The Dark Below (2017)

It’s kind of a tough situation with “The Dark Below” that I found myself in. Ultimately I appreciated its creativity, its twist on the stalker thriller, and how Douglas Schulze delivered his premise, but in the end “The Dark Below” is only a slightly serviceable thriller. Despite the film being genuinely creative in unfolding its narrative of a woman fighting to survive underwater in the arctic while evading a killer, the movie itself left me lukewarm and generally unengaged. Douglas Schulze banks a lot on audiences being either claustrophobic, terrified of drowning, and terrified of being alive, as the center of the films premise relies on our protagonist being stuck under a frozen lake while being hopelessly outmatched against a killer in the snow. Schulze does switch up the monotony of this kind of genre offering by creating a film that has absolutely no dialogue.

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Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele has effectively fired off the starting gun of what I think will become an landscape of cinema filled with social commentary about the racial climate, and division among a certain kind of people. As with all horror movements, Peele expertly crafts a movie that reflects the racial relations of modern America, and how there is a thin line between acceptance and cultural appropriation and fanaticism. Peele is a man who has devoted most of his career to brutally sharp and funny comedy, and here he delivers what is a darkly comedic but very scary tale about cults, the racial dynamic and what is arguably the next movement in the racial hysteria in the country. “Get Out” derives a lot of uncomfortable laughter from the audience, but it has a lot to say about the extremes of racism, and the sheer horror of pure ignorance and naivete.

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King Kong Lives (1986)

This is the classic love story of a man and a woman falling in lover under weird circumstances. And a pair of apes that also fall in love under odd circumstances. And their heart transplant that bonds them. Okay, so this isn’t a classic love story, but it is the premise for easily the silliest “King Kong” movie ever made. In a movie that was sort of kind of made to be a spoor, but also meant to be taken very seriously, “King Kong Lives” is kind of the movie that killed King Kong until 2005, and proved that this concept was never meant to go beyond the one and done tale of his experience with Fay Wray on the Empire State Building.

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Drifter (2016)

Two brothers on the run come afoul of one group after the other until they reach a seemingly abandoned desert village.  There they meet a young woman who helps them and meet with a family of crazy cannibals. Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory, based on a story by von Hoffman who also directed, Drifter is a film about survival in the desert post apocalypse that shows every character but one as bad people.  The “bad guys”, the cannibalistic family unit, are truly bad, while the brothers come off as being bad people out of necessity and desperation.  Only one character seems mostly good but also a victim of some weird form of Standahl Syndrome.  She’s the one who attempts to help the brothers before things really go to shit for them.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in! Keanu Reeves’ action starring vehicle “John Wick” ended up being one of the best films of 2014, and three years later, we’re granted what is essentially “The Empire Strikes Back” of the John Wick saga. When John Wick went in to retirement, violence found him once and he wrought unholy vengeance one last time. Now that he’s been a few years in exile, living alone with his trusty pit bull, his past has returned once again. Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up at John’s door aware of his mission of vengeance and now plans to take advantage of a decades old blood oath he made to him when he was working as an assassin. Handing him a very sacred reminder called a “marker” with John’s own blood in it, he plans to hold him to his oath, despite John’s protests.

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Deserted (2016)

After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother.  As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert.  After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert.  The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements.  Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert.  The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring.  It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends.  The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such.  The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.

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The Bornless Ones (2017)

No matter what you think of “The Evil Dead,” every indie filmmaker wants to have their own version of the Sam Raimi classic. At this point you could compile a sub-genre out of movies involving cabin in the woods demon movies. There was even an actual remake, foreign wannabes like the charming “Wither,” and yes, even a movie called “Cabin in the Woods.” Director Alexander Babaev really wants us to know that he was inspired by “The Evil Dead” and even works hard to convince us we’re watching a successor–sans the tree rape, of course. “The Evil Dead” still maintains its glossy appeal and inherent terror, while “The Bornless Ones” is merely a fine attempt with some admirable ambition behind it. The cabin in the woods this time preys on the weakness of the characters, exploiting their fears and insecurities, allowing them to possess them.

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Night of Something Strange (2016)

Jonathan Straiton’s “Night of Something Strange” seems to exist only to test the audience’s gag reflexes and nothing more. There is no story, no main character, the narrative is a mess, the pacing is uneven, the zombies that Straiton conceives are so poorly fleshed out, and in the end when Straiton throws out the script to deliver a non-ending, the joke falls flat. To prove how inept the movie is, after the prologue we enter in to the main narrative with character Christine delivering a heaping helping of exposition, narrating the set up for the movie as she writes in her journal. The latter portion of the movie reveals that, no, she’s by no means the central character and final girl. It’s just unfocused badly drawn out dreck that makes the movie such a chore to endure.

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