Movie Review – Koko-Di Koko-Da

Koko Di Koko Da (2020)
Written & Directed by Johannes Nyholm

I’ve recently tried to pin down what specific type of horror that resonates most with me. I know people who love over the top gore and what veers into comedy. Others enjoy the haunted house jumpscare ride experience. The horror I am drawn to is often based on human grief and is a slow burn. It doesn’t fall back onto cheap spooks and actually delivers horrifying moments that sink in and stick with the viewer.

Continue reading “Movie Review – Koko-Di Koko-Da”

Movie Review – His House

His House (2020)
Written by Felicity Evans, Toby Venables, and Remi Weekes
Directed by Remi Weekes

In the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries, Africa’s history is a testament to colonialism’s evil. There are constant think pieces published in the papers and magazines of note in the United States & Europe attempting to figure out what went so wrong for the continent. Recently, I saw one blaming it all on the tsetse fly. Colonists will do everything in their power to not accept their role in creating the horror inflicted upon the African people through the rabid extraction of resources. Sudan is an oil-rich country, and therefore massive conflict exists. Many people from Sudan and refugees that settled there having fled conflicts in their own regions have taken the dangerous trek up the Atlantic with dreams of possibly reaching Europe and the United Kingdom. His House is the story of two of these refugees and the horrors they face in their new home and those they bring with them.

Continue reading “Movie Review – His House”

Movie Review – The Birds

The Birds (1963)
Written by Daphne du Maurier & Evan Hunter
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

The Birds is unlike any Hitchcock film I have ever seen. Three years after shocking audiences with Psycho, a film that is also slightly off from most of the director’s work but still sharing some psychological traits, we get this straight up man versus nature horror film. The first half is very slow, almost a comedy-drama, and every once in a while, we get a hint that something is off. Then the second half hits, and the film slides into total chaos. What we get is what I see as a reasonably angry film that expresses some of Hitchcock’s misanthropy in horrifying and comedically absurd ways.

Continue reading “Movie Review – The Birds”

Movie Review – The Dark and The Wicked

The Dark and The Wicked (2020)
Written & Directed by Bryan Bertino

I don’t think I like Bryan Bertino’s films. This is the third movie by this director I’ve watched, with the others being The Strangers and The Monster. He simply has no depth to his work. It’s all surface level, atmospheric, yes but with no meaningful character development. The Dark and The Wicked may be his absolute worst film to date. I love horror, especially slow-burn horror; however, it must be building to something. I need to understand and sympathize with the characters to feel something for them when they are tormented. We learn almost nothing about these characters, and so we ultimately don’t care.

Continue reading “Movie Review – The Dark and The Wicked”

Movie Review – Black Bear

Black Bear (2020)
Written & Directed by Lawrence Michael Levine

I always find it a delight when I finish watching a movie, discover that I love the film, but have no idea how to decipher it. I’ve met people who react to pictures like this with rage as if the movie was personally insulting them. My take is that challenging cinema is fun and makes your brain work in ways that most media purposefully does the opposite. Many larger budget films are designed around the idea of overloading your senses or sedating you with familiarity. So, when a movie comes around, they jostle me out of that; I’m definitely going to be intrigued and want to know more.

Continue reading “Movie Review – Black Bear”

Movie Review – The Gift

The Gift (2000)
Written by Billy Bob Thornton & Tom Epperson
Directed by Sam Raimi

I noticed that, without planning, every Flashback to a year I’ve done in 2020 has included a Sam Raimi picture. There had been no desire to do a look at his work specifically, but through these series, I’ve had the opportunity to see how he grew as a director over the years. The Gift is the most jarring of these films because it’s so unlike anything else I’ve seen from him. It’s a much more muted picture and feels like an independent film from the late 1990s/early 2000s. It seemed like he was becoming more over the top and stylistic with pictures like Darkman and The Quick and The Dead, but here everything is so sedate with mild touches of Raimi’s aesthetic.

Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) is a widow living in a small Georgia town who makes ends meet with her late husband’s social security and a side gig as a clairvoyant fortune-teller. Her readings for Valerie (Hilary Swank) lead her husband, Donnie (Keanu Reeves), to become irate with Annie and threaten her life if she keeps putting what he sees as evil thoughts in his wife’s head. Annie is also becoming close with her eldest son’s principal, Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear), engaged to a wealthy local socialite, Jessica (Katie Holmes). Things turn tragic when Jessica goes missing, and Annie has visions that the woman has been killed and tracks her down to a specific location outside of town. Annie realizes that, while the law believes the killer’s identity is apparent, things are much more complicated than she first thought.

Raimi definitely leans into many Southern-fried cliches, and his actors don’t necessarily capture the accent’s essence. The cliches are pretty abundant with swamps, weeping willows, the class divide between the wealthy and poor, and even a To Kill a Mockingbird-esque trial with Annie’s son secretly watching from the balcony. Raimi is pulling back with only some uses of his tropes. There’s a scene early on where Annie has a vision while in the principal’s office, and a supernatural wind blows her hair while the camera pushes in, and you can see just a little touch of the director’s aesthetic there. Otherwise, I see this falling more in the camp of pictures like Sling Blade and The Apostle. It plays things pretty low key.

Cate Blanchett does the best job of things and plays Annie with total believability, which helps ground the sometimes silly proceedings. You can see how this role could very easily be hammed up by a lesser actor, someone who overplays into farce. Her abilities are represented through short quick visions, a pencil rolling off a desk, falling into a puddle of water, which reveals a character’s corpse-like foot, hinting at their fate. Blanchett finds ways to play Annie as vulnerable but can pull herself up when circumstances become dangerous to her and her family.

There is a lot of plot here, and not all the arcs feel like they belong together initially. By the end of the film, characters’ stories begin to flow together so that the finale is incredibly satisfying and provides a reason for every person’s presence in the narrative. Surprisingly, this film didn’t do well at the box office because it had the star power to get people’s attention and deliver a very well-plotted mystery story with classy special effects. I wouldn’t say I hope Raimi makes more films like this one, as I love it when he goes insane (see Darkman), but it is a pleasant surprise in his filmography. The Gift appears to have become one of those overlooked gems that people will hopefully rediscover from time to time.

TV Review – Over the Garden Wall

Over the Garden Wall (Cartoon Network)
Written & Storyboarded by Steve Wolfhard, Natasha Allegri, Zac Gorman, Bert Youn, Aaron Renier, Jim Campbell, Laura Park, Pendleton Ward, Steve McLeod, Nick Edwards, Tom Herpich, Mark Bodnar, Cole Sanchez, and Vi Nguyen
Directed by Patrick McHale

When I was a little kid, I remember Thanksgiving Day and the next day being an exciting time for cartoons. The morning programming of some of our local channels was planned around the idea that kids were home from school. There were strange & rare cartoons shown; I distinctly recall Rankin-Bass’s The Hobbit and The Last Unicorn. These were odd movies in both animation style and the mystical worlds they created. They exist like so many things from my childhood as fragmented memories in a fever dream now. I don’t necessarily want to revisit these cartoons because I like how they are in this piecemeal state in my mind. Over the Garden Wall, while a coherent narrative simultaneously feels like that show you watched as a kid, laying on the couch curled up under a blanket, so cozy, you begin to drift off.

Continue reading “TV Review – Over the Garden Wall”

Movie Review – Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps (2000)
Written by Karen Walto & John Fawcett
Directed by John Fawcett

I’d heard about this movie periodically since its release in 2000 but never sat down to watch it. I’m sure it played at the local arthouse theater when I was in college, but I was skeptical of most horror back then (now I’m just very picky). I have never been that big of a monster movie fan. I prefer more Lovecraftian/weird horror that spends its time in atmosphere and dread rather than fangs dripping with blood. When I was coming up with the list of movies to watch for my Flashback to 2000, I decided now was the time to finally view Ginger Snaps and see why it has garnered a cult following over the years. 

Continue reading “Movie Review – Ginger Snaps”

TV Review – Monsterland Season 1

Monsterland (Hulu)
Written by Nathan Ballingrud, Mary Laws, Scott Kosar, Wesley Strick, and Emily Kaczmarek
Directed by Anne Sewitsky, Kevin Phillips, Craig William MacNeil, Eagle Egilsson, Logan Kibens, Nicolas Pesce, Desiree Akhavan, and Babak Anvari

Oh, dear. As I have said many times before that television horror anthologies are a tough feat to pull off. So, I want to acknowledge that making this series had to be a challenge. You have a new cast every episode with a new director. That can’t be easy to do. You have between forty-five minutes to an hour to tell a full character arc, which is another near impossibility. All of this said, I really hated Monsterland. It was a real slog to get through all the episodes, and I found myself forcing the last two down just so it could be over.

Continue reading “TV Review – Monsterland Season 1”

Movie Review – Possessor

Possessor (2020)
Written & Directed by Brandon Cronenberg

Possessor is the film Christopher Nolan wishes he could make. It’s a cooly stoic film centered around an incredibly creative concept that delivers on real human emotion. But Possessor goes places Nolan just creatively cannot; he is too conservative in his ideology, a constant desire to frame things in stark objectivist Black & White. Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg knows it is more complicated than that, and, especially when dealing with monolithic tech corporations, you are entering a transcendental world where morality has been so blurred it’s not even recognizable any longer.

Continue reading “Movie Review – Possessor”