Pet Sematary (2019)

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Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.
This latest adaptation from a work of genius author Stephen King proves to be a missed opportunity. The trailers teased something dark, unpredictable, and memorable, but what we got instead was a terribly written film with poor direction and no attempt to fulfill any promises it sets up. The film has some nice atmosphere building in the start, but ultimately falls into too many horror cliches, like the family moving to a new place for a “fresh start”, and the older, wiser, “exposition dump” character who conveniently knows everything. The marketing not only gave away every surprise there as about the movie, but made me believe this would be a brutal and unsettling horror film. Unfortunately, there are few truly scary moments and every important death happens either off screen or too dramatically to be taken seriously and emotionally. Jason Clarke’s acting never stands out, and he’s an actor who’s unfortunately found himself stuck in the limbo of playing the boring characters in reboots, and like I said, John Lithgow is just there for exposition purposes. There’s also an arc for the female lead which becomes super repetitive and involves unnecessary flashbacks that provide the only possible scares this movie had. There’s also some aspects, like a frightening opening hinting at a cult of some sort or more resurrected animals or people, but this buildup ends up leading nowhere. Pet Sematary ultimately becomes frustrating in its climax and I was happy when it was over. It unfortunately fails to dodge any cliches of the genre and misses out on any emotional response it could have gotten out of its audience, which is disappointing because I had hopes for this one. You’re best off watching the trailer and leaving it there, because the 2-minute teaser was far more entertaining than the actual film was. Let’s hope the King adaptations improve when It: Chapter Two and Doctor Sleep are released in the fall.
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Us

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This horror film follows a family whose summer trip to a beach house is interrupted when a family that looks exactly like them shows up at their door.

Jordan Peele follows up a victory with another one that should be praised for its own reasons. Though it’s a very different film than Peele’s Oscar-wining horror film, Us is an all-out nightmare that will get under your skin like no other mainstream film ever has. Not only is it more frightening than most horror films, but it’s so meticulously crafted and strongly directed by Peele, who make his care for characters and root for them to survive within an instant. From the very first shot of a girl watching television, Peele already plants clues for what’s to come, followed by an opening credits shot that’s simple but will give you chills. He wonderfully builds every shot to contain mystery and intrigue, that will make you never stop guessing what will happen next. He builds shots hide and show certain things and wonderfully makes the doppelganger characters frightening antagonists for the viewer. Lupita Nyong’o delivers two main performances that feel very different but both are spectacular in their own route. She convincingly acts terrified in many instances, but also changes her voice and achieves many feats in numerous scenes tin which she will blow you away. The violence is uncompromising but a blast to watch if you can watch graphic imagery without flinching, as the fight for survival is always thrilling and unpredictable. However, there’s also great moments of comic relief thrown in there, which delivers while still feeling like a full-on horror film. But above all the fright and entertainment, there’s some true shock thrown in, especially towards the end. Peele leaves the message and themes of the film open for discussion, as opposed to more obvious racial commentary in Get Out , while the meaning of Us will be debated for years. Not to mention a plot twist that will go down as an ending for the ages.

Jordan Peele has not let down expectations and is an established horror genius here in Hollywood, promoting true originality and terror in his films. With strong writing and acting, as well as plot devices and themes that can be analyzed for years to come, there’s so much to say about this new horror masterwork that I’d rather not ruin and let you discover for yourself.

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Halloween (2018)

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Forty years after she was attacked by a masked killer, Laurie Strode prepares for the return of Michael Myers so she can end his murderous carnage once and for all.

After several sequels that were poorly received by critics and audiences alike, the most recent film in this slasher franchise retcons all the sequels’s continuities, disregarding them and acting as a direct sequel to the 1978 classic. The movie delivers on the promise of intense sequences elevated by the frightening presence of Myers, and effective tension throughout these horror scenes. The blood and gore is also fittingly strong to amplify the fright of a masked murderer coming after these characters, with some nice cinematography and tracking shots as well. However, even though it’s quite entertaining to watch, most of the jump scares are pretty predictable and a lot of these scenes fall into familiar tropes. Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role and does a terrific job as Laurie, bringing a layered character to the screen in every scene she’s in. The aspect that hasn’t been seen before is the PTSD Laurie faces and how she’s willing to go to far lengths to prepare herself and her family for the inevitable return of her greatest fear. The way Curtis portrays a woman affected by an incident even decades later and how she’s always looking over her shoulder, ready to bravely face the villain of the story is done very strongly. If only the movie focused more on her, as lots of the film cuts to uninteresting side characters that don’t serve a purpose to the main story and aren’t portrayed very well. Sometimes the movie doesn’t stick true to the promise of being the story of Laurie facing Michael one last time and instead focuses more on developing character who do nothing other than fall victim to Michael’s killing spree.  The plot also basically follows the structure of the original and we can tell what the final showdown will be like even before the movie begins. Halloween has plenty of fun scares and effective violence that will entertain horror fans but it borrows too much from the structure of the first film and doesn’t try much that’s new from the overall horror movie formula, and could’ve used more focus on its compelling protagonist.

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Hereditary

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After the death of her mother, Annie Graham must shield her family from the psychological and supernatural demons she believes she’s inherited from her mother.

A24 continues its streak of truly disturbing, frightening, and upsetting movies that redefine the horror genre as we know it. This movie has a layer of terror that no other horror film I’ve seen lately has offered. Not only does it offer scares, but the emotional depth and damage the characters have is the most terrifying part of it because it feels more grounded than what comes later. What’s so disturbing about Hereditary isn’t just the supernatural aspect but also everything that our characters are already put through before, which could be a tragedy on its own. Ari Aster does a terrific job creating suspense and placing the camera in creative angles, without using too many cuts within scenes. He also elevates tension with effective use of music. He writes a nightmarish family drama that escalates into screams, visions, and paranoia in nearly every scene. You can never tell what will happen in the movie, from a scene in the first 30 minutes that’s so unthinkable and disturbing it makes your jaw drop. Toni Collette is not to be ignored in her deep and unsettling performance as a woman dealing with grief and loss, and her character acts somewhat insane at some points, but Collette’s performance is believable enough to be taken seriously and she brings chills down the viewer’s spine in some scenes. There are some truly terrifying sequences that will have your heart racing and some gory imagery, and I should warn you that if you don’t like gore or slower, less conventional horror movies, then you should probably stay away from this one. This movie has strong psychological fright and themes about grief and broken families, but I feel that the ending decided to go more supernatural and I hoped for a more emotional blow that stuck true to the themes rather than the scares, like most A24’s horror movies have done. Other than that, Hereditary will live up to the expectations of those hoping for scares, but it’s also got the depth that fans of the studio will be looking for.

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A Quiet Place

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This apocalyptic horror film focuses on a family who is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. Starring in the main roles are John Krasinski (also the director of the film) as the father of the family, and Emily Blunt (his real-life wife) as the mother. With A Quiet Place, Krasinski not only crafts a great edge-of-your-seat thriller with plenty of scares for wide audiences and horror fans to enjoy, but also makes excellent use of suspense with the sound, directing, and acting. Every noise is made to feel loud enough to pose a threat and surprise us at certain moments, and the sound editors knew very well which sounds they needed to make louder than others and how loud each sound needed to be. The tension is built effectively in every scene, as we get character development with each member of the family while the danger around them quietly builds. Small moments like a lamp falling and breaking or a toy making a sound will frighten you, and whenever it gets too noisy you’ll even start getting stressed just by the thought of what what be about to happen to our characters. None of the intensity feels fake and you’ll definitely be as anxious as the characters in some of the most scary scenes in the film. Krasinski and Blunt are both splendid as the parents; Krasinski’s character clearly showing fright but also leadership of his family through the everyday hours and protecting them with everything he can. His love for his children is the strongest part of the film and his acting is always spot-on. Blunt also can’t be ignored; she’s a fearful and also protective mother who demonstrates pain and terror excellently.

A Quiet Place is not only a great showcase of acting and directing but doesn’t forget to be an entertaining horror flick; you don’t have to worry about this one being too boring or stretched out even though most of the film is in sign language rather than spoken dialogue as the device the family uses to survive against the creatures. The visual images are always conveying of the conflict and emotions the family faces, and we though we never see too much about how the creatures got there or what’s going on in the rest of the world, that’s what makes everything more mysterious. My one problem is the ending, which though I didn’t have something strong against, I feel the ending had a more light and even comedic feel to it, and I hoped it would’ve stopped at a place a little more powerful, like the rest of the film. Otherwise, horror and science fiction fans won’t bed disappointed by this short but noteworthy thriller that won’t fail to keep you thrilled and entertained.

The film poster shows a close-up of Emily Blunt in-character with her hand over her mouth.

Annihilation

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A biologist joins an expedition into a mysterious zone called The Shimmer, full of mutating landscapes and creatures that threaten whatever enters it.

Natalie Portman leads the cast of this ambitious sci-fi feature from Ex Machina director Alex Garland. This corner of the sci-fi genre is one of my favorite types of films because they’re often the most shocking and thought-provoking. i like to watch science fiction movies not just for excitement or satisfaction, but to be surprised and to think about what happened. Ex Machina was a smart cautionary tale about how scary a future with artificial intelligence may become, and Annihilation is much more complicated than just having a single theme like that. However, it’s a good thing that a movie is trying to be more intellectual, although Garland’s refusal to alter the film to make it more pleasing for mainstream viewers cost it its theatrical release overseas, so if you don’t live in North America you’ll only be able to see this on Netflix, which is unfortunate because this movie is a gorgeous theater experience. Portman is exceptionally deep as Lena, who leads a great cast along with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac. The way Portman expresses her feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and agony serve the character very well, and also noteworthy is Isaac as her husband. Annihilation is what people may call classic sci-fi, as it does have the buildup, clues, and mystery until there’s a final twist reveal, but I personally don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these films because of how many questions they can raise and how puzzling they can be but still intrigue (like the bizarre but fascinating Cloverfield franchise). People can draw comparisons to Arrival, and I think that one is a far superior film to this because it doesn’t just talk about the sci-fi concept it introduces but also presents more layered themes about humanity that don’t just belong in science fiction, not that this one doesn’t have any of that. Annihilation definitely has a lot under the surface that I still have yet to discover but I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since I saw it and I remember sitting quite shocked in the theater as the credits rolled. Some of it doesn’t completely add up, including some subplots and details that weren’t fully realized but that doesn’t stop this from being a worthy experience. Don’t go in expecting anything because the story takes many unexpected turns and has some visually marvelous sequences, as well as a spectacular musical score, but though it has a horror scene here and there, don’t expect too many answers right away but a lot is left open-ended for the audiences that aren’t mistaking this for an Alien or Predator-style film.

Annihilation presents marvelous visuals and style, as well as questions that sci-fi fans will love to discuss, with Natalie Portman giving it her all, and though Alex Garland encountered some problems with the international release of this film, he has nothing to apologize for and should continue making smart and unique science fiction like this, because these are really the films we need to remind us how intriguing science fiction cinema can be.

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer

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Steven, a charismatic surgeon, is forced to make an unthinkable decision after his life starts to fall apart, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister.

I’ve seen many movies over the years that dare to do something different, that have an unconventional style or method of storytelling and challenge the mainstream audience in some way, but nothing has compared to the pure insanity that I witnessed watching The Killing of a Sacred Deer. There is no film that you can call similar to this movie, because everything going on in this film is so unprecedented and different than what we’re used to seeing in film. The opening shot alone convinced me how messed up and different this movie would be, and this film is effective in its thrills and scares like no other horror/thriller movie could. There are no jump scares or supernatural threats, most of what is going on would have seemed completely normal if Yorgos Lanthimos had not directed it. He directed probably the most bizarre film I had seen before this one with The Lobster (which got him a screenplay Oscar nomination, and I hope he gets another for this), and his style is notably dark, unsettling, and uncompromising about the worst of humanity. His cinematography is gorgeously in unexpected places and he breaks the rules of how every other director chooses to place their shots. No filmmaker has been quite this daring since Stanley Kubrick, and you can even draw similarities to his work The Shining, with the symmetry and tracking shots that are used. The music is also beautiful and loud and promotes the tension and uncomfortably even further. With The Lobster, Lanthimos was able to create a dark and painful yet funny and satirical dystopian indie, and here he takes all those elements and kick them up a notch to create one of the most horrifying, tragic, and powerful horror movies I’ve ever seen. If you go in expecting a typical horror, thriller, or even an art movie that is slightly challenging, you will be unprepared for the unimaginably gruesome imagery, terrible decisions made by the characters, and the dilemma the main character, portrayed brilliantly by Collin Farrell in a career-best performance, is facing, which is a shocking journey Lanthimos invites you to take.

Despite Farrell’s great acting in the lead role as a rather friendly family man whose past returns to haunt him, the film is stolen by Dunkirk‘s Barry Keoghan, who plays a psychotic teenager named Martin with terrible morals, who makes Colin Farrell’s characters life a living hell. Nicole Kidman is also great as Farrell’s wife, but all the film’s most awkward and horrific moments are thanks to Keoghan. There is a chance that you will dislike this movie, as some even walked out mid-film in disgust, because the humor is dark and odd and the story is so pessimistic yet so thrilling and inviting that I somehow was able to love it. The unorthodox filmmaking and techniques used in the film are used to elevate the feeling of distress, and the fascinating plot and dialogue feel so off yet so intriguing. Lanthimos knows that what makes a good horror movie isn’t showing the audience fantastical creatures such as zombies or ghosts, but by showing the audience the worst that could happen in real life — a character with a Sophie’s Choice-like dilemma, a teenager with a tragic past and a messed up mind , and characters with desires and sexual interests that are so uncomfortable to dive into, which is how it gets so deep under your skin. We feel like these characters could even be someone we could one day know, or these events could be real-life nightmares, and that’s what makes the grotesque content even more elevating in this hideous but poetic thriller. The plot takas es many dark turns that we are constantly invested in — unless you have been grossed out by the film’s disturbing moments and themes too much, that is — leading up to a gut-wrenching climax that had my heart pounding, which results tragically and leads to a magnificent final scene that will have you shocked beyond when the screen cuts to black and the title is shown. A24 is known for releasing films that are very odd and difficult for some audiences to love, but this is on a completely new level of weird and puzzling, and even beats the strongly allegorical, disturbing, and divisive mother! as the most unusual film to be released in a long time.  Many audiences will hate the macabre and sickening violence and the weird and dark humor, and that’s completely understandable, as it’s definitely not for everyone, but I have never been more invested and emotionally attached to a thriller movie in a very long time — a truly eccentric film that refuses to lighten up but I personally loved, with the powerful emotion and uncomfortable horrific feel adding so much to the suspense.

Yorgos Lanthimos has made a film for only the most patient and daring moviegoers, and although some viewers may believe that only a human as sick as the antagonist Martin could enjoy such a movie, but this thriller, that won multiple awards at the Cannes Film Festival in May, is simply groundbreaking and unforgettable — but only in the good way for some, so be cautious, because you may boo out of horror and disgust or cheer in awe and break into applause — both reactions were received by the film at its premiere. I can’t recommend this complex, bizarre, and shocking psychological thriller for everyone, but in my opinion, it’s a masterful film that has resonated with me and stunned me like hardly any other film out there, and hopefully there are many out there who believe the same.

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