Written by Garret Shanely
Directed by Lorcan Finnegan
The concept behind Vivarium is deeply intriguing. A young couple (Imogen Poots & Jesse Eisenberg), just beginning their lives together, steps into a realty office just for a laugh. They are met by a strange realtor who is extremely aggressive in an alien polite way to get them to leave the office and visit Yonder, a picture-perfect suburb. His pitch for the house is peppered with questions about the couple’s current status and as time passes he loses the warmth once presented. Then the realtor is gone and the couple finds themselves unable to find the exit to return to their lives. They become trapped in Yonder. One morning a box appears outside the house. Inside is a baby and a message “Raise the child and be released”.
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The depiction of mass hysteria and societal collapse have been a part of film since around the release of the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers. With that movie, we were able to see how people could either be hyper-paranoid or walk around oblivious to the apparent changes to their everyday life. Some times these films are used to speak to societal fears of the time. As we are all under voluntary quarantine and exercising extreme caution, here are some movies that might get your mind off of it or make you even more anxious. Some are chilling in their observations of humanity, while others are cringingly horrible.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, directed by Philip Kaufman)
From my review: This is a fantastic film and one we don’t hear about often enough. The cast is composed of some acting greats who are firing on all cylinders. I’ve always felt Brooke Adams was terribly overlooked, and this performance is one of those that reminds you of her strengths. Leonard Nimoy, who we never got to see outside of Spock very often, is excellent as the laidback Dr. Kibner, who becomes a very different character by the film’s conclusion. Nimoy plays both sides of the character wonderfully.
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Written by Scott Z. Burns
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Things are feeling a bit tense and anxious these days. Coronavirus or COVID-19 is dominating the news cycle and for a good reason. It is an extremely contagious disease that is spreading at a rapid rate. The most vulnerable to its worst effects are the elderly and people who already have severe health conditions. However, it is vitally important that even people outside of those categories practice smart hygiene to prevent the spread even further. There is a slight pressure on the American population to self-quarantine if possible and enact “social distancing,” keeping away from large gatherings of people. With no vaccine on the market, these are scary times, waiting to see if we can respond before it gets out of control. People have died, and more will die before humanity manages to fight back COVID-19. In 2011, Steven Soderbergh directed a film that imagines such a virus getting loose and wreaking havoc.
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Gideon Falls Volume 2: Original Sins
Gideon Falls Volume 3: Stations of the Cross
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Gideon Falls continues to deepen its mysteries and scratch that itch for fans of shows like Twin Peaks and Lost. This is a very different animal, but it still makes nods to the slow reveal of dark, otherworldly evil and ever-growing complex back history. In Original Sins, the story’s pace is faster, with the table being set in volume one. Stations of the Cross is mindblowing and drops some of the most significant character and plot bombshells while leaving room for the story to grow and expand.
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The Grudge (2020)
Written & Directed by Nicolas Pesce
In the late 1990s/early 2000s, Japanese horror was a pretty hot item in movies. It started with imports to the West of movies like Ringu and Kairo. This type of fear offered a more modern take on tropes with monsters that didn’t find archetypes we were used to. Technology was a crucial piece in these stories, but not in all of them. The most common element was the city, an urban landscape full of ancient evils and a cloud of darkness hanging over it all. This is where The Grudge series comes from. The enemy doesn’t come from cell phones or computers or even a haunted video. It’s classical horror, a simple haunted house. In 2020, the second American Grudge film was released, which is where this review comes in.
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Doctor Sleep (2019)
Written & Directed by Mike Flanagan
Two things are pretty hot right now. Adapting Stephen King novels & reboots of 1980s stuff. So what if you combined the two? You’d end up with Doctor Sleep, a direct sequel to King’s novel The Shining and, as a movie, a direct sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, two very different animals. Mike Flanagan isn’t what I’d call an inspired choice, he did a decent enough job with The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, but I haven’t been overly impressed with his feature film work. For some reason, some people see him as some sort of horror auteur, which I assume is how he got this gig.
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Written & Directed by David Amito & Michael Laicini
The subtitle of this found-footage horror movie is “The Deadliest Film Ever Made.” I don’t think it rises to that level, but it does deliver a compelling piece of meta-fiction. The structure of the film is bookended with faux-documentary segments giving the fictional back history of Antrum and giving a slight analysis of what we see. The majority is the infamous film itself, an attempt to recreate a grindhouse tone of horror, cheap and nasty, with hints of potentially real danger.
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