Friday, June 15, 2018

2018 Mid-Year Scary Movie Report

We’re at the halfway mark of 2018 and I'm catching up with horror films. There's already been some great and entertaining movies this year with A Quiet PlaceHereditary, Winchester, and Ghost Stories but there's so many other films released via video-on-demand and streaming services. Here's my thoughts on a few of those.


Mom and Dad
Nicolas Cage's over-the-top lunacy is finally utilized appropriately in Mom and Dad and even gives this film a chaotic charm. The unspeakable concept that parents want to kill their kids is unique and shamefully entertaining, but it quickly runs out of steam. With no third act, it feels like the filmmakers couldn’t or didn’t care to figure out an ending, ultimately making this a real disappointment. D



The Ritual
A group of men go into the woods to rekindle their bond after a tragedy separated them. Unfortunately stumble into a surreal nightmare to test them as humans. The dread builds and the moody atmosphere and darkness swallows the scenes in near darkness. But if monsters are real, can they ever be escaped? As Netflix acquisitions go, this is one of the years best for the genre. A



The Cloverfield Paradox
The follow-up to the brilliant 10 Cloverfield Lane is entertaining with some crazy metaphysical horror but an ultimately overwrought entry into the series. It’s a bit of a brain twister as it acts as both a distant sequel and prequel to the first Cloverfield. Unfortunately, it was revealed that the movie was initially called The God Particle and had nothing to do with the series until a few scenes were added in. So that’s why everything feels disjointed! D



Pyewacket
This coming of age film deals with a young girl mad at the world. After a break up, her mother moves them to a remote cabin home deep in the woods, to be as far away from their old lives as possible. In a moment of desperation, the teenager does a dumb thing and thus starts a frightening descent into darkness. The film is shot with almost documentary feel and the horrors that await in the woods are well-staged. It’s a good film that deserves to be watched. B



VerĂ³nica
This coming of age yarn from Spain has a teen raising her three siblings while her mother works round the clock. During an eclipse, a ouija board session goes awry and thus the demonic shenanigans ensue. There’s some effectively staged horror scenes, a creepy blind nun, and a committed cast of children. While not revolutionary, it’s a solid and scary film that gives the audience exactly what it wants. The bonus during the credits drives this home in a very real way. B



Killing of a Sacred Deer
The apparent domestic bliss of Dr. Murphy (Colin Farrell) and his wife (Nicole Kidman) is tested when a young man, the son of a patient who died under the doctor’s care becomes a nuisance in their lives. The unsettling film appears aimless but slowly reveals a perplexing scenario that builds into abject horror. The viewer is forced to interpret much of what happens which can be infuriating but it leaves a lasting impression. B-



Insidious: The Last Key
In this immediate prequel to the first Insidious film, Elise (Lin Shaye) travels back to her childhood home to confront the demon that set her on her path to ghost busting. This one has a lot of jump scares and a so-so story that all feels to insignificant and repetitive (once more into the further!) but the marvelous Lin Shaye, who deserves better, makes it worth the time. C




Annihilation
This sci-fi mind bender spent a couple weeks in theaters and then vanished. It's a fantastic, colorful sci-fi film, falling somewhere between Arrival and Under the Skin. A group of scientists headed by a somber Natalie Portman head into an mysterious anomaly occurring on the far west coast of Florida. It's a terrifying trip with definite horror beats that reminded me of Alien but on Earth. The last third of the movie is so mind boggling that it can only be experienced and not necessarily understood. A



Marrowbone
From the screenwriter of The Orphanage comes this very artful family drama about four siblings to hide their mother’s passing to stay together as a family. It’s almost a fascinating character piece thats long on the drama and very short on the horror with an excellent cast led by George MacKay and Anya Taylor-Joy. But it’s also very underdeveloped while being tediously long, making the central mystery not as effective as it could have been. C



Black Hollow Cage
With an interesting premise, stylish cinematography, and modern setting, this futuristic  film about a father and daughter and mysterious cube that can bend time sounds great on paper. Unfortunately the script is absolutely atrocious, the acting amateurish, the pace is languid, and the cinematic style is a Lars von Trier knockoff (the film is even divided into chapters). It’s a thoroughly pretentious, silly bore. The Spanish movie Timecrimes did this so much better. F



The Cleanse
Imagine if you could drink four glasses of murky juice and purge all your negativity down the drain. The Cleanse is an icky-whimsical horror dramedy starring Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) and the incomparable Anjelica Huston. The concept is strong but fails to follow through with a supportive narrative or significant character development. However I did appreciate the extensive practical effects and the bittersweet tone that serves as a cautionary fairy tale: be careful of the monsters you try to confront. B




Still/Born
Having a baby can be brutal and this movie makes sure to give all first-time mothers serious jitters. While I found the story uninspired, the execution at times rises above it's B-movie schlock thanks to some better than usual performances and solid production. However holding it all together is a rather murky paranormal through-line that never quite gels to be truly scary. I thought of a several different ways it go but always followed the expected path. Just one surprise would have been great. C–



Still on my 2018 mid-year horror queue are The Endless, Upgrade, Ravenous, Terrifier, Wildling, Unsane, Caught, Us and Them, The Lodgers, and Demon House.

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