With Dawn and now War for the Planet of the Apes, filmmaker Matt Reeves has crafted easily two-thirds of the best science fiction trilogy since the original Star Wars films, and he does a brilliant job of bringing home Caesar’s (Andy Serkis) origin story in an emotional and brutally unflinching examination of loss, revenge, power, and survival. With War, Reeves has cemented himself as one of the best blockbuster storytellers out there today, and I could not have asked for a better culmination of Caesar’s story than the one we get here.
For his second feature, David F. Sandberg really went all out for Annabelle: Creation, mixing up his bag of horror tricks to deliver a cinematic experience that just relentlessly comes at you with the scares once the titular doll is discovered and all hell is unleashed on anyone in her path. As far as prequels go, Sandberg has done a helluva job with Annabelle: Creation, and I commend the filmmaker for creating a clever and wickedly fun horror movie that surpasses its predecessor in numerous ways (akin to Mike Flanagan’s Ouija: Origin of Evil last year).
The month of June has been flying by quicker than I can even believe, as we’re already a week out from the end of the 2017 Dances With Films festival, which took over the historic Chinese Theater in Los Angeles earlier this month. During DWF, I had the opportunity to catch several intriguing genre films, including Devil’s Whisper, Inheritance, Imitation Girl, and Central Park, and here’s a summary of my thoughts on these four flicks:
It's been more than 40 years since the release of Jaws, and people are still afraid to go in the water. That's the undeniable quality of the film, that its effect on generations of film fans is still, firstly, fear of what lurks in the water. Since its release, numerous films have tried to emulate the qualities that so richly personify the film, but very few have come close.
While I’m never going to consider it a “good” movie, I’m strangely glad that director Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot 1998 remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho exists. It only serves to make the original movie that much better (as though such a thing was possible) by demonstrating all the things Hitchcock does so perfectly that the remake gets perfectly wrong. Think of it as a $20 million experimental film; now that is has been tried and failed, we know that the experiment doesn’t need repeating. That alone has to be worth something.
Here’s a little-known fact about me: I love snorkeling. The last vacation I took down to Mexico, I spent five out of the seven days we were there floating around the ocean and several cenotes, taking in all the views of aquatic life that I could possibly get. But here’s the thing: once I get into dark water territory (where I no longer can see the bottom), that’s when I start to freak out a bit, and my own claustrophobia begins to set in. That being said, there’s a lot to 47 Meters Down that really left me unnerved, particularly once our protagonists end up stuck at the bottom of the ocean floor, with the still darkness of the ocean encompassing them, and no way to tell whether or not a shark is headed their way.
The legendary Boris Karloff portrayed many iconic characters throughout his long career—The Monster in Frankenstein (1931) and Imhotep in The Mummy (1932) are undoubtedly two of the most recognizable. Mr. Karloff's roles in these films are a fundamental building block in creating the foundation for Universal Pictures, which would go on to make the classic monsters we can all identify today.
And now, Tom Cruise has been chosen to lead the Universal Monster universe in a new direction, with a new franchise.
In Joseph Conrad's cynical, politically influenced work Under Western Eyes, the author takes steps in describing themes of terrorism, the degradation of character, and the suffering experienced by ordinary people caught in the wave of political influence. Mr. Conrad makes a poignant statement describing how two factions of society lived in pre-Revolutionary Russia when it is stated, "only that a belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."
It's within this nature of humanity that writer/director Trey Edward Shults positions his new film It Comes At Night; within the turmoil that humanity faces with the unknown, within the natural distrust that exists deep in the souls of humans, within the emotions that motivate choices to act without compassion.
I’ll be the first to admit I was rather skeptical going into Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy, as the trailers seemed to be far more focused on the action instead of the horror to the story. But thankfully, my fears about the direction this new Mummy would take were quickly quelled about 25 minutes into the film, when I realized that this brand new Dark Universe that Universal is set to unleash was starting off on the right foot, because I was having a helluva fun time and was completely immersed in this world.
While walking into the anticipated screening of director Patty Jenkins' film Wonder Woman, two women were walking a few steps in front of me and one of them proudly said, "We finally have a superhero we can call our own." It's a pertinent comment because this Wonder Woman film is a huge step in the right direction for female-fronted superhero films, but also the DC Extended Universe, which has seen a string of disappointing superhero/antihero films, including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad.
As Scream Factory continues to release pared-down catalogue titles on their now five-year-old label, the brand keeps expanding to include all different kinds of movies. Once known for releasing deluxe special editions of horror fan favorites, the company has diversified over the last half decade and begun releasing new films (as part of their deal with IFC midnight), unknown (and sometimes previously unavailable) cult films, a handful of classics, and even their own in-house productions. This last batch of catalogue titles, the majority of which have been released with only minimum bonus features but new HD scans, continues to broaden the reach of the Scream Factory brand to include a range of titles from secretly successful ’70s sexploitation sci-fi to well-intentioned failures of the 1990s.
Over the last few weeks, the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival celebrated the best that the indie filmmaking world has to offer, and during the fest’s run, I had the chance to check out just a few of the genre-related offerings on Tribeca’s lineup: The Endless from Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, Pat Healy’s feature film directorial debut, Take Me, and the psychological thriller Tilt from Kasra Farahani. Read on for my thoughts on this trio of thought-provoking cinematic treats.
For nearly 40 years now, audiences have been terrified by the cinematic universe Sir Ridley Scott first brought to life in his brilliant Alien. We have been enraptured by the Xenomorphs and all their iterations through three sequels, two Predator-inclusive offshoot films and Scott’s previous effort, Prometheus, which took us even further back to the events that happened prior to Alien. With Alien: Covenant, Ridley looks to start bridging the mythologies established in both films, and overall finds moderate success.
Now that we’re nearly 20 years removed and the dust has settled on the 1990s, the decade long believed to be a wasteland for horror movies is finally being reconsidered for the number of really good films it actually did produce.