After countless attempts to redo their stable of movie monsters for a modern generation, “The Invisible Man” signals that Universal Studios is finally on the right track. Not only do they manage to remold the classic horror movie for a modern generation, but they inject it with immense tension, so many plot twists and a socially relevant message about spousal abuse and the long lasting effects it can have on the victims. Suffice to say, Leigh Whannell’s “The Invisible Man” is a masterpiece of the sub-genre.
“The Boy II” is one of the most inexplicable horror movies released in 2020 so far. The surprise success of the abysmal “The Boy” from 2016 (made cheap, producing big bucks) prompted the studio to make a follow up and franchise. And for some reason the writers and producers decide to completely retcon and reboot the entire mythos and story that was established from the original movie. Rather than stick to their successful formula, the original writer and director come back to reconfigure “The Boy” in to a limp, dull, and incredibly tedious “Annabelle” facsimile. It embraces all of the haunted doll clichés that’s become so common in this sub-genre wholesale, and completely ignores the 2016 horror drama.
By all accounts, Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” should not have been such a stunning success. It’s an original murder mystery with an eye toward paying tribute to Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie, and yet it’s such a brilliant work of cinema through and through. “Knives Out” is a traditionalist murder mystery ensemble piece but one that also evokes modern sensibility without resorting to pandering to a younger audience. You’re either in for the ride with “Knives Out,” or you’re not as it takes its time unfolding what is a sly, slick and fantastic crime thriller that kept me grinning from ear to ear from beginning to end.
There isn’t really an overall narrative or story arc present in Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep,” and that’s the point. There’s really nothing more dramatic meant to be expressed in “Killer of Sheep” beyond the experience of drudgery of poverty, and the inevitability of committing and experiencing crime in the throes of poverty. “Killer of Sheep” is a tightly paced and often compelling urban drama about life in the LA ghettos, and it’s worth the watch as a piece of film history nearly lost to the ages. It’s held up in the face of age, more so than many other classics as its managed to represent overtones and themes that are still relevant today.
Fred Walton returns for what is such a ridiculous sequel to an already abysmal thriller that I’m stunned there was any demand for it. Walton already spent ninety minutes stretching a five minute campfire tale in to a full fledged crime thriller, but this TV movie sequel watches like a ludicrous episode of a mediocre crime series. This is a premise so absurd and void of real tension or suspense. It seems like the writers spent so much time looking for a concept to resuscitate this concept and they fail with a tedious piece of genre claptrap.
Fred Walton’s “When a Stranger Calls” is what happens when you take a quick but creepy, classic urban legend and pad it out in to a dull, tedious “Halloween” knock off that’s more drama than anything else. Where as John Carpenter’s slasher chiller was about babysitters being stalked by a masked maniac, “When a Stranger Calls” attempts a horror thriller centered on an actual depraved maniac and the babysitter that he is inexplicably obsessed with.
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.