Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin
Directed by Adrian Lyne
My wife’s first remarks as the credits rolled were, “That was intense.” Now, it takes a lot to phase my wife when it comes to movies. Between the amount of horror cinema I’ve exposed her to and the limited sentimentality, she has towards many films, she is a tough nut to crack. I’ve only known her to weep at two movies, Dancer in the Dark and The Elephant Man, otherwise, she appreciates the pictures but doesn’t get too deeply emotionally invested in them. I tell you all this as a way to begin talking about this heartbreaking existential horror film, a movie that the first time I viewed it, my maturity wasn’t at the level to really understand what the filmmakers were saying. This time around, I agreed with my wife, I was shaken and found a deep appreciation for the performances and themes in this movie.
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Directed by Thessa Meijer
This short is visually and technically fantastic, however, that’s about it. Heat is a joke with a set-up and a punchline. It definitely doesn’t overstay its welcome but I don’t particularly enjoy it. It happened and then it ended. I can imagine director Thessa Meijer doing a great job on music videos but I look for short stories when I watch a short film.
Continue reading “SXSW Short Film Festival @ Home – Midnight”
The Invisible Man (2020)
Written & Directed by Leigh Whanell
Once upon a time, Universal Pictures wanted some of that sweet cinematic universe money, and they introduced The Dark Universe, a rebooting of classic monsters from their film catalog but modern and basically like superheroes. The opening film, The Mummy, was released, performed terribly, and received scathing reviews, and thus the Dark Universe died. Now Universal has pivoted and handed the reins to Blumhouse, a company quite skilled at coming way under budget and making lots of money with gimmicky B-horror movies. I’ll admit, I found the first Insidious to be pretty good, but the rest of their films are not my particular cup of tea. So, how does The Invisible Man stack up?
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Extra Ordinary (2020)
Written and Directed by Enda Loughman & Mike Ahern
The Conjuring meets Edgar Wright would be one of the best ways to describe this hilarious horror-comedy. Wright has such a distinct visual style, and it’s clear these filmmakers are great fans of his, putting those little touches without becoming a knock off. There is still enough of a distinct comedic voice that it differentiates itself but remains firmly in the same subgenre where these two types of films meet. There are some missteps along the way and some underused cast members, but overall it’s a refreshing break from the typical comedic pablum seen in theaters most weekends.
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Written by Ian Brennan, Leigh Whannell, and Josh C. Waller
Directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion
Genre movies can have problems. When a filmmaker loves a genre so much, and they make a film under that umbrella, they often become derivative without bringing anything new to the table. No kind of film is guilty of this more, in my opinion than zombie movies. American zombie movies look to Night of the Living Dead and now in the 21st century, 28 Days Later, and just mimic what they see there. Each film has some sort of unique hook but inevitably breaks down into predictable pablum that we’ve seen playing out dozens of times before. Cooties starts with promise but does down that same disappointing path.
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Gretel & Hansel (2020)
Written by Bob Hayes
Directed by Oz Perkins
We all know the impact of the Brothers Grimm and their collected and retold fairy tales. The tropes in these narratives have permeated not just popular culture but the human psyche as well. The stories speak to something very primal in us all, our first exposure to horror when we are children veiled by the sweetness and light of cherubic illustrations. But we all know when you look at the core of these tales, they are dark and twisted, warnings from ancient times to kids about what they should be scared of. Hansel & Gretel is one of the primary stories that have manifested itself again and again. Here, director Oz Perkins reimagines the story with Gretel as the elder sibling whose journey into the woods parallels her own frightening path into adulthood.
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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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