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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Mother!

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Mother! is a film in which a happy couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) living in a house surrounded by woods, are met by uninvited guests in their house, which leads to chaos and turmoil in the house.

If you expect a horror film or a thriller from this, you’ll be let down because this film is much more than that. You can’t put this movie in one genre, it starts as a psychological thriller, with the tension that builds up continuing to intrigue and confuse as you wonder, just like Jennifer Lawrence’s protagonist, what could possibly be happening. Lawrence is absolutely brilliant in the film, showing plenty of emotion and vulnerability as an innocent woman going through a nightmare. She was perfectly casted in the role, and so was Bardem as her character’s charming but complex husband, and Michelle Pfieffer, Ed Harris, and a few other well known stars are good as well. The cinematography is shot on a rare 16mm format which is very appreciable as it’s rare to see movies not shot on film nowadays, and the movie is always either shot from Lawrence’s perspective or with her in the frame. I liked the creative technical style of the film, which also includes the use of zero music throughout the entire runtime, helping establish more intensity. There is lots of imagery that’s never quite explained or revealed and the movie becomes more mysterious and you can’t wait until everything is explained. There is a lot that audiences may enjoy, and then the film switches things up and goes insane during the final act. This last act is the reason many audiences have criticized and polarized the movie. Many have hated it for the disturbing content it displays in the climax, and the allegorical narrative it offers. The ending is quite ambiguous and does betray the genre of the rest of the film, but it’s fascinating how weird it is and how differently everyone can interpret it. I expected an ending that would stay true to what the first two acts offered, and some stuff did bother me on how confusing it turned out to be, but director Darren Aronofsky had an interesting vision and strong passion to make this, and it’s getting people to talk about it. I overall liked the film and appreciate how daring and different it is, but it’s definitely not for everyone, as it’s metaphorical themes and gory content will frustrate many.

Mother! is the weirdest, craziest, most different and least mainstream movie I’ve seen this year. Many have loved it and many have hated it, and I can’t recommend it to everyone because many will be disturbed and disappointed, but the acting, directing, cinematography, tension, and ambiguity make this an insane yet special film to be released in 2017, with many different meanings that it could potentially posses.

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It Comes at Night

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It Comes at Night is a film you should go into knowing as little as possible, so I’m sorry but I can’t discuss the plot. It’s such a divisive film that you can’t go in with a single expectation. It’s the kind of film that challenges all audiences with its horrifying imagery, intense and surreal filmmaking, and it’s ambiguity. It’s being marketed as a horror film but it’s hard to fit it in a genre. It’s definitely not a horror film, it’s a psychological thriller more than anything. It’s a film about fear, hopelessness, darkness, sadness, and paranoia, but it’s also a film about love, family, and protecting what you love. This makes for such a powerful and unique story piled into an hour and a half of pure terror and suspense. The title does not suggest a supernatural threat yet a mysterious psychological threat that is never really revealed. The acting from the five main actors, Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Riley Keough, is an a higher league than any of the film performances delivered this year. Each of their character’s lines and physical reactions are incredibly realistic and brilliantly scripted. Edgerton especially brings depth to a protective and strict but loving father and husband who will protect his family at any cost. Harrison is also especially talented, with his performance as Edgerton’s character’s son being outstandingly fascinating with plenty of believable emotion.

Director Trey Edward Shults knows how not only to use dialogue and actions to the story’s advantage, but also using slow camera movements and cuts to create tension. He makes every shot last long and advance slowly, and every shot feels so crisp and edited so well. Shults also loves experimenting with the film’s aspect ratio, making it smaller as the tension increases during certain scenes. It’s cool in the first few times this is done, but during the climax, the smaller aspect ratio was distracted from the terrific acting and writing in that scene, which were made harder to appreciate during that scene because of that editing choice. We’re often given shots that may or may not represent dream sequences, and you’re left to think about whether those shots were dreams or really happening. Despite how pessimistic, dark, and saddening the film may seem, it’s also somewhat about the love of family. All the characters aren’t without their family, and they all care about nothing more than their family. When a character makes a horrific decision, you can somewhat understand what their motives were because of how fleshed out all these characters are. This is a film about how fear and paranoia can be the true villain and can dominate over us sometimes. The final shot is deep, moving, quiet, powerful, and extremely haunting at the same time. Lots of it is left unanswered to be ambiguous and left for the audience to think about, which is what has made this film receive backlash from audiences. Audiences have been unsatisfied with the film’s ending, which I will not spoil in this review. It Comes at Night is so different than what we usually see in theaters, and people just want to watch the same robots, monsters, superheroes, and ghosts over and over again. This is a film that does something unique: It leaves you with zero exposition in the beginning, and almost no explanation of how the film ended. The lack of exposition did not bother me at all, as it is easy to assume what is out there and what conflict the main characters are facing, but we are never told why they are alone and what is making everyone sick. Giving us only the same amount of information as the characters is such a clever choice that builds even more fear throughout the film’s runtime. The choice to make everything in the end ambiguous has mostly been criticized about the film, but I think that the way lots of things are left for interpretation at the end is just far more haunting and majestic than if everything was answered in the end. The film is not treated like a movie, with a regular formula and closure in the end, but another chapter in the main family’s life, and a reflection of the real demons inside us, not paranormal demons like many would expect from a film like this. This movie is being loved by critics but panned by audiences, and has only made $6 million dollars at the box office. Please don’t let It Comes at Night be a failure, and go see it in theaters. It’s so much better than any superheroes, pirates, mummies, aliens, talking cars, comedies, or biopics out there right now.

It Comes at Night is by far the best film of the year. It’s dark, violent, chilling, and unsettling, but it’s more beautifully made and incredibly acted than any other movie this year. Audiences have been divided by its misleading marketing and title, as well as its ambiguous ending. But I promise you, It Comes at Night is a masterful work of art worth paying for. Whether or not I’m worth trusting is up to you, but I implore you, before you judge the film based on any trailers or reviews, go see it for yourself.

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Alien: Covenant

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After Ridley Scott tried to revive his franchise with a prequel series that started in 2012 with Prometheus, which was a huge disappointment, Scott redeems his franchise with this follow-up to Prometheus. The plot is similar to the other Alien films, with a crew of a spaceship traveling to an uncharted planet and then getting attacked by extraterrestrial life forms. However, this time, the characters are all developed well and Scott actaully gets you to care about them. I didn’t really care much about the characters in Prometheus, but here you actually are interested in them, and things like love and loss in these characters’ lives are handled well. Michael Fassbender reprises his role from the previous installment as David, and he also plays a new character named Walter, both of which are androids. Fassbender has never failed to impress me, and here he delivers such an impressive performance and he lives up to the responsibility of having to take on two roles. Katherine Waterson is also a great protagonist, and her emotion actually helps carry the film well. The ensemble supporting cast is also great, especially Danny McBride as the wise-cracking pilot of the Covenant.

The first act of this film builds up the conflict very well, from the opening scene which begins the story in an unexpected manner. When the intensity begins, I found myself thrilled during the very gruesome and bloody scenes of aliens breaking through bodies and chasing the human protagonists. The sequences are shot very well, and the CGI effects used to create aliens, planets, and spaceships are beautiful. The movie carries on some of the questions raised in Prometheus about life and existence, but this time the script actually makes you think about what the characters are talking about, and this helps the character arcs of David and Walter be even more compelling. There are also some twists that surprised me and made the film much more exciting. Scott inserts some of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the original 1979 Alien which started it all, and tries to keep the feel of a ’70s science ficiton horror film in there, but it’s easy to notice that this film still follows the formula that Alien and Aliens established, and it’s easy to eventually get tired of seeing the same things so many times. However, the intense final act leading to a dark and unexpected ending promises that the next film will step away from that formula, and hopefully be just as great as this one.

Alien: Covenant is far from the franchise’s best but it uses what has made the saga great before to put it and Scott’s career back on a great track. The cast and writers try hard here, and their work definitely pays off and this disturbing and horrifying yet tense and exciting sci-fi horror film that will definitely amuse fans, as well as plot twists that will surprise many viewers. If you’re a teen or older, I’d suggest you help this film at the box office and give it a watch.

A black-and-white poster of a mass of people being surrounded/tortured by the aliens, not unlike the Renaissance depictions of Hell, with one alien at the center highlighted by a shaft of light from the upper-left.

Get Out

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Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is an African-American who visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate, but things start to slowly unravel and nothing is as peaceful as it seems.

Get Out is easily one of the smartest, most intense, and most surprising thrillers I’ve seen in theaters, and it’s even more shocking that its director is comedian Jordan Peele of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, and that this is his first time ever directing a movie. He creates such a mysterious and creepy environment in the film’s first hour and everything advances and is developed so well. Not only is everything very thrilling but the message he has to say about modern-day race relations is done so well with very over-the-top satirical humor and some that is mild as well.  The themes in the film about race aren’t preached or told to you but rather through interactions and reactions of the characters in the film, and it feels like something some audiences could even relate to. When the horrifying truth of what’s been going on throughout the film is finally revealed, everything makes sense and it ends in a suspenseful carnage of blood and surprises. Daniel Kaluuya shows such wonderful talent in every scene, and his character feels very realistic and in no way overdone like most filmmakers would make a protagonist like him behave. Allison WIlliams is also very well-cast and her performance is too great to spoil. However, the best of the cast is obviously Lil Rel Howery. He has about five or six scenes, and there wasn’t a single one that didn’t leave me cracking up. His dialogue is so hilarious and he knows how to bring terrific comic relief to a film. I didn’t think the 2017 film that truly defines what a Hollywood movie should be would be the directorial debut of a comedian or a horror film, but Get Out is widely distributed Hollywood at its greatest. The trailers misled me to think it was something cliche and uninspired, but what I stepped into truly blew me away. Peele makes it so original, engaging, and unforgettable, with sequences, twists, and shocks that are better than most of what you see nowadays being advertised on billboards and television. Get Out is not only brutal and thrilling but it also gives you an important and honest look at America today. Whether or not you like to be thrilled, entertained, or cracking up at the movies, I think every film lover and person should see Get Out. It’s the most acclaimed and essential film of the year so far and it’s an experience you won’t forget.

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Frankenweenie

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Frankenweenie is the first 3D animated black and white film, and it is directed by Tim Burton. It is a parody of the 1931 film Frankenstein, which is based on Mary Shelley’s book of the same name. It is also a remake of Tim Burton’s own 1984 short film, also titled Frankenweenie. Burton offered it to Disney, but they thought it was too strange. How ironic it is that 30 years later they asked him to make it into a feature film!

This film is about a boy named Victor Frankenstein, who’s best friend is his dog, Sparky. His parents want him to make friends with the neighbors, but Victor has no interest in making friends with the kids who live nearby, who include Nassor, a weird kid with a flat head inspired by Frankenstein’s monster, Edgar, a deformed, igor-like kid, Bob, an obese kid, Toshiaki, a Japanese classmate of Victor’s, and a weird, unnamed girl, who owns a cat named Mr. Whiskers. The only kid who really cares for Victor is Elsa, his next-door neighbor and the mayor’s niece, who owns a dog named Persephone. One day Sparky is killed by a car while pursuing a ball, and Victor is heartbroken. Persephone and Elsa are miserable, too. But one day in school Victor learns that the muscles of a dead frog still react to electricity. Victor tries this experiment on Sparky, which succeeds and Victor is really happy. But when Victor’s classmates find out, they plan to win the science fair using Victor’s creation, and they create monsters of their own, including a mummy hamster, a were-rat, a Gamera-like monster turtle, sea monkeys, and worst of all… a vampire cat!

This movie would be way too scary for kids younger than my age (10), but some parts are not as scary as others. This movie was OK, but not as good as Hotel Transylvania. I heard that Tim Burton was inspired to make this movie from his experience of losing his own dog when he was a child, and now, after watching this movie, I know how he felt when he lost his dog.

Also, here is the trailer of the movie.