After some um—rather interesting internet ballyhoo, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is finally brought to the big screen in what is a shockingly good adaptation. Although I’d argue that the “video game movie curse” ended in 2018 (ahem–“Tomb Raider”), “Sonic the Hedgehog” does open the door for more, higher quality video game movies down the road. While I’d be hard pressed to say that “Sonic” re-invents the wheel, it also dodges a lot of video game movie pitfalls by side stepping cloying pop culture references, and paying homage to the source material.
Director Jeff Wadlow’s (“Truth or Dare”) big screen adaptation “Fantasy Island” is a mess of a genre picture that easily one of the most tonally confused movies I’ve seen in years. Its prologue sets it up as a horror movie, then it becomes a goofy comedy about wish fulfillment, then it’s a character study about a son reconnecting with his father, the next minute it’s a torture revenge thriller, and the next it’s a movie about looking back at what could have been. None of it is remotely creepy, none of it is remotely spooky, and to top it all off, it’s all so painfully boring from beginning to end.
In 1981, every single studio in the world were looking for their own horror movie success story. Slasher movies were cheaply made, garnered a lot of money, and was often used as a means of getting a tax break or two. Canada entered the arena of holiday oriented cheaply made slasher films with “My Bloody Valentine.” Although it’s often ignored when spoken in the same breath as “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” it’s easily one of the best, most unnerving slashers ever made, and one that even garners a brutally underrated remake, to boot.
Megan Riakos’s anthology “Dark Whispers” touts itself as a horror film with tales directed solely by women. The last film “XX” that explored the concept was a swing a miss, so I had my doubts this time. Thankfully “Dark Whispers, Volume 1” is a very good anthology with some outstanding horror shorts that often feels episodic like “Vault of Horror” and “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.” The gallery of female filmmakers on display here are all sharp storytellers, and bring something new and unique to the table that frighten while also evoking genuine emotions every now and then.
Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s “Swallow” is one of the most bizarre but important dramatic thrillers of the year. It’s a movie about important ideas involving self mutilation, the expectations of women in modern society and how one horrible act can change the way that we live our lives. I was originally drawn to “Swallow” because of the titillating trailer featuring Haley Bennett, but “Swallow” is so much more than an endurance test for our gag reflexes. It’s a very complex and often times heartbreaking look at a woman dealing with the pressures of life and her imperfections in unusual methods.
If you were a witness to Bong Joon Ho’s historic victory at the Oscars this year, as he was the first to ever win Best Director, Best International Film, and Best Picture all in one night, this was a long time coming. Bong Joon Ho has managed to deliver so many cinematic gems over the last twenty years, including the painfully overlooked science fiction epic “Snowpiercer,” and 2006’s utterly fantastic “The Host (Gwoemul).” Joon-Ho’s 2006 science fiction epic is a masterpiece of monster cinema that’s intelligent, innovative, and reaches down to the basic core of family unity to propel its story beyond science fiction conventions.
This year we were once again lucky enough to cover the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, and though we came on a bit late, we were able to catch a shorts film block from the festival as well as some features! This year the shorts block was solid, and I took on the #MeToo shorts block. This list of short films covers the topics of sexual assault, rape, toxic masculinity the like.
The gallery of genre entries was great once again and I loved the substance these directors brought to film.
It’s hard to talk about “The Lodge” without giving away too much, but it manages to be more of a haunting drama in the end, than a horror movie about the supernatural. What Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz do is examine the horrors of pure grief and how it can unravel us mentally, and keep us always on the brink of breaking and submitting to pure disturbing madness. “The Lodge” is sure to keep audiences talking, mainly for its incredibly beautiful production design, and absolutely meticulous direction that will draw parallels to “Hereditary.”