Netflix sucked me into this by saying it was from the producers of the pretty good Blood Red Sky. What a fool I was.
The impressively titled Old People, directed by Andy Fetscher, follows an extended/split family (split by divorce) coming together to the German countryside (filmed in Poland) to celebrate a wedding in which the outsider is a person of colour who gets maybe two lines total before being savagely murdered by an old white dude.
I’m sure there’s nothing to that subtext. Or the fact that “anyone who breaks up a family is cursed” before someone blames the divorced woman for apparently causing this epidemic of murderous ancients. Or the creepy religious overtones or any of the other weird old-fashioned blobs of sexism that keep raining on the film like the spores in every scene (are spores the new lens flare?).
Last night was another film I’d watched after absorbing the built-up hype around how my viewing experience was supposed to go. And it’s my fault for buying into that, because I think I expected a slightly different film than what I got.
Barbarian, written and directed by Zach Cregger, follows Tess (Georgina Campbell), a young woman who comes to Detroit for a job interview. When she shows up at the Airbnb she’s booked, she’s astonished to find someone else staying there (Bill Skarsgård). This is all I should say about the plot. I’d rather anyone reading this go in as blindly as I did.
I shouldn’t let a year slip by without including at least one classic (read: B&W or silent) horror. But for the life of me I need to watch it during the day – though not for the reason you might think. It’s because the copy that exists (at least on YouTube but presumably it’s among the best) has the sound mixed in such a way that the dialogue is whisper-quiet but the screams are astronomically loud. So, at 2am, I sort of had to watch this like it was a silent film. My fault for showing my friends the brilliant Little Monsters at midnight my time and not having yet seen a fresh film for that night.
The Vampire Bat, directed by Frank R. Strayer, concerns a small European village (populated by Americans with those vintage semi-English Frasier accents) which suffers an attack. The locals become convinced the perpetrator is a vampire since they’ve apparently already had a brush with this before (??), and suspect, naturally, the town’s loner, who also happens to be developmentally challenged, solely because he is a bit weird and thinks that bats are cute. Fuck you, townspeople. That’s all of us! Even post-covid!
Every year I try to fit an anthology film onto my horror-thon, and this year is no different. But I think it might be the best horror anthology I’ve ever watched, for multiple reasons.
Southbound, a series of five segments directed by Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner and Patrick Horvath, all takes place along a spooky stretch of an American highway. I love the short-form format as, since it’s so unpredictable, we’re not wedded to such distinct establishments and journeys of primary and supporting characters. Anything’s possible! It’s also exactly why I think short films can be scarier – the set-ups, the tension and the climaxes are all thrown at you in quick succession so there’s very little room to breathe, and what I think sets this apart from the others is that one segment follows on from the next – and part of the fun involved in watching this movie is wondering how it’s going to make that transition.
I know this is a cult favourite, but I couldn’t get past how overstuffed it was of all of the bad parts of ’80s cliche: casual racism, oversexualising teenagers (I can’t tell if it’s better that they’re clearly played by 40-year-olds so that the actors aren’t underage, or if by having them played by adults it’s normalising sexualising teenagers – who are children, by the way), and obvious, groan-worthy sexism.
Not like the rest of Chopping Mall, ‘directed’ by Jim Wynorksi, is much better. The plot revolves around a group of teenage stereotypes who stay behind at the mall after their jobs close for the day in order to have a pseudo orgy in between gulping terrible lines of dialogue like “fuck the fuschia, it’s Friday”. Unfortunately for them, their Friday night plans are interrupted when a trio of clearly faulty security guard robots start terrorising them.
I’m always wary about movies that deal with mental health issues, especially horror movies. Because, unfortunately, they write themselves into a corner and then cop out by having the main character sacrifice themselves to eliminate the anthropomorphised mental illness – i.e., killing themselves. As someone who has struggles with OCD, anxiety and depression, this is a thoroughly irresponsible message to keep pushing and does a disservice to the stories these films could be telling.
That said, I can’t say either way which route this film takes without spoiling it, but I can say that the journey to get there mostly errs on the side of respect when it comes to things like drug abuse, alcoholism, antidepressant use and general mental health, but I do think that the slightly shallow non-side-taking it does do is too sofly-softly for a story whose emotional hook rests on such delicate, bittersweet and realistic subject matter. Which is a shame.
Anyway, the film When I Consume You, written, directed and photographed by Perry Blackshear, follows a pair of siblings (Libby Ewing and Evan Dumouchel) who work together to fight the sister’s stalker. A fairly simple plot, and it does feel at times that the proceedings just amble from scene to scene in a very one-note way, which actually makes the pace drag a bit despite its brisk 80-odd-minute runtime.
I saw this film after too much hype had passed and it’s my own damn fault. I seem to have a complicated relationship with found footage in that I almost roll my eyes at its cheap tricks – mainly of it being immersive by design (and seemingly effortlessly so, like they’re not even trying, but actually a ton of work goes into that), but then after I watch a found footage movie I end up liking almost all of them because I was both enthralled by the story and genuinely scared by the scares (which hardly ever happens these days).
Host, directed by Rob Savage, garnered mountains of buzz owing to the fact that it was shot during the 2020 covid-19 lockdowns and takes place entirely over a Zoom call. It’s already got the aforementioned immersive nature thanks to it being found footage, but over a year in which everyone and their mum got together over Zoom – for interviews, work, socialising, even Christmas and wedding celebrations – that this makes it that much more terrifying when set against the real-life horror of the early days of the (still awful) global pandemic.
The film follows a group of friends who, possibly out of pure lockdown boredom, conduct a séance with a medium. But, as is usually the case in this genre, something starts to feel a bit off and the group starts to fear that they’re unleashed something malevolent.
[SPOILER about what doesn’t happen in the end – but thereby ruling it out for you – after the jump]
Even a day after I’ve seen it, I can’t tell if I like this film, or if I really recommend this film widely, or what I really thought of this film. So, I guess, a typical Peter Strickland film.
Flux Gourmet, written and directed by Strickland, follows a collective of ‘sonic caterers’ – musicians who extract obscene and extreme sounds from food/cooking/eating – as they take up an artistic residency at an estate. Creative differences, power struggles and infighting commence, all documented by a semi-unwilling writer who is struggling with gastrointestinal problems.
How do I describe a film that has yet to subconsciously worm its way into my future nightmares?
Thirty years in the making, Mad God is a bravura piece of stop-motion-animation filmmaking written, directed and produced by the legendary Phil Tippett (he of Star Wars and Jurassic Park fame). It’s very light on plot but heavy on symbolism, as many experimental films are: a soldier-like figure enters a world of grotesque monsters and their subjugates. That might sound simple enough but the striking, grim, utterly repellent imagery is anything but. Don’t eat while you watch this.