, while also noting that this is not an automatically negative sub-type of horror. To support this, I referred to the Argentinian flick Aterrados (Terrified), which is very much a movie where “stuff just happens.” It’s also amazing.

Essentially a series of scary vignettes loosely connected by more of a premise (or series of premises) than a fleshed-out plot, Aterrados is not remotely interested in a satisfactory explanation for any of its goings on. At least, not according to the English translation available on Netflix, which admittedly has a couple of obvious errors that call the entire translation into question, at least as far as context goes. It’s possible there are fine details we’re missing here in the English-speaking world. I doubt it, though. And if I’m wrong, I’m mostly sure I’d prefer never knowing those details. With my most recent viewing of Aterrados–my third–I’m falling increasingly in love with it. READ MORE

Movie Review: FURIE

At a certain, critical point in the film, Furie made me say of its heroine, “She stabbed the shit out of ol’ girl.” A positive review was then all but cemented.

To be clear, Furie is merely a “good” action movie, not a superior one, but that is partly due to its recent competitors. In a world where exists the likes of The RaidJohn Wick, the last few Mission Impossible flicks, The Night Comes for Us and The Man From Nowhere, you might be more apt to nitpick a few things about Furie, such as how its lead actress, Ngô Thanh Vân, doesn’t have a great action movie run. The scooters often used in the chase scenes are also clearly moving at a very safe speed in some shots, and that lack of urgency stands out all the more when the people on these scooter are all wearing helmets. Maybe Vietnam is just so big on bike safety that even in the midst of attempting or averting a kidnapping, all parties involved make sure to first secure some headgear. READ MORE

Movie Review: DON’T KNOCK TWICE

When you get right down to it, Don’t Knock Twice is a “Stuff Just Happens” type of horror movie.

Why does the Baba Yaga move so efficiently to snatch up one kid on the night that he knocked twice, but takes its time to toy with the other kid for days, even though she knocked on the same night? Well, because in this movie, stuff just happens.

Why does the girl jump to the conclusion that she’s being pursued specifically by the Baba Yaga (complete with bastardized mythology), of all the many malevolent entities that could be coming after her? Well, because stuff just happens. READ MORE

Movie Review: Robert Altman’s IMAGES

I wish every great director would have at least one go at horror, preferably before exiting their best years, but I’d settle for an early or late-stage effort. Robert Altman gained fame and acclaim for movies like M*A*S*H, NashvilleThe Player and Gosford Park. Ensemble satires that sometimes have a dramatic tinge. Not even a cousin to an intimate psychological horror film that dives early and deep into paranoia, simple hallucination and madness.

Altman tried his hand at various types of films, not just the one he won most of his plaudits for. He made a very good neo-noir film in The Long Goodbye, a very different but interesting take on a classic Chandler novel. He made the western McCabe & Mrs. Miller. He made Popeye presumably to get the worst movie and decision he could possibly make out of the way. In summary, he was not afraid to step outside his ostensible comfort zone, even though he brought his usual heavy interest in characters to the genres he ventured into. READ MORE