“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.
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.
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.