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by Daniel O'Connell
Fantasy Island was a staple of 1970s television. It starred the late great Ricardo Montalban as the enigmatic yet charismatic Mr. Roarke, who oversees a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean. On the show, Roarke and his sidekick Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize) would offer guests to come and live out their fantasies—for a price. Oftentimes these fantasies would be used to help the guests learn a lesson, come to terms with something in their past, or just become better people. While the show would be considered campy by today’s standards, it is still fondly remembered as a classic. Flashforward 42 years later, and reboots and remakes of old television properties are all the rage. That means some idiotic Hollywood executive thought that it would be a great idea to take a property like Fantasy Island and reboot it into a horror movie. Helmed by the infamous Blumhouse Productions and directed by Jeff Wadlow (who directed both Kick Ass 2 and the hilariously bad Truth or Dare), Fantasy Island brings a fantasy that’ll have you bored to tears.
The film follows your standard plot of an episode of Fantasy Island: Mr. Roarke (this time played by Michael Peña) entertains five guests that come to his island to fulfill their fantasies. Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale) wants revenge on a childhood bully, Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell) wants to enlist in war to honor his late father, Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q) wants to accept a marriage proposal she rejected years ago, and step brothers J.D. (Ryan Hansen) and Brax Weaver (Jimmy O. Yang) want to party it up. However, things take a sinister turn as the fantasies continue on.
Incredibly subpar performances
Most of the characters in the movie, as well as the acting, are nothing to write home about. There is honestly not a lot to them, and most of their dialogue is them explaining aspects of their life, making it come across as unnatural and forced. I’d honestly prefer genuine character interactions instead of expositing aspects about themselves. The two characters that I was most interested in were Patrick and Gwen, due to the fact that Stowell and Q give some of the better performances of the cast, and that these characters’ fantasies feel like something that might appear on an episode of the original Fantasy Island. Lucy Hale’s Melanie, on the other hand, is a character I couldn’t care less about. She comes across as a very petty person since her fantasy is to get revenge on a bully. A healthy person seeks help and comes to terms with their bullied past. Furthermore, there is a reveal later in the film about her character that makes her seem even pettier. Not helping this is Lucy Hale’s terrible performance, which comes across as very flat and awkward, especially with her over-enunciating every other word in her lines.
While three of the guests are either alright or forgettable, J.D. and Brax are completely insufferable. They’re effectively the film’s comic relief and are a pair of dude-bros whose fantasy is to party it up at a mansion filled with models. Most of their lines are either jokes that made me cringe or pop culture references that reminded me that I could be watching a better movie.
And of course, I have to address Michael Peña as Mr. Roarke. He feels woefully miscast in the role. Performance-wise it’s alright, as Peña has proven himself to be a capable actor in both comedic and dramatic roles. However, he lacks the charisma and charm that Roarke is supposed to have, and that Ricardo Montalban had in spades. This lack of charisma can be chocked up to a combination of Peña being miscast and the writing of the movie. A more fitting actor for Roarke would be somebody like Antonio Banderas or Pedro Pascal. Peña is fine and does the best he can with the material provided, but he pales in comparison to Montalban.
Asides from the guests and Roarke, there are two other prominent character actors in the movie. The first is Michael Rooker as Damon, a private investigator hired to figure out the island’s secrets. I was honestly excited when we first got a glimpse of Damon, since Rooker can definitely be fun and entertaining when he appears in something. However, his talent is wasted because all Damon does is provide exposition and then die a few scenes later. The other character actor is Kim Coates, and he’s awesome in the movie. He appears in J.D. and Brax’s fantasy as a cartel hitman that wants revenge on the owner of the mansion. Coates is a lot of fun in the role, acting like a villain from an 80s action flick, and dressing like a character from one of the Purge movies. Considering how annoying J.D. and Brax’s scenes were, he was an unexpected yet pleasant surprise that I needed.
Lame horror and confusing tones
On paper, doing a slightly darker take on Fantasy Island is not a bad idea in and of itself. The original series had episodes that could get a bit dark. For example, the original pilot had Mr. Roarke hunting a guest through the island a la The Most Dangerous Game. However, the writers decided to make a full-on horror movie out of the series, and an incredibly lame one at that. Most of the horror in the movie consists of incredibly predictable jump scares. As a horror fan, I could see them coming from a mile off, and sat in my seat unfazed and stone-faced when the jump scares happened. As the movie is rated PG-13, it’s limited in what it can do for its horror. If it were R-rated, it could at the very least go wild and over the top with its scares and violence. As it stands, the movie feels completely neutered with its PG-13 rating.
The biggest problem that the movie has is its incredibly jarring tone, which jumps all over the place. All the different fantasies make it feel like there are four different movies that have been crammed into one. Melanie’s story is a watered-down Saw knock off, Patrick’s is a cross between Proof of Life and Frequency, Gwen’s is a melodrama focusing on regret, and lastly, J.D. and Brax’s is MTV Spring Break. Cutting between each of the different fantasies and their widely different tones made me feel as if I was a pinball being thrown about.
As the movie goes on, it tries to make up for its lame attempts at horror with several twists. I saw that they were meant to be twists, but they are more akin to slight turns. They’re either very poorly foreshadowed or come straight out of nowhere. I mainly sat there either confused at the revelations or thinking of the further questions that they raised.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O’Connell
The works of Howard Phillip Lovecraft are elusive when it comes to adapting them to the silver screen. His works are incredibly influential when it comes to popular culture, since they serve as the basis for the popular Cthulhu Mythos and created the subgenre of cosmic horror. However, film adaptations of his work are incredibly rare. Guillermo del Toro tried to make a big-screen adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness back in 2006, but it quickly fell apart because of his refusal to give the movie a PG-13 rating. The closest things to proper adaptations are either movies that adapt Lovecraft’s stories in spirit, such as In the Mouth of Madness or Annihilation, or movies that perfectly capture the tone of his work, like last year’s The Lighthouse.
However, that is no longer the case, as the first proper adaptation of Lovecraft’s work has arrived with Color Out of Space, adapted from the short story of the same name. It is also the triumphant return of writer-director Richard Stanley, being his first feature film in over 20 years, after being fired from 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (a movie that’s infamous for its heavily troubled production). Stanley not only brings the first proper Lovecraft adaptation, but also the first great horror movie of 2020.
The film follows the Gardner family, consisting of Nathan (Nicholas Cage), Theresa (Joely Richardson), and their three children Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), Benny (Brendan Meyer), and Jack (Julian Hillard), who have recently moved to the countryside after inheriting a family estate near Arkham, Massachusetts. Their mundane existence comes to an end when a meteorite lands in their backyard and begins to alter everything around them, marked by a mysterious, indescribable color.
Performances that capture a descent into insanity
A strong aspect that this film has going for it is its acting. It is very good all across the board, perfectly capturing how disorienting and bewildering the whole experience is. However, we should begin by addressing the elephant in the room that is Nicholas Cage. The man has been mocked and memed for being an incredibly over-the-top actor who has made some very questionable movies over the course of his career. Be that as it may, he has made a resurgence as of late, having starred in movies like Mandy and Mom and Dad, which show he’s still capable of giving a good performance. Color Out of Space does a great job of utilizing his talents.
Right off the bat, Cage’s character Nathan is established as being somewhat of an eccentric, between cooking French dishes for dinner and raising alpacas on his farmstead. Because of his eccentricity, this role is more or less tailor-made for Cage. He does have an over-the-top freak out at one point, but it fits in the movie as it happens in a moment of anger and frustration. And, in the latter half of the movie, Cage becomes creepier and more unsettling as the color begins to affect him.
Aside from Cage, another huge standout in the cast would be Tommy Chong as Ezra, a hippie hermit who squats on the Gardners’ property. His screen time is limited, but Chong makes the most of it. Ezra’s established as quite a character; he likes to brew his own java from well water. He’s a complete delight and an utter scene-stealer.
Enticing, haunting horror
As previously mentioned, this is Richard Stanley’s first feature film in over twenty years, and this proves that he still has it when it comes to directing. The opening of the film is an entrancing montage of the gloomy, fog-filled forests of Arkham, with narration reciting the opening paragraph of the original short story playing over it. It does a fantastic job of setting the mood of the movie.
What consistently enhances the feel of the movie is the '80s-inspired synth score. The soundtrack was composed by Colin Stetson, who also did the score to Hereditary. It simultaneously sounds beautiful and alien. It not only entices and mesmerizes, but also adds to the uncomfortable, surreal atmosphere of the movie.
One particularly praise-worthy element is how Richard Stanley uses color to depict the titular “color out of space,” which is frequently described as something that nobody has seen before in the film. Stanley portrays the alien color as magenta. While this may seem like a simple cop-out at first, it’s actually a smart way of depicting the color. Magenta is not on the visible spectrum of light, and only exists because the brain needs to fill in the gap between red and green light. Therefore, portraying the alien color from the meteor as magenta is an ingenious move.
However, the one aspect that stands out from everything else in this movie would have to be its style of horror. Stanley perfectly captures the slow-burning dread and madness that is Lovecraft’s trademark. The dread in the first half gives way to skin-crawling, stomach-churning body horror in the second half of the movie. The body horror is so effective that it would make David Cronenberg squirm in his seat.
This is where I must warn everyone that this is not a movie for the faint of heart or horror lightweights. This is easily the most nightmarish and disturbing horror movie I have seen since Midsommar. I consider myself a rather seasoned horror fan, and this film had me relentlessly scared and traumatized, as if I were a character in one of Lovecraft’s stories.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
Josh and Benny Safdie, known collectively as the Safdie Brothers, are a pair of New York City-based independent filmmakers who have risen to prominence in the past few years. Their NYC settings and use of urban grit are reminiscent of a director like Abel Ferarra. They first gained attention in 2014 with Heaven Knows What, a drama focusing on heroin addicts in NYC, based on the unpublished memoirs of Arielle Holmes (who stars in the movie as a slightly fictionalized version of herself). Soon after, they gained further recognition with Good Time, a movie about a bank robber who desperately tries to get bail money for his mentally disabled brother. The film received critical acclaim, notably for its direction and Robert Pattinson’s lead performance. Now, the Safdies once again bring their A-game with their latest movie, the crime thriller, Uncut Gems.
The film follows Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a charismatic jeweler who works in the New York Diamond District and is struggling to pay back his gambling debts. However, his luck begins to change when he comes across a rare uncut black opal priced at over a million dollars. With loan sharks after him and his life crumbling all around him, Howard has to go through a series of high stakes acts, such as appealing to his buyers and to loan sharks, in order to get the gem and come out on top.
Excellent cast lead by a career-best performance
The most notable thing about this movie is that it sees Adam Sandler back, starring in a serious, dramatic role. As an actor, Sandler has made his career by starring mostly in juvenile, lowbrow comedies that—while financially successful—have been torn to shreds by critics; however, he has proven that with the right material and direction, he can shine in dramatic work, be it Reign Over Me or Punch-Drunk Love. Although, this film might just be his best work to date. Like the Safdies’ previous movie Good Time, Uncut Gems film is about a terrible person, but is still engaging because of the strong lead performance. Howard is a total scumbag, from the way he treats his employees to how he screws over clients and potential buyers. Whenever he gets enough money to pay off his debts, he gambles with it in order to make more money, which is frustrating to watch. However, Sandler’s performance makes Howard a lot more endearing and gives him a certain charm that makes you want to follow him. Actors like Jonah Hill and Sacha Baron Cohen were considered for Howard, but I don’t see this movie working out as well without Sandler in the lead.
Aside from Sandler, the rest of the cast is great as well. NBA legend Kevin Garnett makes his film debut here, playing a fictionalized version of himself who expresses interest in buying the opal, seeing it as a good luck charm. He does a great job in his first acting experience, coming across as a genuine, real-life person. He doesn’t act wooden or ham it up like some might expect a sports star in an acting role to do. Also making her acting debut is Julia Fox, playing Julia, an employee of Howard who also acts as his mistress. Despite this being her first role, she comes off as somebody who has a lot of acting experience, giving a great performance.
Anxiety-inducing cinematography and direction
One piece of praise that has to be given to the Safdie Brothers is their use of cinematography in their work, and this is especially notable in Uncut Gems. Cinematographer Darius Khondiji uses a wide variety of different techniques in filming this movie. The film uses a lot of close-ups—which have become a trademark of the Safdies—in order to make the viewer feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic. They also employ a lot of far shots that make us feel as if we’re just capturing a glimpse of a scene. This makes the movie feel less cinematic, and more like we’re following the characters around and filming them with a camera. This is not a bad thing, as it adds a great deal to the grittiness that the Safdies are known for and enhances the viewing experience.
Good Time established the Safdie Brothers as directors capable of making intense, nail-biting films. With Uncut Gems, they have decided to up the ante on this aspect, making a movie that can be described as completely nerve-wracking. The film utilizes a great use of sound mixing to make the characters talk over one another, as in real life. The use of cinematography adds into this, as the use of close-ups makes one very anxious. Altogether, it leaves the viewer anxiety-ridden and at the edge of their seat, as if the Safdie Brothers are trying to personally give them a panic attack.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
New England-born director Robert Eggers is one of the many on-the-rise directors that critics and film-lovers should look out for. Originally starting out as a production designer in theater, he transitioned to film and made his debut back in 2015 with the religious period horror film, The Witch. The film followed a Puritan family in 1630s New England, who are haunted by an unknown evil that lurks in the woods at the edge of their farm. Upon release, it received praise from critics, namely for its cinematography and its use of slow-building, atmospheric horror. However, it was divisive among the general moviegoing audience. They went in expecting a traditional modern horror movie with blood and jump scares. Instead, they got a minimalist, introspective psychological horror movie that explored religious paranoia in Puritan times. Now, Eggers brings his follow-up with the maritime psychological horror film, The Lighthouse.
Taking place on a remote New England island in the 1890s, the film follows two lighthouse keepers, Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), who tend and maintain a lighthouse for a four-week shift. Tensions between the two men arise, exasperated by Wake’s alcoholism. Cut off from the rest of the world, their stay is extended when a storm hits the island. Days begin to blend together, and the two men lose their grasp on reality as they slowly begin to go insane.
A two-man show between two talented actors
With a film like this, you need two actors who are capable of carrying it, and both Pattinson and Dafoe are up to the task. Both of them are incredibly talented and woefully underrated actors. Pattinson, for one, has washed away the stigma of being in the Twilight films, and has proven himself as an actor with some fantastic performances, be it in Good Time or The Rover. Here, he gives what has to be the best performance of his career so far. He conveys every human emotion that is possible as Winslow slowly but surely begins to succumb to the depths of insanity.
Dafoe, on the other hand, is no slouch as Wake. He’s completely unrecognizable, with his distinct jawline and recognizable voice hidden by a big beard and withered, bizarre accent. He perfectly plays the part of an old salt, characterized as a cross between Quint from Jaws and the Sea Captain from The Simpsons. To a point, he comes across as a parody of an old sailor, and this is even acknowledged within the film. His performance is nothing short of fantastic and is every bit as good as Pattinson’s. A particular scene that stood out and stuck with me is when Wake gives a monologue, beseeching Neptune to come and strike Winslow down. His face looks absolutely demonic in that scene, and the monologue he gives is incredibly haunting.
In spite of this being a movie about two men slowly descending to insanity, it is a surprisingly funny film. This includes Wake going into exuberant detail on how he wants Winslow to clean the floors, and a scene where the two argue about Wake’s cooking. The comedy is really funny and adds some much-needed levity to the movie; however, it does not detract from the movie’s dark, foreboding tone. That’s impressive, and in the hands of a lesser director, the juxtaposition of comedy and seriousness could result in tonal whiplash.
Haunting and harrowing presentation
Something that’s apparent right off the bat is that the film is in black and white. It’s one thing to make a movie look like an older movie by filming it this way, but Robert Eggers goes above and beyond when it comes to this aspect. The film was shot on 35mm film and is set to a 1.19:1 aspect ratio. It makes the film look like something that was made in the 1920s or 1930s, in the early days of filmmaking. It also has the effect of enhancing the experience, as the movie has a cramped, almost claustrophobic feeling to it. Combine these two elements with the story, and it makes the movie come off as if it’s an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe or HP Lovecraft story. All in all, the technical aspects are fantastic, and make it feel like a movie out of its time.
Similar to The Witch, the movie also has some fantastic cinematography. It captures the stark bleakness of the New England island, making it look very small and lonely. It does a great job in enhancing the atmosphere of the film, making one feel the isolation that Winslow and Wake are experiencing.
However, The Lighthouse is not a movie without faults. It has the same problem that The Witch had: it’s usage of period-accurate dialogue. It primarily comes from Wake, and when combined with his thick accent, it makes it hard to understand what he is saying; however, this is not as nearly as bad as it was in The Witch. While I had difficulty understanding what Wake was saying, I could still follow along with the movie.
It should also be noted that this movie is not a film for everyone. For those wanting a straightforward film that’ll hold your hand and give you concrete answers, you’ll be sorely disappointed by this film—some will hate the movie because of this. However, The Lighthouse is a movie that sticks with you and makes you ponder over what it meant, making it a much more engaging film.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O’Connell
One needs to look no further than Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike to find a filmography full of varied styles and genres. Since his debut back in 1991, he has made over one hundred movies, each of them totally different from the rest. His work has ranged from samurai films such as 13 Assassins, Spaghetti Western homages like Sukiyaki Western Django, and disturbing horror movies like Ichi the Killer and Audition. He has even directed live-action adaptations of manga, such as JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. Now, Miike brings us his 103rd film, the action-romance-crime-thriller: First Love.
The film follows Leo (Masataka Kubota), a successful young boxer with a promising career ahead of him; however, his career is cut short when he finds out he has an inoperable brain tumor. Dejected, he encounters a fortune teller who says he should now use his strength to fight for others. The opportunity to do so arrives when he inadvertently saves the life of Yuri (Sakurako Konishi), a drug-addled prostitute who is in debt with the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). Leo finds himself wrapped up in a plot that involves a shipment of stolen drugs and a gang war between the Yakuza and Chinese gangsters. Leo and Yuri slowly find themselves falling in love with each other as they try to survive the night in Shinjuku.
Stylish and colorful characters
One particular strength the movie has is its cast, which is comprised of colorful, quirky characters that are fun to watch. Kubota brings a certain stylishness to the role of Leo, even making simple phrases like, “I’m just a boxer,” come off as if he is disinterested and detached from the world, only being really interested in his boxing career. But, as the night goes on, he eventually finds ways to care for and love Yuri. Konishi, on the other hand, brings a sense of vulnerability to Yuri. The viewer sympathizes with her situation after being introduced to her, and can easily root for her as she tries to survive the night with Leo.
Aside from the main characters, the supporting cast is also a lot of fun. This includes Juri (Becky), a small-time criminal and Yuri’s pimp, who goes on a war path after her drug-courier boyfriend Yasu (Takahiro Miura) is killed. It’s interesting to see her descend from a somewhat despicable person to a complete psychopath, hellbent on revenge. However, my favorite character in the film is the Yakuza lieutenant, Kase (Shota Sometani), who plans to double cross his employers and steal a drug shipment. Much like Carl Showalter in Fargo, everything goes wrong for him, and the movie gets a lot of comedic mileage out of his suffering and humiliation.
Brilliant mix of action and comedy with a lot of style
When I walked into First Love, I initially thought it would be the product of crossing True Romance and Good Time with a Yakuza movie. What I got was something along those lines, but with its own unique style. Miike is known for blending different styles and genres into his work, to the point where it’s hard to describe them as a singular or even a combined genre. This shows that the movie is surprisingly very funny, considering it was marketed as a straight-up action-thriller; however, this inclusion of comedy gives it a lot of personality. For example, there’s a scene where Kase brings Juri back to her apartment to kill her. His plans are then foiled when Juri’s roommate, an old lady, walks in and thinks Kase is a robber. Kase immediately panics and knocks the woman out with a well-placed punch. The scene does a complete flip from suspenseful to comedic, which is a little jarring, but this works in its favor, as it makes it all the more hilarious.
Another example of the movie’s bizarre sense of comedy involves Yuri’s hallucinations from drug withdrawal. She keeps envisioning that her abusive father, clad in his underwear, is stalking her like a slasher villain. However, this takes an odd and funny turn when she has a hallucination while listening to music on Leo’s iPod. The hallucination of her father then begins to dance along with the music. It’s just funnily surreal to see something that looks like Miike’s take on the ghosts from It Follows, dancing around to cheerful J-Pop music.
The film also boasts some really fantastic and fun action sequences. Miike slowly builds up to them, saving the best for last in the climax. These action scenes range from a gun fight in a hardware store, to a sword fight between Yakuza member Gondo and Chinese gangster One Arm Wang, and to a massive chase scene involving over a dozen police cars. The police chase is the best part, as it starts with a car jumping over the surrounding police officers, and then does something completely unexpected: the scene of the jump is animated in the style of a colorful comic book. It caught me off guard, but I still had a big dumb grin plastered on my face during the whole scene.
Images: Rotten Tomatoes, The New York Times
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
Australian auteur Jennifer Kent has made a name for herself in recent years. She rose to prominence with her 2014 directorial debut The Babadook. The film was about a single mother who must protect her son from a supernatural threat that escaped a children’s book and now lurks within their home. It was fantastic in how it created horror through its atmosphere, as well as making the audience feel unsettled and frightened. The Babadook received critical acclaim, including praise from The Exorcist director William Friedkin. Now, Kent brings her first feature film in five years with the excellent period thriller, The Nightingale.
The film is set in 1825 Tasmania, then known as the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land. It follows Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish convict who lives with her husband, Aidan (Michael Sheasby), and their infant daughter. The husband and wife work at a military outpost and yearn to one day earn freedom. Clare’s world is destroyed when a British officer named Hawkins (Sam Claflin) and his men rape her and kill her family. Unable to get justice from the British authorities, she decides to track down Hawkins, who has left to take a captain position up north. To this end, she hires Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), an aboriginal tracker to help find them. With both of them having with pasts full of violence, the two set out for revenge against the backdrop of Tasmania’s Black War.
Brilliant, award-worthy acting
The film features amazing, moving performances from its entire cast. The best performances of the entire cast come from both its protagonist and antagonist. Aisling Franciosi gives an incredibly powerful performance as Clare. She shows off a wide range of emotions throughout the film, from righteous, wrathful fury to haunting sorrow and sadness. Sam Claflin, on the other hand, is brilliant as Hawkins. He’s completely unrecognizable in the role, giving a truly transformative performance. He perfectly shows what a complete monster Hawkins is and how cold and reprehensible he can be. Claflin also perfectly portrays how the officer’s sanity, along with what little humanity he has left, slowly erodes away as his journey progresses. I can easily see both of these performances getting several nominations come award season.
While these two performances steal the show, the supporting cast is also good. Baykali Ganambarr is fantastic as Billy. He perfectly captures how his partnership with Clare is filled with mutual distrust, which changes throughout the film. He also portrays sorrow at how his homeland has been stolen from his people, which is brilliantly shown in one powerful scene where he breaks down after having witnessed so many atrocities against the Aboriginal. Damon Herriman’s performance as Ruse, a soldier under Hawkins’ command, perfectly captures a sleazy, disgusting human. While his character does not change throughout the film, there are times where Herriman also shows how pathetic and almost pitiable Ruse can be.
A beautifully bleak presentation
Something I picked up on when I watched The Babadook is how Jennifer Kent presents her films, particularly the cinematography. This still rings true for The Nightingale. The film is fantastically shot, especially in how it portrays the Tasmanian wilderness. It features several varied shots, which show off the wide and varied landscapes of Tasmania. While beautiful, it also looks incredibly bleak and gray, which perfectly captures the tone of the movie.
While not a horror film, Kent’s experience in directing the genre is perfectly shown in the nightmares that Clare has throughout the film. It isn’t apparent when they start as it easily transitions from reality to dream. Each of the nightmares that Clare has are incredibly haunting, yet left me spellbound as I watched them. While not as intense or scary as anything in The Babadook, they still capture a similar chilling atmosphere.
However, the one thing that will make or break the movie is the violence. The movie is brutal and uncompromising in its portrayal of violence, which includes two rape scenes and a vicious, drawn out death scene. This attracted some amount of controversy when the film was shown at the Sydney Film Festival. It caused thirty people to walk out, with one woman saying “Why should I care? She’s been raped twice.” However, Kent has stood by her film, saying that the violence is necessary in portraying the colonial violence and racism that was prevalent during this time period. And I, for one, I agree with her. We need movies like these to be honest in their depiction, so we can learn from the past. I’d rather have a movie not hold my hand and be honest rather than having it sugar coat the past to make it more palatable.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O’Connell
As I have stated in past reviews, August through September is usually seen as a dumping ground for movies that studios don’t know what to do with. Thus, the quality varies significantly with movies that are released during this time. However, one of these films, The Peanut Butter Falcon, has proven to be a pleasant surprise. Directed by first-time directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, the film is a sweet and funny modern retelling of Huckleberry Finn.
The film follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome who lives in a nursing home. Zak’s hero is a professional wrestler known as the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), and he dreams of becoming a wrestler like him. To achieve this dream, Zak runs away to attend the Redneck’s wrestling school, while Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), an employee at Zak’s nursing home, is tasked with tracking him down. On the way, Zak runs into Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a down-on-his-luck crab trapper, who is on the run from trouble. Tyler becomes Zak’s unlikely friend and coach as the two make their way down the Carolina Outer Banks. Together, Tyler helps Zak achieve his dream as a wrestler named, “The Peanut Butter Falcon.”
Likeable, well-acted characters
One of this movie’s biggest strengths is its cast, particularly when it comes to the lead actors, Gottsagen and LaBeouf. Gottsagen, like his character, has Down syndrome, and does a great job in his performance as Zak. His personality, along with his perseverance in pursuing his dream, makes him likable and endearing as a lead. LaBeouf, on the other hand, gives one of his best performances to date as Tyler, the Jim to Zak’s Huckleberry Finn. He’s almost unrecognizable, playing a rough-around-the-edges trapper who’s still reeling from the death of his older brother Mark (Jon Bernthal). The friendship between Zak and Tyler is the main highlight of the film, as Tyler becomes Zak’s first real friend and encourages him in achieving his dream. This is especially highlighted in a montage where Tyler trains Zak by having him push hay bales, teaches him how to shoot a shotgun, and the two eat watermelon together.
The rest of the cast does a fantastic job as well. Dakota Johnson’s Eleanor works well as a straight man to both Zak and Tyler, initially going out to retrieve Zak, but eventually joining the pair on their voyage. John Hawkes’ Duncan, a trapper that’s out for Tyler’s head, brings a level of creepy menace. His thin, wiry build and creepy mustache enhances the menace. And while Thomas Haden Church has a limited amount of screen time as the Salt Water Redneck, he does give a likable performance as the former wrestler who comes out of retirement to help Zak.
A moving homage to the works of Mark Twain
Making a film about a disabled character going out to pursue their dream can be difficult. When handled poorly, it can result in sappy, overly-sentimental, sometimes offensive tripe that would be found on the Lifetime network. However, The Peanut Butter Falcon avoids these pitfalls simply by being honest and humble in how it tells its story. As stated earlier, the film is more or less a modern retelling of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (with Tyler at one point bringing up Mark Twain in a conversation). The parallels with Huckleberry Finn are further highlighted when Zak and Tyler create their own makeshift raft to sail down the rivers of the Outer Banks.
And speaking of the Outer Banks, the film provides great visuals of this part of the Carolinas. Director Nilson grew up in the fishing communities of the Outer Banks and uses his experiences in portraying the area. While not portrayed as glamorous, the film gives the area a simple, rustic charm that makes one want to go out and explore these backwater areas.
Another strength of the movie is its soundtrack. Put together by Zach Dawes and Johnathan Sadoff, it brings together an enjoyable mix of bluegrass and folk songs that are fantastic to listen to and even add to the old-timey, backwater atmosphere of the film.
While I do have plenty of praise for the movie, there is one thing in particular that bothered me; the film has a lack of conclusion in some aspects. There are a few significant plot points that are left hanging, and some more closure with them would sit a lot better with me; however, this did not detract from my overall enjoyment and love for this movie.
Featured Image: IMDb
Images: IMDb, Roger Ebert
by Daniel O’Connell
Director Ari Aster has recently proved to be an up-and-coming horror master. Starting out with short films The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (2011) and Munchausen (2013), he rose to prominence last year with his feature-length debut, Hereditary. It received a great deal of critical acclaim, with special praise going to lead actress Toni Collette’s performance. The film stood out for being a slow-burning, atmospheric horror akin to The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby, featuring personable themes about mental illness and family. Many consider Hereditary to be one of the best horror movies of 2018, if not if the decade. Now, Aster brings his second feature film, with the summertime folk horror Midsommar.
The film follows Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor), a couple whose relationship is on the verge of falling apart. When Dani’s bipolar sister kills her family and commits suicide, the tragedy prevents the couple from separating. The following summer, Dani goes along with Christian and his friends Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) when they are invited by their friend Pelle (Vilhem Blomgren) to visit his home, the Swedish commune of Harga. There, the commune’s midsummer celebration, which happens only once every 90 years, is about to occur. However, their summer vacation slowly takes a turn for the sinister when the inhabitants invite the group to take part in their festivities. This leads into a chain of increasingly disturbing and haunting events set in an eternally sunny land, all conducted by a pagan cult.
A beautiful, summertime daymare with great performances
The film features great acting from its central characters. Dani (Florence Pugh) is very real and shows a wide range of emotions, especially in the scene where she finds out what happened to her family. Her painful, sobbing wails, have stuck with me well after seeing the film. Jack Reynor also does a great job as Christian, especially once it becomes apparent how terrible this character is as a person. He constantly hurts others, in ways ranging from manipulating Dani into coming with him to Sweden, forgetting her birthday, poorly trying to make up for it, and even stealing Josh’s thesis idea on writing about Harga. It quickly becomes apparent how toxic his and Dani’s relationship is, and that he is the cause of it. However, the real standout of the cast is Will Poulter as Mark, the one friend in the group that always has sex on his mind. A character like this can become irritating when handled poorly; however, Poulter’s snark and comedic timing brings a lot of levity to the first half of the movie. Highlights from him include comparing the commune to Waco and asking if they could stop by “meatball sex clubs” when going through Stockholm.
Fantastic cinematography and slow-building horror
Most horror films are set at night to target primal fears of the dark and the unknown. This film, however, takes a page out of The Wicker Man’s book by being set almost entirely in daylight. The daylight setting makes it all the more beautiful to look at. There are several breathtaking shots of the commune that capture its idyllic, simple nature and make it look just like a summertime paradise. The fantastic cinematography isn’t just limited to the commune, though; the whole movie is well-shot. This includes scenes where two characters are having a conversation, with one person in the frame and the other person shown on the other side of the room in the mirror. Other highlights include the scene of Dani’s family being murdered, which is haunting, and an overhead shot of Dani walking into an apartment bathroom that transitions to her walking into an airplane bathroom. Overall these shots make this movie a treat to the eyes.
However, what sticks with me the most is the movie’s horror elements. Similar to Hereditary, Midsommar harkens back to an older style of horror with its elements. It’s not like a lot of mainstream horror movies, which are PG-13-laden jump-scare fests that teenage audiences can scream their heads off at. It features a slow-burning, foreboding atmosphere that slowly but surely builds to its horror. The movie is nearly two-and-half hours long, and the first cult event happens roughly an hour in. The audience’s patience is rewarded, as the disturbing imagery and events quickly escalate from there. But be warned, this movie is not for the faint of heart: a few audience members at my screening left later in the movie, and an older couple behind me considered leaving at the three-quarters mark. Even I contemplated leaving at one point, but the film had a hypnotic hold that kept me glued to my seat. The movie stuck with me long after I left the theater, and I daresay it’s even more disturbing and even better than Hereditary.
And with this film, Ari Aster proves that he is here to stay. He has already proved that he has a strong understanding of the horror genre, along with a great eye for visuals and cinematography. He, along with Jordan Peele, are the new pioneers of the horror genre. I’m excited to see what he does next since it’ll be quite the viewing experience.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
The zombie genre has been one of the more popular subgenres of horror since its genesis with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Starting in the 2010s, there was a resurgence in popularity with the zombie genre, thanks to shows like The Walking Dead. However, the zombie genre has dimmed again in recent years thanks to the overabundance and of zombie media. People have gotten sick of tired of the same tropes in only slightly different packages and just want the genre to stay dead for good. Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (director of Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law, and Only Lovers Left Alive) has decided to challenge the stale zombie genre with his new comedy, The Dead Don’t Die.
A great ensemble cast with deadly dry humor
Taking place in the quiet little town of Centerville, it is one of the many towns in the USA that have been affected by polar fracking, which causes the Earth’s rotation to change. The change in the rotation causes the days to become longer. Cellphones and watches stop working, and animals begin to act strange. However, polar fracking has another more deadly side effect: The dead begin to rise from their graves and walk among the living. The entire town of Centerville has come under the siege of the zombies. Now the citizens of the town, including police chief Clifford Robertson (Bill Murray), and his deputies Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny) must survive and combat against the undead.
One of the strengths of the film is its ensemble of different characters. They’re all unique and, and they wouldn’t be out of place in a Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson movie. These range from ultra-conservative farmer Frank Miller (Steve Buscemi) to gas station attendant Bobby Wiggins (Caleb Landry Jones). However, the real scene stealer of the movie is Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton). Zelda is the Scottish, Buddhist mortician of the town, who carries around a katana, and likes to practice makeup on cadavers. She’s easily the best character of the entire film and the movie could have really used more of her.
What works so well with the film and makes it so unique would have to be Jarmusch’s trademark use of dry, offbeat humor. Almost everyone in the film delivers their lines in a casual, deadpan tone, usually underreacting to everything. This is best exemplified when Officer Ronnie comes across the scene of the first zombie attack. Rather than reacting with shock or horror, he reacts with a simple “Ew, gross." Jarmusch’s usual dry humor would normally be funny enough on its own. However, when juxtaposed against the zombie apocalypse of all things, the little touches make it hilarious.
A unique take on a classic concept
With zombies being a concept that has been done over and over again, this movie would have the potential to be cliché and tired. However, Jarmusch brings a different spin with his take on zombies. The zombies featured in this film harken back to the ones featured in the George A. Romero films. As with the usual depiction, they are slow with a pasty pallid look, clumsily lumbering around. They are also different because while these zombies still eat the living, they’re drawn to things that they wanted in their previous lives. These things range from coffee to candy and even WiFi. Rather than spilling out blood and guts when wounded, they pour out what looks like black powder. While these differences are small, they make them stand out in an oversaturated genre.
I have praised the great aspects of this film, but it is not without its flaws. Despite it boasting that it has “the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled," most of the cast is rather underused. A lot of great actors are in this film, and some are assigned to rather minor roles. This includes RZA as a package delivery man, and Iggy Pop as a zombie who is particularly fond of coffee. These roles could have easily been expanded into something more meaningful in the film. Additionally, as stated earlier, the movie could use more of certain characters such as Zelda Winston or Frank Miller. Steve Buscemi makes the most out of his limited screen time and could have done much more with his role if he had more scenes to work with.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
Ever since he graced the silver screen back in 1954, Godzilla has become one of the most endearing icons of cinema. Having appeared in over 30 films, he has recently been appearing in American films as a part of Legendary Pictures’ Monsterverse. With the previous films in the series being both critical and financial successes, the latest installment has finally arrived with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and it brings us a glorious clash of titans.
Simple plot and serviceable characters
Taking place five years after the first film, it deals with Monarch, a crypto-zoological organization that has found more of the Titans, giant creatures who were once the dominate lifeform on Earth. Scientist Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) has created a machine known as the ORCA, which emits frequencies that can either attract Titans or change their behavior. However, she and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by eco-terrorist Alan Jonah (Charles Dance). Jonah plans to reawaken the Titans with the ORCA, and have them cull humanity, lessening humanities numbers and returning the Earth to its natural state. To do this, he reawakens a powerful Titan known as Ghidorah, and it begins its rampage across the world. Monarch, in turn, recruits a former Monarch member, Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), Emma’s ex-husband and an animal communication specialist. Together, they must track down the one Titan who is capable of defeating Ghidorah: Godzilla.
The plot of the film is very basic in premise, and unfortunately, their characters are not the deepest or well developed. However, anyone who is familiar with a Godzilla movie knows that the human characters serve the purpose of moving the plot along to the get the monsters into the film. The cast of the film does a good job of portraying the characters. The backstories and personalities of the characters are serviceable and give the actors something to work with.
For example, Mark Russell has a negative opinion on the Titans due to having lost his son when Godzilla battled the MUTOs in San Francisco back in 2014. Chandler does a great of portraying a man who is still in grief and wants to get his family back. Ken Watanabe’s performance as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa brings a lot of weight and presence to the role. He’s someone who admires the Titans and believes humans can live alongside them. The real standout performances among the human cast belong to Bradley Whitford and Charles Dance. Whitford plays Rick Stanton, a scientist working for Monarch. He brings a lot of humor through his snarky attitude and commentary throughout the film, adding a sense of levity to dark situations. Dance, on the other hand, has a presence and authority to him, which he usually brings to his roles. This works brilliantly with a character like Jonah. Within the first minute of his introduction, he unflinchingly executes a man with a pistol at point blank range. He wouldn’t feel out of place in a James Bond or Mission: Impossible film.
Incredible monsters and glorious battles
One area in which the film does succeed is in its portrayal of its monsters, who are the real highlight of the film. The returning star Godzilla now has much more screen time in comparison to the first film, giving him more time to shine. The new Titans introduced in the film are also brilliantly redesigned to make them standout when compared to previous incarnations. Rodan, a Titan found within a volcano in Central America, is massive in size, looking like he’s made of volcanic rock, complete with a massive wingspan and a razor-sharp beak. Mothra is beautiful and elegant, complete with an illustrious, illuminating glow. Still, even with this, she’s swift and deadly in battle. However, King Ghidorah, steals the show with his design. He is completely sinister and utterly demonic, with each of his three heads being serpentine in design. His intimidating design and devastating powers make him a worthy adversary to face off against Godzilla.
The redesigned monsters also lead to the amazingly destructive fights between the Titans. With more screen time focused on the monsters, it leads to more fights than the first film. This starts off with Godzilla and Ghidorah’s first clash in Antarctica, their fight utterly annihilating the Monarch base there. The destruction in these battles are massive in scale, and it’s glorious to witness the monsters duke it out with one another. This all builds up to a final fight in Boston between Godzilla and Mothra fighting Ghidorah and Rodan.
Another thing that should be praised is the score done by Bear McCreary. His score does a great job of capturing the majesty and awesome power of each of the monsters, being beautifully composed. His rearrangement of Akira Ifukube’s original Godzilla theme is the real standout. He keeps it similar to the original, but adds his own touch with the chanting of a male choir. He makes it truly befitting the King of Monsters.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
Back in 2014, veteran stuntmen David Leitch and Chad Stahelski collaborated together and directed John Wick. It starred Keanu Reeves as a deadly and highly skilled assassin who comes out of retirement to get revenge on the men who killed his dog. The film was both a financial and critical success and went on to become a sleeper hit. It revived Reeves’ career, as well as being the shot in the arm that the action genre needed. The film got a sequel in 2017, which was just as successful as its predecessor. Now, Reeves and Stahelski team up once again to bring the third movie in the John Wick series, to bring more adrenaline pumping, pulse-pounding action.
Simple story with great characters and worldbuilding
Taking place immediately after the second film, it follows the titular assassin as a wanted man. He has been excommunicated from the Continental, a safe haven for assassins, for an unsanctioned killing there. With a $14 million bounty on his head, Wick’s main goal is to now stay alive and defeat any assassin coming after him, as he tries to find a way to fix his world.
The story for the film is very simple in premise. However, it definitely makes up for this with its interesting and unique characters. Returning characters not only include Wick, but Winston (Ian McShane), the manager of the New York Continental, and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), a crime lord who employs homeless men as assassins. These characters are great, with their actors giving good performances. Special mention goes to Fishburne as the Bowery King, whose hammy performance and larger than life presence makes him entertaining.
However, there are also new characters introduced to the film who are just as interesting. A person who John seeks out for help is Sofia (Halle Berry), the manager of the Casablanca Continental who has a past with John. Berry gives a good and passionate performance as Sofia, giving her a lot of personality and character despite her limited screen time. The main antagonists, the Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillion) and Zero (Mark Dacascos), are great characters in their own right. The Adjudicator acts as an agent of the High Table, dealing with the fallout of John’s killing in the Continental with a blunt and authoritative presence. Zero, on the other hand, is an assassin employed by the Adjudicator and serves as one of the highlights of the film. He is more or less a ninja, taking out people with deadly efficiently along with his two shinobi students. He is also a big fan of Wick, evident in a scene where he tells him that he loves his work. The contrast between his gleeful fanboy-ism and lethal skills provides a great amount of humor.
Another strength of the film, as with its predecessors, is its world building. The film does not bog down the viewer with exposition dumps but provides it in a more organic manner. It gives the audience bits and pieces of information, as well as showing them things in action, such as how the gold coins used by assassins are made. It builds upon the worldbuilding introduced in the previous films, including the very strong implication that the assassin network shown in the movies is the modern incarnation of the ancient Hashashin order, a group who were among the very first assassins in history.
Brilliant, well-choreographed action
The biggest strength of the film and the series as a whole are the action scenes. They are brilliant and are fun to watch, with each scene of the movie providing different action set pieces. It also provides John opportunities for very creative kills, including using a horse to kill assassins it kicks, to one-upping his pencil kill in the previous film by killing a man with a book. The best fights in the film include a fight in a weapon warehouse with Yakuza hitman, where both sides take advantage of the weapons stored there. This includes killing one with an Old West revolver and riddling another’s body with throwing knives. Another standout scene is where John teams up with Sofia in Casablanca, who fights utilizing attack dogs alongside her gun skills.
While all of these scenes had me excited, the real standout would be any fight featuring Zero and his two shinobi students (played by Yayan Rufian and Cecep Arif Rahman, both known for their work on The Raid movies). It’s fun to watch them tear through enemy forces with their skills, often blending into the background and beating down people with their martial arts skills. They provide some of best action scenes in the movies, including a motorcycle chase and a final showdown with John. Among a series of great action scenes, these stand out as the best.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O’Connell
In 2010, id Software, the video game studio behind classic first-person shooters such as Doom, Quake, and Wolfenstein, released Rage. While the game received praise for its combat mechanics, it was criticized for being bland and uninspired with its story and setting, which took elements from games such as Fallout and did nothing new with them. As time went on, Rage was forgotten about and dismissed as a footnote in id Software’s history. Since then, the studio has undergone a resurgence of popularity with their reboots of Doom and Wolfenstein. With this newfound success, they decided to give Rage a sequel. Partnering with Avalanche Studios, the developers behind the vastly underrated Mad Max game, id Software developed Rage 2, which has proven to be a fun, chaotic experience.
Gorgeous world bogged down by lame story
Rage 2 takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where civilization collapsed after an asteroid struck the Earth and turned it into a wasteland. Set 30 years after the original game, the sequel follows Walker, a member of a group of soldiers known as the Rangers that fight injustice in the wastelands. However, things quickly go to hell in a handbasket when the Ranger’s base is attacked by the Authority, a tyrannical group of former U.S. Military personnel led by the cyborg General Cross. Walker is now one of the last Rangers remaining after the attack and must unite various factions throughout the wasteland in order to take down the Authority once and for all.
In spite of the basic premise sounding exciting and interesting, the game’s overall story is rather dull. Most of the game’s main story quests feel more like a series of side quests done to increase Walker’s reputation with a faction. There are no big story quests where the player encounters the main villain, like in a Far Cry game. Outside of the game’s opening, General Cross appears only two more times, and one of those times is in the ending. Not helping the story are the rather uninteresting characters. Ranging from Walker himself to faction leaders such as John Marshall and Loosum Hagar, they have some semblance of their own personalities and characteristics. However, none of them are particularly fleshed out, and nothing particularly stands out about them. Add in the short five hour completion time of the main story quest, and it leaves much to be desired.
However, the world that the game inhabits is simply beautiful and colorful. In the first Rage game, the color palette of the environment was primarily brown and tan colors. While it captured how the post-apocalyptic world is now just a broken husk, it was ugly and bland to look at. In contrast, Rage 2 is full of color and varied environments. Everything in the game, from vehicles and weapons to buildings, is decorated with neon colors, primarily hot pink. The use of these colors makes the world stand out and gives it more energy than its predecessor.
The game also boasts a wide set of different environments, especially in comparison to the first game. Areas found on the map include the rocky, dry canyons of the first game, marshy wetlands, sandy desert dunes that stretch for miles, and difficult-to-navigate mountains ranges. Each of these environments is highly-detailed and amazing to look at. They are a treat for the player to explore.
Creative, exhilarating gameplay
Where Rage 2 really shines is in its combat gameplay. It takes inspiration from both the 2016 Doom reboot with its gunplay, and the Mad Max game with its vehicular combat. The combat is very fast-paced, with the player having to constantly move to stay alive. Walker has access to a variety of different weapons, including standard first-person shooter staples, such as a pistol, assault rifle, and shotgun. However, there are several special weapons that are fun to use. Standouts among these include the Firestorm Revolver, which fires incendiary rounds that sets enemies on fire, and the Grav Dart launcher, which is capable of sending enemies flying. The unique weapons provide different and interesting ways to take out enemies.
In additions to the weapons, Walker is granted various powers through his Ranger suit. Aside from a double jump and a dash function, the suit gives him four impressive offensive powers. These are Shatter, Slam, Vortex, and Barrier. Shatter is a blast of kinetic energy launched from his hands. Slam lets Walker jump into the air and punch down, creating a shockwave that can sweep enemies off their feet. Vortex makes a singularity that drags enemies in before spitting them out. Barrier, like its name suggests, can create a wall to protect Walker from incoming fire. The combination of the interesting and different weapons as well as the powers leads to interesting and creative combat, letting the player come up with different ways of killing enemies.
Players can see Avalanche Studios’ thumbprint in the game with its vehicular combat, which is similar to their Mad Max game, but improves upon what Mad Max brought to the table. Walker has a wide variety of transportation in game, ranging from motorcycles to monster trucks. They are usually obtained by stealing enemy vehicles and storing them at garages in various cities. However, Walker’s main mode of transportation is the Phoenix, a heavily armored car. Featuring a rocket boost and a variety of armaments like miniguns and mortars, the Phoenix is exhilarating and a blast to use. Hunting down and taking out enemy convoys with the Phoenix is every bit as fun as the gunplay.
However, there is not much in the way of side content within the game. The only two things that particularly stand out are Car Racing and Mutant Bash TV. The racing aspect is incredibly frustrating, as the player is provided with a car that’s difficult to maneuver. However, Mutant Bash TV is a fun little minigame. In it, the player goes through a gauntlet of four waves of enemies, earning points for how creative their kills are. It encapsulates all of the strengths of Rage 2 in one little section.
Featured Image: Bethesda
by Daniel O'Connell
The developers at FromSoftware have made a name for themselves by creating the Soulsborne games. Consisting of the Dark Souls trilogy and Bloodborne, these games are notorious for their difficult gameplay. While this has turned off a lot of gamers, it also garnered a loyal fanbase. With the release of the last Dark Souls game back in 2016, fans of FromSoftware eagerly awaited what game the company would release next. With that game now finally released, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice proves to be another success for FromSoftware.
Similar, yet different from what has come before
Taking place in a fantasy version of Japan’s Sengoku period, the game follows Wolf, a highly skilled shinobi and bodyguard to a young lord named Kuro, the Divine Heir. As they travel through the lands of the Ashina clan, they are attacked by a mysterious samurai who kidnaps Kuro. Wolf battles the samurai but is defeated, losing his left arm in combat. However, Wolf is saved from death by a mysterious sculptor, who takes him to an abandoned temple and outfits him with a special prosthetic arm. Now rechristened as Sekiro (meaning one-armed wolf), the shinobi battles the Ashina to rescue his liege lord at any cost.
Fans of FromSoftware’s previous games will notice that Sekiro possesses similar elements to the Dark Souls games. Sculptor Idols in the game function similarly to Dark Souls’ Bonfires, serving as checkpoints that the player can either travel from or upgrade their skills and stats at. The Health Gourd is this game’s equivalent to the Estus Flask, as both are a healing item with a limited number of uses. These familiarities serve as a welcome to veterans of the Soulsborne games, as it eases them into the game before showing them just how different things really are.
While it contains similar elements, Sekiro is a completely different beast from the Soulsborne games. Taking inspiration from the Tenchu games, it features a stealth element, where Sekiro must sneak around the environment undetected and eliminate enemies one by one. Combat is also completely different from the Soulsborne games. The combat is mainly focused on swordplay, with Sekiro’s main weapon being a katana. Rather than whittling away at an enemy’s health, the combat has an emphasis on destroying their posture and poise. This is mainly done through blocking and deflecting enemy attacks. Once the enemy’s posture has been broken, Sekiro can perform the Shinobi Deathblow. Similar to Bloodborne’s Visceral Attacks, it swiftly and brutally kills the enemy with one quick blow. The focus on posture damage makes the gameplay tense and exciting, as the player has to alternate between attacking and perfectly timing their blocks and deflects.
However, the real treat of the game is Sekiro’s prosthetic arm. Its main feature is the built-in grappling hook, which allows the player a quick way to explore and traverse the game world, as well as working as a quick escape if a battle turns south. The arm can also be outfitted with various tools that help in combat. Functioning similarly to Bloodborne’s Trick Weapons, they include shurikens that damage enemies from a distance, firecrackers that can stun enemies, and a spring-loaded axe that can turn an enemy’s shield into splinters. Mixing and matching the various tools found in the game can make combat more fun and interesting to play.
Brutal, unforgiving difficulty
Another element returning from the Soulsborne games is its most infamous: the difficult gameplay. The surprising thing is that Sekiro is even harder than FromSoftware’s previous games. Enemies now hit harder and are much faster, making head-on combat much more punishing. The worst of these are the game’s mini-bosses, who are particularly frustrating and difficult to fight. For example, I was stuck on the Chained Ogre mini-boss for so long that it drove me up a wall.
Even dying is more punishing in this game. In the Soulsborne games, death was a mere slap on the wrist. The worst that would happen was losing all of the currency you were carrying. Here, death has bigger consequences. When you die, you lose a certain amount of money and experience points. Additionally, dying one too many times will cause certain NPCs to contract a disease known as Dragonrot. This disease will lower Sekiro’s chances of keeping money and experience upon death, as well as halt NPC quest lines. While the Dragonrot can be cured with an item called the Dragon’s Tear, these are incredibly rare in-game.
The game’s high difficulty is meant to make players think outside the box and approach situations more creatively—a concept that will turn away most players, even experienced Soulsborne veterans. However, there is one catch to this difficulty: when a player dies, they have a chance to resurrect and finish off enemies that they were fighting. The chance of resurrecting is a nice comfort when it comes to facing the most difficult enemies.
Featured Image: Steam
by Daniel O'Connell
Throughout his career, Argentine-French director Gaspar Noé has made a name for himself as a stylistic yet provocative filmmaker. His films are technically impressive, featuring excellent cinematography, and are visually mesmerizing to watch. However, this is contrasted by his use of disturbing graphic violence and sexual content. Noé’s body of work contains films such as Irreversible and Enter the Void, with the former causing walkouts at the Cannes Film Festival. With his latest film, Climax, Noé once again brings beautiful visuals and violent imagery with this arthouse take on a dance movie.
An experience with bizarre presentation and excellent choreography
Allegedly based off a true story, the film takes place in 1996; it focuses on a French dance troupe that plans to go on tour, starting in the United States. After rehearsing in an abandoned dance studio, the group relaxes by having a party, involving alcohol, drugs, and plenty of dancing. As the night goes on, it’s revealed the sangria everyone has been drinking has been spiked with LSD. The celebration quickly devolves into a disturbing nightmare of paranoia, sex, and violence.
As per Noé’s usual style, the film is presented in an unorthodox fashion, making it very interesting to watch. The film opens with an overhead shot of a bleeding woman wandering through a snowy landscape, which is quickly followed by the closing credits. Around nine minutes in, the opening logos are shown, and after an extended dance scene, the opening credits appear, with each cast and crew member being shown with a different style text. This style of presentation is very unique, letting the audience know what kind of movie that they’re getting into. By presenting the order of credits in reverse, it catches the audience off guard, and it makes them wonder what’s going to happen next after these credits disappear.
The acting of the film is nothing to write home about, as most of the cast (with the exception of Sofia Boutella) are dancers and their dialogue is improvised. This is not a bad thing, as it gives the film an air of authenticity. It’s as if these are real people, rather than being actors reciting dialogue. These conversations they have range from the dancers’ dreams and aspirations to their sex lives. It gives them bits of character in a natural way that doesn’t feel forced.
The real treat of this movie is the impressive dance choreography. The beginning of the film features a long sequence of the dance troupe rehearsing. It’s both choreographed beautifully while simultaneously being hypnotic to watch. The opening dance number is kinetic and full of energy. It comes off less as something improvised and more organic, as if it’s second nature to them. This also applies to an improvised dance sequence that takes place in the middle of the party. The troupe gathers around in a circle while each member dances in the middle of it, all filmed from an overhead shot. In contrast with the opening dance, this comes across as wild, chaotic, and frenzied, foreshadowing the events that’ll happen later on in the night.
Beautiful, colorful visuals and impressive cinematography
As with the other films that Noé has made, Climax features both amazing visuals and cinematography. These are more prominent in the latter half of the film, when the acid in the partygoers’ drinks kicks in and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. The second half of the film is made up of one long unbroken take, with a lot of the scenes being filmed at Dutch angles. This creates a feeling of disorienting unease, letting the audience know the hell that the characters are now going through. A scene that perfectly captures this unease is where one character, Selva (Sofia Boutella), has a bad reaction to the LSD. She ends up sprawling on the floor, wildly screaming and thrashing. This camerawork is complimented by the lighting in some of the rooms. Taking a cue from Suspiria, these scenes a lit in saturated colors, varying from reds to blues to greens. These two aspects of the film come together in, well, the climax, where an orgy breaks out on the dance floor. This is filmed in uncomfortable close-ups and tracking shots, with the scene being lit in a deep, hellish red.
The one thing that will make or break the film for everyone is Noé’s penchant for violent, disturbing content. While toned down in comparison to Irreversible, the film still features things that’ll shock and disturb your average moviegoer. There were parts in this movie that bewildered me and made me bunch up in a ball in my seat. At one point, I even yelled out when something particularly shocking happened. I wanted to look away but was entranced by the depravity that was happening on screen.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
Ever since 2005, playwright turned filmmaker Tyler Perry has been making films about Mabel “Madea” Simmons, a sassy old black woman who often gives wise advice. In the vein of Big Momma’s House or The Nutty Professor, Perry has played the role of Madea, dressing up in make-up, and performing multiple different characters. Having made over 11 films featuring Madea, the films have been a commercial success and have certainly found their audience. On the flip side, they have been critically panned. Famed black director Spike Lee has derided the films, equating them as the modern equivalent of a minstrel show. With this film being announced as the last of the Madea films, Tyler Perry does not end these films with a bang. He ends them with a very quiet whimper.
Bare bones plot padded out with rambling comedy
The plot of this movie concerns Madea (Tyler Perry), her ex-pimp brother Joe (also Tyler Perry), and her sidekicks Hattie (Patrice Lovely) and Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) attending the 40th-anniversary party of Anthony (Derek Morgan) and Vianne (Jen Harper). Being driven to the party by Madea’s lawyer nephew Brian (traditional Tyler Perry), they stop by the hotel they’ll be staying at. However, they discover that Anthony is also at the hotel, having died during a session with his mistress. The happy gathering quickly turns into a funeral, as Madea and company must keep the dark secret from getting out.
If the plot of this movie looks incredibly thin, that’s because it is. The major plot point of Madea and friends discovering the dead Anthony doesn’t happen until roughly halfway through the film. That’s because the lead-up scenes, featuring Madea and friends, are dragged out by the characters in the scene rambling and riffing off one another.
A good example of this is when they’re pulled over by a cop for swerving in traffic. The cop doesn’t come there immediately, because the first half of this scene is padded out by the group getting rid of the weed they have stashed on them. There’s also a debate between Brian and his passengers about how black people getting shot by the police wouldn’t happen if they just complied. This attempt at social commentary goes nowhere as the cop finally arrives, acts incredibly aggressive towards Brian, before becoming reasonable and pleasant after he checks his license and registration. And then cue more riffing from Madea once the cop leaves.
These scenes of Madea rambling and riffing plague the entire movie. It makes the movie feel longer than its hour and forty-minute running time would suggest. The titular funeral doesn’t happen until two-thirds into the movie. The main joke of the scene is how long and dragged out funeral processions are, with the film cutting back to a clock’s hands moving to show how long the funeral is taking. The irony of this is lost on the good Mr. Perry.
The only other bit of plot this film has is a subplot involving Vianne and Anthony’s son Will having an affair with his brother A.J.’s fiancée. This melodramatic plot point wouldn’t feel out of place in one of Perry’s dramas, and overall adds nothing to the movie. In fact, the scenes focusing on the subplot feel disconnected from the main plot. One half of this movie is a melodramatic black soap opera. The other half is a sitcom starring the Asylum version of Eddie Murphy’s The Klumps.
Cinematography better suited for TV
Another thing that should be mentioned is the way the movie is shot. To put it simply, it’s shot like it’s a sitcom that you would find on daytime television. Every time the film would jump to a new location, it would start with an establishing shot of the building the scene takes place in before cutting inside. This is not unlike something a sitcom would do. Another distracting thing is that when two or more characters are having a conversation, it would frequently cut from one person to another as they finished speaking. Because of these choices in cinematography, it makes the movie feel like something you should not be watching in theaters. It feels like something you would watch on TV during a stay in a hospital while in a full body cast. It’s not something that you would watch by choice.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
Disclaimer: This review is of the Xbox One version of the game. This review may contain spoilers for the previous Metro games.
Back in 2010, the developers of the cult hit S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl released Metro 2033, a first-person survival horror game based on the novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It took place in the ruins of Moscow after a nuclear war, where the survivors live in the underground metro tunnels. It followed Artyom, a young man who must save his home from the forces that threaten it. While criticized for its poor technical aspects in bugs and graphical issues, it received praise for its engaging plot and its horror elements, namely its claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere. The game gained a devoted fanbase, and a sequel — Metro: Last Light, followed in 2013. Now, 4A Games takes Metro out of the tunnels and into the open world with Metro Exodus.
Engaging characters and a devastated world to explore.
Taking place after the Battle of D6 in Metro: Last Light, the game follows a disillusioned Artyom, who has left the Spartan order. He is now obsessed with finding survivors outside of the metro system, despite the endeavor being seemingly fruitless. However, upon finding a working train outside of the metro system, Artyom discovers that there really is life outside of the metro, which has been covered up as part of a conspiracy. Then having to flee the metro, Artyom, his wife Anna, and the rest of the Spartan Order hijack a train called the Aurora and set out to find more survivors, as well as a new home.
One of the strengths of the story is its characters. While Artyom is silent throughout the game — outside of loading screen narration — his interactions with the other characters, which include Anna, Colonel Miller, and the members of the Spartan Rangers are really interesting to listen to and watch. They are fleshed-out characters with their own quirks and personalities. Even when the player leaves a room where two characters are conversing, the conversation will continue on in the background. This feels organic, rather than feeling like standard NPC dialogue.
Another strength from the beginning is the world of Post-Apocalyptic Russia. The environments in the previous games were uncomfortably claustrophobic, with the city portions capturing the hollow feeling of the wrecked ruins. The metro portions of Exodus capture these previous feelings and add new ones with their varied environments, while the Volga section of the game is a wet and muddy marshland, capturing the miserable and bleak feeling that the environment exudes. They look like they wouldn’t be out of place in S.T.A.L.K.E.R. In contrast, the Caspian area of the game takes place in the dried-up sea, which is now a hot, arid, and dusty desert. With the beached ships and the makeshift vehicles running about, it feels straight out of Mad Max: Fury Road. These environments are both beautiful to look at and fun to explore.
However, something that drags the game down would have to be the pacing at the beginning of it. The metro portion of the game feels like it takes forever to get through. This not only includes Artyom exploring the ruins of Moscow, but him going out on another expedition and getting captured by the Hansa faction. While it does eventually get to Artyom and company hijacking the Aurora, it feels like should have come much sooner.
Tense, exhilarating gameplay
Returning from the previous games is Metro’s scavenging-based gameplay. Players must explore to find ammunition and consumables such as medkits and gas mask filters to use in the field. However, Metro Exodus has traded in the military grade bullet economy of the previous games for a new crafting system. Artyom can gather both scrap metal and chemicals to craft resources like the aforementioned med kits and gas mask filters. This can be done through either a backpack (which holds Artyom’s inventory) or workbenches found throughout the world. One can even use the gathered material to create ammunition at workbenches or use the chemicals to maintain the guns. This leads to a lot of resource management, where one must figure out what to create with their limited material. It adds to the tense feeling of the combat since every bullet counts.
Another great aspect of the gameplay is the weapon customization. Various weapon attachments can be found out in the world, whether it’s various sights, different magazines, or assorted gun stocks. It can turn a simple revolver into a mid-range sniper rifle with the right parts. The weapons can be quickly customized by using the backpack, letting one create any weapon for any situation.
Featured Image: Metro Exodus
by Daniel O'Connell
Writer-Director Dan Gilroy got his start in the business by writing scripts, most notably for films such as The Fall, Real Steel, and The Bourne Legacy. He then made his directorial debut in 2014 with Nightcrawler, a thriller that serves as a critique of late night news. The film was a blend of Network and American Psycho and received acclaim from both critics and audiences alike. After directing the legal drama Roman J. Israel, Esq., Gilroy returns to his directing roots with Velvet Buzzsaw, a film focusing on the world of art. With this work, Gilroy delivers a stylish, terrifying film.
A great cast of terrible characters
The film focuses on the art scene of Miami Beach, specifically at a gallery owned by Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), a former member of the punk rock band Velvet Buzzsaw. A frequent visitor to the gallery is the icy, pessimistic, and art critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal). The latest buzz around the scene are the paintings
of Ventril Dease, a recently deceased, reclusive artist, whose work is discovered by Morf’s agent, Josephina (Zawe Ashton). Everyone from gallery owners to curators are enamored with the paintings, with some trying to make money off of the paintings and their deceased painter. However, the paintings are in fact cursed, targeting and killing anyone who tries to make a profit off of them. One by one, people who try to use the paintings for their own greed are killed off as Morf begins tries to unravel the curse.
One of the strengths of the film is its ensemble cast, the most notable standout being Gyllenhaal as Morf. He does a great job at capturing the pretentiousness and hypercritical nature of a vain, snobbish art critic. As the film goes on, Morf’s mental state deteriorates, and Gyllenhaal does a great job at portraying the panic and bewilderment he goes through. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, whether its Toni Collette’s Gretchen, a self-serving and self-interested curator who meddles with her colleagues personal lives, to John Malkovich’s Piers, a dry and dour former artist who worked for Haze’s gallery.
However, almost the entire cast is full of horrible people, serving as the movie’s way to critique the art scene. They’re vapid, shallow, and only want to use art to benefit themselves. For example. Josephina is more concerned about how the exhibit on Ventril Dease is trending on Instagram at a point where several people have died. It’s a part of the film’s message that art should be appreciated for its own sake, rather than used for monetary gain. And this message is delivered with the subtly of a bullet train. This message is fine in itself, but the movie doesn’t find a nice middle ground between people who appreciate art and people who sell it for money.
Brilliant deaths and surreal horror
While the first part of the film starts as a satire, the latter turns into a horror film once Ventril Dease’s paintings are introduced. The film’s horror is a blend of psychological and, surprisingly enough, slasher. A notable scene is where Morf visits a sound art exhibit reserved to him, only to be bombarded by voices coming from the sound speakers (which include his own) which throw all of his critiques back at him. It’s only then revealed that the voices he heard aren’t a part of the exhibit. The sudden surprise of the scene, as well as Gyllenhaal’s acting, add to the overall creepiness.
The movie’s main highlight are its death scenes, where people are killed by a supernatural force, similar to the Final Destination movies. However, Velvet Buzzsaw trades the Rube Goldberg-esque death traps for killings involving art pieces. The first of these involves Bryson, a gallery worker, who is killed when a painting of monkeys working on a car drags him into it. And these death scenes continue to escalate from there. One of the highlights is Gretchen’s death, where she sticks her arm into a piece called the Sphere. She then has her arm violently cut off and is left to bleed out overnight. The kicker is that her dead body in a pool of blood is initially assumed to be just a part of the exhibit.
The fact that the latter half of the movie is a slasher film contextualizes the horrible characters. It makes it cathartic to watch the shallow and pretentious snobs pay for their own greed in unique ways. The deaths themselves make the film worth the watch.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
In the past few years, the Netflix Original movie has risen to prominence as a way for some studios to distribute their movies. And what kind of movies one gets wildly varies. Some are critically-acclaimed works such as Mudbound or Roma. Others are tense thrillers such as Hold the Dark. And others are straight up dreck such as The Ridiculous Six. At first glance, Polar looked like it would be one of the more interesting Netflix movies. It’s based on the webcomic of the same name, which took inspiration in its style from films such as Le Samourai and Point Blank. The comic presented itself without dialogue or speech balloons, along with a minimalist color scheme. All of these elements together make for a promising film that could break the mold of the typical Netflix Original movie. However, the result is a movie that is a complete let down.
Thin plot and underdeveloped characters
The film follows Duncan Vizla (played by Mads Mikkelsen), an international hitman who works for a company called Damocles, and is known and feared by his moniker, the Black Kaiser. He is two weeks away from retirement, looking forward to relocating to the quiet town of Twin Oaks, Montana with his $8 million pension. There, he befriends his neighbor Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), a quiet and easily frightened woman. However, this is all upended when Vizla’s former employer, Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas) sends assassins after him and kidnaps Camille. This sends the Black Kaiser on a warpath to rescue Camille and get revenge.
On paper, Mads Mikkelsen playing a feared international assassin is an idea that would make for an entertaining movie, in the vein of something like The Killer or John Wick. And to Mikkelsen’s credit, he does fine in the role. The problem is that the script gives him little to work with. The most that can be said about Vizla is that he is good at his job and is haunted by a botched hit where he accidently killed a family. However, that doesn’t really go anywhere until the end of the film. Vanessa Hudgens, on the other hand, does a solid job in her role. Whereas one could play this role very blandly, Hudgens does a great job portraying someone who has been traumatized by her past, including a scene where she describes one of these events to Vizla.
While Vizla and Camille seem underdeveloped, Mr. Blut, on the other hand, just comes off as an idiot. Acting like as a cross between Tim Curry and Elton John, his plan in the movie is to avoid paying the hired assassins their pensions (worth millions of dollars) by having them killed before retirement. Trying to murder a feared and incredibly dangerous assassin so the company won’t have to pay him his pension is not only incredibly greedy, but moronic. This is repeatedly pointed out by his right-hand woman, Vivian (Kathryn Winnick), who seems like the smartest person in Damocles by repeatedly advising Blut to just pay Vizla and leave him alone.
Between the underdeveloped Vizla and the idiotic Blut, there is a fun group of characters known as the A-Team: a group of assassins that take out the retiring hitmen. These range from Alexei, a redheaded, bearded man who dresses like a hipster; the sultry Sindy, who lures targets with her sex appeal; and Hilde, a woman in a catsuit with tattoos along her face. These characters seem like they would be right at home in a movie like Smokin’ Aces and are a lot of fun to watch as they try to track down Vizla. Unfortunately, they are killed off at roughly the halfway point of the movie, which is a disappointment. This movie would’ve benefitted by giving them more screen time.
Distinct style and music
One thing that this movie has going for it is its unique visual style. It features the use of a lot of saturated colors, which makes things, be it someone’s clothes or trees in the background, pop out more. This also includes how major characters are introduced in the film, where the film will pause and the character’s name in a stylized font will appear next to them. This makes the film visually interesting to look at. This also includes outfits that a character will wear, with Vivian wearing a widely different outfit and wig in almost every scene she is in. Another positive that the film has is its score, done by DJ and progressive house artist Deadmau5. It has a catchy, thumping beat to it, which fits the scene of what is going on, and complements the visual style of the film.
However, despite being an action film about an international hitman, the movie is surprisingly boring. The bits of action in the film should be savored, as they are sparse and sandwiched between scenes of dull character work. The best action bits happen in the last half of the film. The most notable is where a shirtless, bloody Vizla, armed only with a handgun, fights through a hallway of armed guards. However, this one scene is not enough to look past the flaws of this movie.
Featured Image: IMDb
by Daniel O'Connell
By Daniel O’Connell
Warning: The following review contains spoilers for Suspiria
Back in 1978, Italian horror director Dario Argento released Suspiria, a supernatural horror film that followed Susie Bannion, an American ballet student who transfers to Germany to study at a prestigious dance academy. However, after a series of brutal murders, she soon discovers that the academy is a haven for a coven of witches. Critics and audiences alike proclaimed the film as Argento’s best work. Particular praise went to its haunting, ominous atmosphere, its use of vibrant, saturated colors to enhance said atmosphere, and its memorable, enchanting soundtrack by the Italian progressive rock band Goblin. For years, the idea of a remake lingered around, with David Gordon Green rumored to direct. However, Italian director Luca Guadagnino (director of the critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name) finally got the project off the ground. Rather than being a remake in the traditional sense, Guadagnino claims that the film is more of an homage to the feelings he had while watching the original film for the first time. And what he delivers is one hell of an experience.
Thin plot supported by great performances
The film follows the basic outline of the original: American ballet student Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) attends the Markos Dance Academy, headed by the mysterious Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) in West Germany in 1977. However, she soon begins investigating the school and the disappearance of a student named Patrica (Chloe Grace Moretz). Joining her in this investigation are fellow student Sara (Mia Goth) and psychologist Josef Klemperer (also Tilda Swinton in drag and heavy make-up). And they soon discover that the school has a dark secret to it.
Like with the original film, the plot of the movie matters very little here. An odd bit in the film is that it will occasionally show news reports about the crimes of Baader-Meinhof Gang, such as the hijacking of the Landshut plane. These moments honestly add nothing to the movie, other than to remind the audience about the setting of the film. The only real way that this has any bearing on the plot is that it is mentioned that Patricia may be involved with the group, but this is quickly dropped.
While the plot may be lacking, the performances of the lead actors are excellent. Dakota Johnson gives a great performance as Susie, who, while being quiet throughout most of the film, becomes creepy and unnerving towards the end. However, the real standout among the actors is Tilda Swinton in her dual roles of Madame Blanc and Dr. Josef Klemperer. Blanc feels like a role that Swinton would usually play, but Klemperer is a completely different story. This role is unlike any that Swinton has done before, and she is completely transformed. You would be forgiven for not realizing it is her under all of that make-up.
Disturbing visuals, fantastic cinematography and a haunting score
Much like the original film, what the film lacks in plot it makes up for in visuals and style. The film structures itself like a play, with an opening title card saying that it has seven acts and an epilogue. While the original film was known for its vibrant color palette, this film takes an opposite approach. It is filmed in dark colors, especially earthy browns, that give the film a sinister, foreboding quality to it. The use of these colors accomplishes the same goal that the original’s vibrant colors did: to make the viewer feel uncomfortable. Compounding these visuals is the cinematography. The film is well-shot, and it does some interesting things such as circle around a table where a group of characters are meeting or suddenly zoom in on a character’s face. There are a lot of close up shots in the film, which gives the viewer a feeling of discomfort and unease.
One of the highlights of the film would have to be its score. It was conducted by Thom Yorke, best known as the lead singer of Radiohead. There is a song that appears in both the opening and closing of the film that bears a resemblance to a Radiohead song. This would feel out of place, but it does a great job of setting the mood for the film. The music is fantastically scored while also being haunting and unnerving. It will definitely stick with you after seeing the film.
The combination of the visuals, cinematography, and score creates one disturbing film. A specific example would have to be the death scene of Olga (Elena Fokina), one of the dancers at the school. She is trapped within a room of mirrors, and her body is twisted and battered around like a ragdoll. She is contorted into painful-looking poses, accentuated by the sickening, unnerving sounds of bones breaking and crunching. This scene is juxtaposed with Susie practicing the dance of a protagonist in the company’s place. At the end of the scene, Olga is left as a ball of twisted, broken limbs. The violence in that scene alone makes the original film’s violence look tame in comparison.
However, Olga’s death scene has nothing on the last act of the film. The first three acts of the film were relatively straight forward, with some bizarre and rather disturbing scenes sprinkled in here or there. The last act, on the other hand is where everything goes completely off the rails. It features a twist that no one would see coming. To see it unfold is mesmerizing, leaving the audience confused, bewildered, and questioning what they just watched. Attempting to describe it would not do it justice when compared to seeing it with your own eyes.
As one can tell from this review, Suspiria is not a film meant for your average movie goer. Similar to films such as Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, Alex Garland’s Annihilation, and Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, it is a film that requires a second or even third viewing to understand what one just watched. It is a hard film to process upon the first time viewing it.
Featured Image: Reddit