It’s no secret that I adore Jordan Peele’s debut horror feature, Get Out. Needless to say, it’s a film I immediately fell in love with due to its intricate details, stellar performances, and perfectly paced narrative. It went on to be my favorite film of 2017, and I would definitively declare it as being one of the decade’s absolute best films. Having watched it yet again just last month, I’m astounded at the fact that Get Out remains as impressive as ever, and I have been counting down the days until we would get to see what Peele had in store for us with his next film.
Finally, that wait is over. After two long years, Peele is again gracing cinema marquees with his highly anticipated follow-up, Us. I’m going to be up front here: Us is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. However, despite some glaring misgivings I have toward this sophomoric effort, Us is definitely worth seeing. It is, in the end, an extremely well-made and oftentimes very enjoyable horror flick. However, Us is also nowhere close to being as essential as Get Out was. But it should come as no surprise that Peele’s newest work again highlights remarkable acting and gorgeous cinematography, and is based upon yet another inventive, terrifying scenario that’s sure to not only get your blood pumping, but also stimulate your mind in the process.
At the center of Us is a family of four, the Wilsons, which includes mother Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), father Gabe (Winston Duke), teenage daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and young son Jason (Evan Alex). We join them as they’re pulling up to their comfortable beach house for a summer getaway in Adelaide’s childhood home in Santa Cruz, and we’re allowed some valuable time upfront in order to better align ourselves with these characters and appreciate their relationships with one another. These early moments are breezy, funny, and memorable, as Peele makes it easy to become attached to his likable cast of characters.
The glorious 90s HBO horror anthology series, Tales from the Crypt, is a show I hold dear to my heart, so much so that I previously wrote eight extensive pieces about it in the summer of 2015 chronicling each of its seven seasons. And yet, I’ll be the first to admit that Tales from the Crypt is a flawed bit of nostalgia, with nearly as many poor episodes as there were great ones, and plenty of middling entries filling out the 93-episode order. At its highest points, however, the Crypt Keeper’s tales of the macabre remain as spectacular as ever, with some remarkable filmmakers teaming with excellent ensembles and delivering a decent number of short and sweet genre masterpieces. Only one installment — the Robert Zemeckis-helmed “Yellow” — reached above a 30-minute runtime, but was still less than half of the length of a standard feature film. In 1995, though, near the end of the series’ initial run, Tales from the Crypt would finally traverse out of the world of premium television and onto the silver screen with the criminally underappreciated horror-comedy cult classic, Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight.
Originally surfacing in 1987 (two years before the debut of the HBO series), the screenplay for Demon Knight would face multiple failed attempts at adaptation into a full production — that is, until Tales from the Crypt producer Joel Silver got a hold of it. While nearly all of Tales from the Crypt’s episodes were based on the EC Comics stories of the 1950s, Demon Knight was a wholly original script, allowing the film to be its own being while still retaining all of the fan-favorite staples that had become expected from something bearing the Tales from the Crypt moniker. A relatively unknown yet nevertheless notable director, Ernest Dickerson, commands an unlikely grouping of 90s stars and instantly recognizable character actors, including William Sadler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Dick Miller. The true star of the film, however, is actually its antagonist. The “Collector,” played by a truly awe-inspiring Billy Zane, is a demonic being sent by the Devil in order to collect an ancient artifact that can be utilized in order to unleash Hell on Earth.
For my final review of October, Takashi Miike’s Audition (1999) is going “under the knife” to receive a proper dissection — this dissection being necessary to finalize our horror timeline, and to bring the intent to fruition. Audition is another psychological horror (akin to my previous review for Jacob’s Ladder), but with elements of a thriller and “sadistic horror.” The “sadistic horror” elements being the film’s most influential and most “revered” moments, although, they only occur in the latter half of the film.
In comparison to the other film’s I’ve written about this month, Audition‘s filmic elements are more subdued. The film emphasizes climactic horror, with a build-up in narrative that is far from anything else in the horror genre. In addition, this build-up is slow-paced with an atmosphere heavily dependent on the sets and the somber score, showing a difference of extremity between the first and second halves (romantic half/horror half). These two halves have versatility, having the ability to stand alone as separate entities and, I would argue, as separate films.
I believe this type of horror film is an embodiment of a Venn diagram, in my mind, with the “halves” being one of most obvious contrasts within the film. Even so, I believe the Japanese film poster is indicating such, with the wire being in the shape of one and having Shigeharu Aoyama placed on one side of it.
I dare you to try and find a film more bizarre than Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 haunted-house horror-comedy — and adequately titled Japanese production — House. While the synopsis of the plot is rather straightforward, what transpires in this absolutely bonkers 88-minute roller coaster of gores and goofs is anything but ordinary, and barely even comprehensible. However, this is what makes House such a one-of-a-kind experience that deserves to be seen and (hopefully) adored by a larger audience. Merely describing the overview of House does it no favors, nor would it necessarily make you want to watch it. It’s a fairly simple set-up, after all. What makes House so watchable, so unique, and ultimately so great, is its unbelievably kooky execution and intentional surrealism.
I truly have never seen a film as weird as this one.
When you’ve seen as many horror films as I have, and have been a fan of the macabre genre since a young child, then you can find yourself often hard-pressed in discovering new films that actually affect you; films that dare you to watch even when the happenings on screen force you to look away in disgust and terror. Raw, from French writer-director Julia Ducournau, is one of these films. Raw is the hardest horror film I’ve watched in years, leaving in its wake a bad, bad taste in my mouth (and certainly its main character’s mouth as well), but one very much worth enduring.
Raw centers around Justine (Garance Mallinier), a bright teenager starting her freshman year at a prestigious French veterinary school. She’s following in the footsteps of her parents, who originally met at the school, as well as her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who simultaneously attends the school. Justine stands out among her new peers because she, alongside her entire family, practices vegetarianism, and she’s been strictly taught her entire life to absolutely never consume meat.
Raw, creepy, and thought-provoking: The Babadook is designed to give the viewer an inside perspective on what depression feels and looks like, and it succeeds. In The Babadook, there is no romanticizing this disease, which is cleverly disguised as Mister Babadook. Jennifer Kent’s first feature-length film was not wasted with this incredible picture. Beautiful cinematography and allegorical expression are used brilliantly to cover a subject that is sometimes kept in the basement, under lock and key.
We are introduced to Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), and instantaneously, due to the superb misè-en-scene, it is painfully obvious that this is a tense household. The feelings that are presented through the use of these elements give such believable verisimilitude that it is hard not to imagine yourself in Amelia’s situation.
Recently, we featured reviews from two students on the 2009 film The House of the Devil. Below is another perspective on the same film, written by Jet Fuel Review Managing Editor Sam Gennett.
For film fans who are nostalgic for the ‘80s but are tired of re-watching Halloween to get their retro-horror fill, Ti West’s The House of the Devil (2009) is a refreshing rejuvenation of late ‘70s and early ‘80s horror. Shot on 16 mm film, this movie seems to have been teleported from the ‘80s into the 21st century. With the grainy film look, dim cinematography, and use of Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart,” West brings viewers back to the good ol’ days of flannel, indoor ashtrays, and Satan worship.
Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), desperate for money, takes a babysitting job, but didn’t we all learn what happens when you babysit after watching Elizabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting (1987)? Clearly, Samantha missed that film because she coerces her friend into driving her to a house in the middle of nowhere. They pass a cemetery on their way there, and the shot is briefly superimposed over the establishing shot of the house, effectively foreshadowing events to come.Continue reading →
James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither) is one of the premiere screenwriters working in Hollywood today, but his near-spotless track record doesn’t save the latest film credited with his writing, The Belko Experiment, from disappointing mediocrity. It’s too bad, as the premise alone should have made for an exciting moviegoing experience, but the self-seriousness, uninspired filmmaking, and extremely underwhelming ending results in a messy, unrewarding watch.
The poster for the The Belko Experiment cites it as a sort of “Office Space meets Battle Royale,” but the comparison to Office Space starts and ends with the fact that it’s set inside an office building, and it’s only like Battle Royale in that it’s central idea revolves around a group of people who are forced to murder each other. Unfortunately, The Belko Experiment isn’t nearly as hilarious as Office Space, nor as exciting as Battle Royale.
Over the following weeks, I will be reviewing the three films directed by Jeremy Saulnier, a particularly exciting young filmmaker who has been garnering a lot of traction these past few years. Perhaps not so well known to mass audiences, but definitely in the view of more niche horror/indie film corners of the spectrum, Jeremy Saulnier is a young writer-director best known for his critically acclaimed 2013 revenge-thriller Blue Ruin.
After seeing his latest release, Green Room, I went back and watched his previous films, and will be reviewing them in chronological order of release.
And so, Murder Party:
Murder Party is an 80-minute comedy-horror film from 2007 by a first-time director, created with virtually no budget, and featuring a cast of amateur actors. Admittedly, it doesn’t seem to have much going for it knowing that, but Saulnier and Co. actually work to create a humorous, lean, and unique horror film that is unlike any I’ve seen before.
So, did you take the last week to watch the six horror films I suggested in my previous post? Whatever the case may be, I have an eclectic list of seven more quality horror films that you can find streaming on Netflix to help you celebrate the Halloween season.
First up is a 1985 film that is depressingly the last great film that zombie king George A. Romero would write and direct, and it’s also just a criminally underrated zombie movie. I’m of course talking about the third in the “Dead” series — Day of the Dead. Romero had his work cut out for him following up Night of the Living Dead, but somehow he was able to craft an even better zombie flick with the 1978 original Dawn of the Dead (personally, my favorite horror film ever made). Romero came back to zombies in 1985 and successfully ended the original “Dead” trilogy on a high note.
Day of the Dead takes place deep into the zombie apocalypse, perhaps years after the initial outbreak. The story follows a group of soldiers and scientists who have been posted at an underground facility to survive and perhaps find a reasoning behind the incident and a solution. Day of the Dead focuses more on the human versus human aspect of this situation, as was previously seen in the first two “Dead” films. But this one is unique in that it highlights and introduces the notion that the zombies could perhaps “learn,” making for some cool and unique scenes. Horror effects master Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th) came back to do the zombie effects for Day of the Dead (along with The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, who worked under Savini), and I almost feel like this movie is worth a watch just to see the incredible effects work displayed here. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead or zombie movies in general, then this is a must watch.