GRETEL & HANSEL (2020)

It’s actually good!

Like, to the point where it’s really a shame that this will fly under most peoples’ radars entirely — it’s much closer to something like THE VVITCH than to, say, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN.

Cool visuals, interesting design choices, trippy cinematography and a much darker angle on the fairytale than expected, while at the same time sidestepping tired tropes and not overstaying its welcome at a brisk 87min.

Not perfect, but worth your time.

THE PLATFORM (2020)

CUBE, except vertical and the levels represent society. Low budget sci-fi horror with a decent hook and some visceral, nasty things to show you.

Fairly blunt in its sociopolitical metaphor, but it’s not really trying to be clever beyond making the broad strokes of commentary. It’s fairly plain what it’s getting at, but beyond face-value it doesn’t really say anything much deeper.

Stomach churning at turns, nihilistic at others, ultimately it’s an okay thought experiment that isn’t entirely sure what to do with its premise beyond the obvious.

Worth a watch, just not over dinner.

THE LODGE (2019)

Small scale isolationist horror with a great handling of atmosphere and enough tricks up its sleeve to make you think it’s any one of half a dozen different sorts of movie at any point in time.

Even a cursory summation of plot threatens to give away too much. A cabin. Some kids. Their step-mother, who is the sole survivor of a suicide cult. Some long creeping moments of dread and a few unnecessarily jarring and overly loud bursts that don’t really add much to the guessing game.

Overall: pretty tense, some good imagery and a climax you’ll either see coming a mile away or be completely blindsided by.

Good for a cold, rainy night.

VIVARIUM (2019)

An extended TWILIGHT ZONE episode in all the right ways. If that’s your jam then this is worth a look without reading anything further at risk of spoilers.

What of the plot can’t be extrapolated from the title and the first few minutes of the film are best left untold, since so much of the unfolding events work their magic through a well crafted dive into what the fuck is going on here??

It’s very slow and kinda bleak, building to a hallucinatory climax. Quite grounded despite an otherworldy sort of scifi pretense and solid, minimal production design.

Once its setup is established it spends its time playing out much as promised, bouyed up on great performances of unravelling sanity by Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg and a new contender for the most horrible uncanny child performance in a thriller/horror film. I hate him. Great job!

I avoided the trailer, but watching it afterwards I noted that it gives away a lot of the first half, so definitely skip it. Drags on a little in the middle but a bit of tedium is selling the experience of the characters.

Otherwise, this is worth a watch!

CASTLEVANIA s03

Still the best videogame adaptation of any sort, and this latest season sees gory, bloody action tempered by an expansion of the cast, new mysteries and a deeper exploration of personalities following the climax of season two.

Perhaps slower and more contemplative than the preceding seasons, there’s a lot of work being put into building out the world and the lore towards… well, it’s not entirely clear yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going.

If you’ve been enjoying this so far you should find plenty to like here. It’s great. Absolutely not for kids.

Recommended.

THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

It’s great!

Paranoid, economical, and leaning on a stellar lead performance from Elisabeth Moss and some really creative camerawork to sell what is essentially an absence, but also a very distinct presence. The camera lingers and follows what isn’t there, behaving as though empty space is being filmed with someone inhabiting and moving through it.

Fantastically executed, if this is the direction they’re moving with the classic Universal monsters then I’m all for it.

Recommended, don’t watch the trailer first.

COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019)

There’s something inherently difficult in translating this specific short story to the screen, given that the titular “colour out of space” is supposed to be indescribable by nature and film is an inherently visual medium.

Still, there’s some interesting work done with colour grades and some really neat glitch-style VFX that do a fine job of translating cosmic horror in a creative way, even if the story is a little choppy and doesn’t flow together as well as it should, especially in the back half when the body horror gets turned up and things get stomach-churningly weird. It’s clumsy and clunky at times but pretty forgivable because it’s trying. Surprisingly understated from Nicolas Cage too, which is neither criticism nor compliment especially — he could have gone bigger but did it really need it?

There are some really unsetting images on display right alongside some ethereally beautiful ones and more than one homage to the big daddy of Lovecraftian films, THE THING. And it gets points for swinging out in a creative direction moreso than I was expecting.

Mostly good, if a little lacklustre overall but genre fans will find a lot to like here.

KINGDOM: s02 (2020)

Zombie plague + feudal Korea + beautiful cinematography + devious political machinations = an absolute winner following a similarly great first season.

Lots of twists and turns, great choreography and characters. It’s on Netflix now.

Highly recommended.

ATERRADOS (“Terrified”) — 2017

Super effective at creating a sense of dread as a group of specialists investigate a rash of supernatural occurrences in a small Buenos Aires neighbourhood that begin to seep and bleed from house to house.

Full of unsettling imagery and well executed horror tropes, even if it ultimately isn’t really sure how to best drive the terror home in the final act — it all feels very plausible until it suddenly doesn’t, partially due to some mishandled digital effects and a few little holes in the script.

Still, there’s some imaginative camerawork and genuinely creepy moments. If you’re a horror fan at all this Argentinian film is overall well worth giving a spin.

BRIGHTBURN (2019)

What if Superman hadn’t been sent to Earth as a refugee but rather as a kind of sleeper agent to a race of cruel alien warmongers?

Alternatively: Superboy the movie but he’s creepy and psychotic and it’s vaguely a methaphor for puberty.

A further case for the notion that the origin story is the least interesting part of a hero/villain fable, particularly when the morality of the protagonist is implied to have been decided for him by his host planet’s programming and no amount of nurture from his adoptive family will sway him back to “good”.

Kinda predictable despite being mostly well executed with some disgustingly visceral horror stuff in there too. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t quite live up to the potential of the premise in any way that something like CHRONICLE hadn’t already managed.