Take a Stab At It (Knives Out, 2019)

Knives_Out_PosterFamous Crime novelist Walter Thrombey is found dead after his birthday party. At first, declared a suicide, famous detective Benoit Blanc arrives and sees possible suspects in every member of his family. Caught up in it all is his nurse Marta who may have the most to gain.

I cannot really say more…so I am just going to say this:

SEE THIS MOVIE.

It is superbly written, directed and performed.  It is hilarious and a rewarding watch.  This was the most fun I had at the movies all year.

Family Drama (Hereditary, 2018)

hereditary_posterHereditary opens with a family preparing for a funeral. Annie’s mother has died. Much like Annie, the film feels…distant from this event. we learn that she was, in fact often struggling in their relationship.  And death has not changed that.

But things start to escalate as more tragedy hits and both Annie and her family seem to be coming apart at the seams.

Heredity is a horror movie that is very slow and deliberate. Other than a few “is there a ghost” style moments (odd reflections, flashing lights) it really feels like Hereditary is the exploration of a family that is being torn apart by a family history of unacknowledged mental illness.

Hereditary_still

 

Of course, the story is more than that. There is something darker lurking under the surface. Ari Aster (in his feature length debut as both a writer and director) moves the film at a very (deliberate) slow pace. He rarely relies on jarring us with a gruesome visual or jump scares (but there are a few). But it works so well. Hereditary is at times painful not through gore or shocking violence…but through it’s moments of emotional despair.

There is a scene at the dinner table that is both horrifying and heart wrenching.  And a lot of the emotional weight of the film comes from incredibly strong performances. Gabriel Byrne’s role as a father trying to keep his family imploding is wonderfully understated. He manages to remain sympathetic, even when he seems to be unable to support his belief in his wife’s lost grip on reality. Mary Shapiro is memorable as the young daughter (who was closest to Annie’s mother) who seems to be on the autism spectrum.

Toni Collette and Alex Wolff turn in terrific performances.  Collette’s Annie seems to distance herself from her family and the audience. But at at the same time, you get it. Her grief pours from the screen and washes over the audience.  And Wolff’s Peter is heart breaking to watch as he and his relationship with his mother seems to disintegrate before their eyes.

The horror of Hereditary is “can you trust the people who should care for you the most”? I mentioned that the film moves at a rather slow pace. And this really benefits the film. Pay attention. Listen in. Every little hint means something and rewards in the end.

Refueled (xXx: Return of Xander Cage, 2017)

xxx-roxc-poster12 years after the franchise stalled, comes an attempt to revitalize it.  Director D.J. Caruso (Disturbia) takes the reigns as Vin Diesel returns to the role of Xander Cage.  This time around, the idea is…”if one Bond is awesome…imagine if we had nine of them!”  Xander has been presumed dead, but when the CIA is hit by some highly skilled enemy agents who steal a dangerous weapon, they find Xander hiding out.

This time around, Cage sets up his own xXx team.  These are highly skilled extreme types. And they get a government agent assigned to them.  A cute and plucky girl named Becky.  She is also their “Q”.  On their way to retrieve the weapon, Cage and friends end up discovering he is up against other xXx agents that were recruited by Samuel L. Jackson’s Gibbons.  This ultimately leads to all the agents teaming up to take down the real bad guys.

The xXx films are pretty much “What if Bond was on steroids.”  Except this film.  The Return of Xander Cage is really “What if xXx was on steroids???”  It seems like the last 40 minutes were non-stop action and a Gospel Choir.

This film does not totally rewrite the book.  Instead, it is more of a blending of the Bond formula and the Fast & the Furious.  It is exciting and fun, and if you enjoyed the first two films, it is unlikely you will be disappointed by this one.  I would totally be in for the entire cast (those who make it out alive) to return for another round.

No Santa (Krampus, 2015)

krampus-winter-posterThe Krampus is a part of Christmas folklore largely unknown to the U.S., he is not part of our tales of Santa.  It is a popular bit of European folklore though.  But, as the film states, he is the dark shadow of Santa.  Santa rewards goodness, but the Krampus condemns the naughty.

It only makes sense that there would be a Christmas film for the Krampus.  Christmas horror stories have been around for quite some time.  A Christmas Carol is a Christmas horror story.

Mike Dougherty, most well known as a screenwriter of numerous super-hero films, this is his second feature as Director.  His first was the very entertaining Halloween themed Trick R’ Treat.  And now he returns to the holiday theme with a Christmas Monster movie.

Young Max is frustrated that his family Christmas is not like it onvce was.  There is fighting, cruel put downs and tension.  After being humiliated with his letter to Santa, Max is angry and heart broken, tearing up his letter to Santa.  He does not realize he has called forth a terrible wish.

The family wakes to discover there was a terrible snowstorm and they are out of power.  And that is not the really bad news.  what follows is the family discovering they are in for a terrible night.

The Krampus and his minions work to take the family to hell.  The thing about Dougherty is he has a skill with letting a horror film have the right amount of dark humor.  The monsters are wonderfully whimsical and creepy, which results in some enjoyable laughs.  I mean, the giggling evil gingerbread men cookies were crazy enough.  The designs are terrific.  The Krampus is almost like a melted Santa…his skin hanging loose, like ill fitting cloth.

The use of a frigid winter and snow are well used.  It is harsh and unforgiving.  The cast (including Toni Collette, Adam Scott and David Koechner) are great.  I genuinely found myself wanting this family to succeed, stop the Krampus and get out alive.

Krampus is a fun and enjoyable ride.  It won’t be winning any awards, but it was great fun for a horror fan.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑