Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Pat Healy
Seen on: 11.4.2021

Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an art critic, always looking for something new and good. But currently, he is rather more occupied with Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works in the gallery run by Rhodora (Rene Russo), hoping to become a successful agent herself, and Morf is deeply in love with her, despite having a boyfriend. When Josephina finds out that a recently deceased tenant in her building was an artist who wanted to have all his art destroyed upon his death, she is convinced that his art is something special. She is not wrong, though she couldn’t have foreseen what kind of special it really is.

Velvet Buzzsaw is visually engaging, and has a great cast who obviously had a lot of fun chewing the scenery in this one. But the metaphor at its heart feels a little flimsy and could have done with a little more work.

The film poster showing a white frame on a white wall with the words Velvet Buzzsaw spraypainted across it, the red paint dripping down and over the frame.
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Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)

Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Oz Rodriguez
Writer: Oz Rodriguez, Blaise Hemingway
Cast: Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, Shea Whigham, Coco Jones, The Kid Mero, Zoe Saldana
Seen on: 9.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Miguel (Jaden Michael) loves the Bronx. So he tries to organize a fundraising event for the local bodega run by Tony (The Kid Mero) that is close to shutting down. It’s not just a bodega, it’s also a safe space for Miguel and his best friends Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III). Part of the bodega’s problems is the gentrification that is slowly but surely reaching the Bronx, pushed forward by Murnau Real Estate. But Miguel soon realizes that there is more to the company – they aren’t just there for the profit, they actually are vampires. So Miguel gathers Luis and Bobby to fight for the Bronx.

Vampires vs. the Bronx is sweet and fun, but it stumbles a little over its own political metaphors and a little too conventional narrative structure. Still, it is a very entertaining romp.

The film poster showing the four main kids as stylized images. Miguel (Jaden Michael) is at the top, clutching a cross and screaming.
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Escape Room (2019)

Escape Room
Director: Adam Robitel
Writer: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen
Seen on: 7.4.2021

Content Note: ableism

Zoey (Taylor Russell), Ben (Logan Miller), Jason (Jay Ellis), Mike (Tyler Labine), Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), and Danny (Nik Dodani) have all received an invitiation to a very special Escape Room – one that promises 10,000 dollars to the winner. It doesn’t take long for them to realize, though, that the game is literally one of life and death.

Escape Room feels pretty uninspired. A tired rehash of pieces we have all seen before, combined with bland characters. I was quickly bored and basically only finished the film out of lethargy.

The film poster showing the players in a cube-like room with several doors. Zoey's (Taylor Russell) can be seen in the background divided in puzzle peaces of which a few are missing.
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The Perfection (2018)

The Perfection
Director: Richard Shepard
Writer: Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard, Nicole Snyder
Cast: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman
Seen on: 20.3.2021

Content Note: rape, child abuse, pedophilia, racism, ableism

Charlotte (Allison Williams) used to be a promising cellist at the Bachoff academy, the famous music school, until she had to quit as a teenager to take care of her ill mother. Quite a few years later now, her mother has finally passed and Charlotte flies to Shanghai where she meets Lizzie (Logan Browning), the school’s new star, and her old mentors Anton (Steven Weber) and Paloma (Alaina Huffman). There is an instant spark between Charlotte and Lizzie and Lizzie invites Charlotte to come with her on a trip through China the next day. That trip proves to be rather more fateful for them than expected.

The Perfection starts off well enough, but then it starts to fall over itself in attempts to be clever that ultimately derail the entire film.

The film poster showing Charlotte (Allison Williams) playing a cello. There is blood on her face and on the cello.
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Final Girl (2015)

Final Girl
Director: Tyler Shields
Writer: Adam Prince
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Alexander Ludwig, Logan Huffman, Cameron Bright, Reece Thompson, Francesca Eastwood, Wes Bentley
Seen on: 5.3.2021

When Veronica (Abigail Breslin) was just a little child, William (Wes Bentley) recruited her after her parents were killed. William’s wife was murderd, too, and he is now looking to train Veronica to take on the murderers of the world. After years of grueling training, Veronica’s time has finally come: she is supposed to take on Jameson (Alexander Ludwig) and his friends who love to hunt young girls for sport.

Final Girl is a very stylized film. That mode could have worked if the story it tells had been a little more primal. Without that appeal, the film falls flat – and the audience with it.

The film poster showing Veronica (Abigail Breslin) in black and white, a red light over her.
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Hush (2016)

Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
Cast: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Samantha Sloyan, Michael Trucco, Emma Graves
Seen on: 4.3.2021

Content Note: ableism

Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a writer who decided to move to a remote area after a bad break-up to finish her book. She befriended her neighbor Sarah (Samantha Sloyan), but other than Sarah and her boyfriend, there is nobody around. Living that alone is made a little more complicated by the fact that Maddie lost both her hearing and her voice due to an infection many years earlier. It’s nothing she can’t cope with – until a masked man (John Gallagher Jr.) shows up on her doorstep, obviously out to kill her. But Maddie is a fighter.

I didn’t do my homework when it comes to Hush – I was just in the mood for something horrory and it was already rather late, so I wanted it to be a short film, and this was the first likely candidate. Had I known that it was a film built on cripping up, I would have skipped it – and I wouldn’t have missed much.

The film poster showing Maddie (Kate Siegel) with scared eyes, behind her a masked man (John Gallagher Jr.). A knofe is glinting between them.
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Inner Demon (2014)

Inner Demon
Director: Ursula Dabrowsky
Writer: Ursula Dabrowsky
Cast: Sarah Jeavons, Kerry Ann Reid, Andreas Sobik, Todd Telford
Seen on: 1.3.2021

Sam (Sarah Jeavons) is babysitting her little sister Maddie when a woman (Kerry Ann Reid) knocks on their door, asking to use the phone. Sam is suspicious, but at this point, it is already too late. Sam wakes a short while later in the trunk of a car driven by Karl (Andreas Sobik). Fearing for herself and for her little sister, Sam starts to fight with everything she has.

Inner Demon does a lot with very little, but after a very strong beginning, it starts to run out of steam a little. Still, it’s not bad.

The film pster showing Sam (Sarah Jeavons) and a fishing hook, arranged as if Sam was the bait.
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Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014)

Thou Wast Mild and Lovely
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker, David Barker
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Sophie Traub, Robert Longstreet, Kristin Slaysman, Matt Orme, Geoff Marslett, Erica McClure, Shelley Delaney, Brooklyn Shuck, Raleigh Shuck, Bennett Alderdice
Seen on: 27.02.2021

Akin (Joe Swanberg) comes to work on the farm of Jeremiah (Robert Longstreet) and his daughter Sarah (Sophie Traub). Jeremiah and Sarah are an odd pair. Jeremiah is always on the verge of insulting and ridiculing Akin, and Sarah seems to be only half in reality. Akin settles in awkwardly, especially since he is hiding that he is actually married. Sarah seems interested in Akin, and Akin starts to be drawn to her as well, but there is a touch of violence to everything.

Thou Wast Mild & Lovely is an unusual film that cultivates a sense of “everything being off” until things really escalate in a suprisingly bloody way in the end. It’s not the easiest thing you can watch, but it is worth thinking about.

the film poster showing a thick carpet of flowers with a pair of lips.
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Die Kinder der Toten [The Children of the Dead] (2019)

Die Kinder der Toten
Director: Kelly Copper, Pavol Liska (aka Nature Theater of Oklahoma)
Writer: Kelly Copper, Pavol Liska
Based on: Elfriede Jelinek‘s novel
Cast: Andrea Maier, Greta Kostka, Klaus Unterrieder, Georg Beyer, Lukas Eigl, Tamara Pregernigg, Renate Stoppacher-Rainer, Jula Zangger
Seen on: 23.4.2019

In the hotel Alpenrose in Styria, everything seems to be alright. Travelers Karin (Andrea Maier) and her mother (Greta Kostka) are enjoying their evening at least. But shortly after Karin dies in an accident. Only she isn’t really dead. And she isn’t the only undead around: when a Nazi widow (Renate Stoppacher-Rainer) starts an underground cinema that shows movies that celebrate the fascist past, it draws zombies to the area.

Die Kinder der Toten is incredibly absurd. While I may not have liked everything about it, I really enjoyed it. And I definitely haven’t seen something as strange in a long time.

The film poster showing the mother (Greta Kostka) leaning over the body of her daughter Karin (Andrea Maier) next to a car wreck. The entire image is in inverted colors.
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The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

The Curse of La Llorona
Director: Michael Chaves
Writer: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Patricia Velasquez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola
Seen on: 17.4.2019

Content Note: racism

After being called to the home of one of her clients, social worker Anna (Linda Cardellini) finds the mother (Patricia Velasquez) in a very anxious state. She has locked her children in a closet and rambles something about hearing the sounds of a crying woman. Anna bringst the children to the hospital, but a short while later they are found drowned in the river. And whatever was after the children in the first place is now coming for Anna’s kids.

I hadn’t planned on seeing La Llorona, but then I had some time to kill and it was playing and I thought, yeah, why the hell not. And it was okay to watch, but if I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it, that would have been perfectly fine, too.

The film poster showing La llorona (Marisol Ramirez) holdin hands with two children at the edge of the lake. Reflected in the lake we can see her screaming and the children floating next to her.
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