DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS (2022)

Messy and weird, with Sam Raimi’s fingerprints all over it.

Yep, Marvel finally actually let a director push out against the edges of its age rating. It’s got weird camera angles, honest-to-goodness horror, and actual gore! This is absolutey the least kid-friendly of any MCU—at times genuinely disturbing and frightening.

At its best when it’s at its most Raimi. Some really fun and creative sequences, mostly packed into the back half. Suffers from some pretty blunt exposition and clunky dialogue, but it’s aiming right for that sweet spot of hammy and cheesy, and mostly lands. It’s kinda schlocky!

As a multiverse film it’s… surprisingly underwhelming? But coming off the back of the absolutely exceptional masterpiece that is Everything Everywhere All At Once, any multiverse film is going to feel lacking. There’s the usual rollout of Marvel cameos and teases, but here it doesn’t feel so much like an obligatory setup for the next set of films as it does an excuse for some ridiculously violent action sequences spiced up with fan service. Honestly, I wasn’t blown away by the four or five big cameo appearances (beware spoilers online!), but it also didn’t feel like it was trying to drop them as gotchas so I kind of appreciated that. Ends up meaning far less for the MCU going forward than I was expecting, but that’s actually good?

Overall, a big fun carnival ride. It’s different enough from standard superhero fare, while also feeling like a distinctly superhero film. Danny Elfman’s score really elevates it into this too, and there’s a few sequences with really fun use of music in the action.

Deviation from MCU norms mean that it won’t be for everyone, but those out-there moments are when it really shines. I’m curious to know how successful it’ll be, given the focus on horror elements, and I’m glad they actually took a chance in this direction for once.

Recommended.

SCREAM (2022)

Terrible, but in a mostly fun way.

Chock full of blunt exposition, awful logic and bad character choices… but that’s kinda what it’s going for?

It wants you to be yelling at the screen, wants you to be engaging with its trashiness—it’s explicitly stated in the opening sequence that this ain’t “elevated horror”, this is schlock.

Still, for all its pseudo-meta commentary, its not especially clever, nor does it really bring anything new to the franchise other than waving its hands around and pointing out things it knows about itself.

Probably best for a drunk watch with low expectations and heckling.

ANTLERS (2021)

Solid creature feature with some excellent practical effects and a unique, intriguing premise, based on this great short story:

A few moments of weird and convenient movie logic keep it back from greatness, but it’s otherwise very well executed and the creature design is awesome.

Well worth a watch if monster movies are your jam.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

Kind of pointless?

Great cast, and a director I usually love, but this didn’t do anything for me.

Seems like it’s aiming to be a throwback to old-school classic zombie tropes, but doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table. Doesn’t even strike a compelling tone, or wring distinct performances out of anyone.

Plot just sort of meanders from one scene to the next, there’s no apparent stakes, and everything is playing so straight and flat that it almost seems like it’s supposed to be satire?

Impossible to tell what it’s trying to say, in that case.

Dull. Skip it.

YELLOWJACKETS // s01

Brilliant.

Kicking off with one of the strongest pilots in recent memory, Yellowjackets splits a narrative between a girls’ soccer team whose plane goes down in the mountains during the 90s, and the lives of the survivors in the present day.

It’s ominous, foreboding, and gives you enough information upfront to know that things are going to get bad, before expertly dancing back and forth between the time periods.

The soundtrack is fantastic, the production value is top-notch, the editing is masterful.

The performances too deserve special mention — the cast are excellent, but Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci are bringing career-best character work to their roles.

There’s a tonne more intrigue left, with plenty of clever misdirects and setups. Some of the gore is not for the faint of heart.

An absolutely stellar first season, here’s hoping it can maintain.

Highly recommended.

THE EMPTY MAN (2020)

A pretty solid horror/mystery/thriller with a creepy pretense, good cinematography and an intriguing plot.

This is one of those ones that benefits from knowing very little going in and just seeing where it takes you.

Not altogether scary, but has its moments all the same. Not sure how strongly it all sticks together by the end, but for a long, slow sort of mystery it does more than enough right to maintain an eerie tone and try for something seldom seen in horror films.

A cult favourite waiting to happen. Worth checking out.

BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

BLOOD QUANTUM: a measure of the amount of indigenous blood in an individual, expressed as a fraction such as one-half or one-fourth. This amount is used to determine and prove the individual’s tribal belonging and legal rights.

During a zombie outbreak, a lone indigenous reservation discovers that its bloodline is immune to the infection, and so becomes a kind of refugee camp for outsiders (read: white people) from the plague.

But as is often the case in zombie fiction: people are worse than the creatures.

It’s a solidly clever spin on the genre, propped up by some brilliantly gruesome special effects and great cinematography.

If you’re an indie horror fan at all, this one should be on your must-watch list. It’s a little rough around the edges, but all the more charming for it.

Lots of gory fun. Recommended.

FORTITUDE // s01-03

Starts out as a prestigiously cast Scandinavian Noir mystery before taking a left turn into body horror, then another left turn into a supernatural conspiracy thriller, and then running right through the wall of credulity and off a cliff into the sea.

By the end of the third season it’s lost its plot so thoroughly and bafflingly that it’s hard to know exactly what the overarching intention had been. Was it always going to devolve into Twin Peaks wannabe territory, without the coherence of vision at David Lynch can manage?

The sudden third act introduction of de-aging billionaire strangers, BDSM jokes, absurd changes in characterisation across the board and a saxophone score that feels ripped right from the hammiest 80’s soap opera all stands in stark contrast to the self-serious dramatic tone of the first season.

Thing is, that first season is an absolute banger. It’s got all the atmophere and mystique you want in a small town murder mystery, propped up by the likes of Stanley Tucci, Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon and The Killing’s Sofie Gråbøl.

Season two sees Dennis Quaid, Michelle Fairley and Robert Sheehan join the cast, but things start losing their way. You’ll probably be able to ride the goodwill from the first season’s execution right through to the end of part two—a bizzare conclusion involving weird swings at both shamanism and Russian life-extension experiments.

Still sounds kind of fun, right?

Problem is, none of this is leading anywhere. Season three is mercifully short at only four episodes. Half of the primary cast is dead or moved on by now, and those who remain are trapped in a bizzare exercise in removing any likeability from their personas and having everyone behave entirely out of character for no reason.

At least Richard Dormer looks to be enjoying himself, chewing scenery as he goes from grizzled sheriff to reindeer-juice tripping madman to utterly unhinged, monologuing murderous lunatic.

Shame it’s not nearly as much fun for the audience as it clearly was for him.

Check out the first season, skip the rest.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)

Edgar Wright doesn’t miss!

A surreal horror/thriller trip with enough clever twists and misleads to keep you guessing right to the end.

Pitch-perfect twin lead performances from Tomasin Mackenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy anchor time-bending shenanigans through a descent into madness, switching effortlessly from the modern day Soho to the 60s and back again.

Possibly the least “Edgar Wrighty” of his films, though still offering a tight and refined selection of his usual exceptional camerawork and brilliantly executed staging. There were several sequences where I was at a total loss to explain how they’d achieved some of their effects so seamlessly and subtly. It’s a true mark of a master not to draw attention to your best tricks and instead to let them totally serve the narrative.

Loving vintage aesthetic drips from costumes, prduction design and nods to Dario Argento — a true love letter to filmmaking style with substance to back it up.

A modern classic.

Highly recommended.

CANDYMAN (2021)

A modernisation/continuation of the 1992 original, but lacking any of its iconic tone or atmosphere.

Tells its themes rather than showing, and kinda wastes a great idea for connection to the first film that really only materialises in the final minutes.

A couple of cool looking kills, but let down by a disappointing absence of Tony Todd in the title role.

Ultimately, it feels more defined by what it lacks in comparison to the original than by what it brings as a reimagining of the legend.

Sadly, forgettable.