The Ritual (2017)

The Ritual
Director: David Bruckner
Writer: Joe Barton
Based on: Adam Nevill‘s novel
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid
Seen on: 3.9.2022

Plot:
After their friend Rob (Paul Reid) is killed during a robbery, Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Luke (Rafe Spall), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton) go to Sweden together to go on the hiking trip that Rob suggested just before he died. Despite not being very experienced hikers, everything goes well until Dom falls and twists his ankle. They decide to deviate from the original plan and go through the forest instead of around it. But there is something in the forest. Something that is hunting them.

The Ritual starts off well enough when establishing its characters and their situation. But once it would have been time to really dig in to that, it turns to scariness instead and loses its grip on the story and the audience watching.

The film poster showing the central four walking towards a forest, a car wreck next to them.
Continue reading

Nope (2022)

Nope
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Steven Yeun, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David
Seen on: 12.8.2022

Plot:
Since his father (Keith David) died in a freak accident, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) has been trying to keep their horse farm – with horses trained for movie making – afloat more or less on his own. His sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) taking over the more people-oriented tasks when she can. But OJ has had to sell some horses to their neighbor, Jupe Park (Steven Yeun), former child actor, who now runs a Western village for tourists. When Emerald comes to the farm for a few days, they realize that there is something floating above them, something obviously alien. They are determined to catch it on camera.

With Nope, Peele continues his line of unusual and very political horror movies. Nope is his least scary film, I’d say, and maybe his most messy, but that messiness, and the film in general are always interesting and meaningful.

The film poster showing a cloud trailing a line of little flags, over an illuminated Western village in the middle of nowhere.
Continue reading

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Jeon Jong-seo, Evan Whitten, Kate Hudson, Ed Skrein, Craig Robinson
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Plot:
Mona (Jeon Jong-seo) has been locked away in a psychiatric facility because she has special powers – she can control others with her mind. But now she is finally able to escape and makes her way to the next city, New Orleans. Unused to dealing with the world, she stands out. When she meets stripper Bonnie (Kate Hudson) and Bonnie realizes what she is capable of, she takes her under her wing and together, they start a more or less new life.

So far, I didn’t really like Amirpour’s movies, but I’m happy to say that I very much enjoyed Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon that is a film that is a) not as obsessed with style as her other features and b) doesn’t take itself all that seriously. That means, it’s a film that has room for heart – and that’s just what I like to see.

Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) pressing against the window of a diner.
Continue reading

Upurga (2021) – DNF

Upurga
Director: Ugis Olte
Writer: Ugis Olte, Bojana Babic, Lucas Abrahão
Cast: Igors Selegovskis, Inga Tropa, Reinis Boters, Rihards Sniegs, Elvita Ragovska, Morten Traavik
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5./6.5.2022

Plot:
Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) works in an outdoor store. His sister Eva (Inga Tropa) is an actress who is planning to shoot a commercial with her boyfriend Oskars (Reinis Boters) behind the camera, Matiass (Rihards Sniegs) starring alongside her and Mara (Elvita Ragovska) directing – though everything is supposed to look like Eva and Matiass were alone in the wild. When Andrejs learns that they actually plan to go to Upurga to kayak without any guide, he is appalled – and offers his services. So the five go to the river together. But strange things soon start happening.

Upurga does a good job setting up its mystery and then not such a great job with keeping the tension or unraveling the story. Ultimately, I fell asleep and missed the last third or so, but I can’t say I regret not finishing the film.

The film poster showing an upsode down image of water. In the water we can see a female silhouette. Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) runs along the watershore, upside down as well.
Continue reading

In the Tall Grass (2019)

In the Tall Grass
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Writer: Vincenzo Natali
Based on: Stephen King and Joe Hill‘s novella
Cast: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Rachel Wilson, Harrison Gilbertson
Seen on: 5.1.2022

Plot:
Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) just wanted to take a quick break on their roadtrip when they hear a young boy crying for help in the field next to the road: he lost his way in the tall grass and can’t get back to the road. Becky and Cal head into the field themselves – and find that they can’t get back either. There is something strange going on in the grass.

In the Tall Grass is very notably a King/Hill adaptation. If that’s your thing, you will be well satisfied, though not particularly surprised. It is typical stuff after all. If that’s not your thing, you probably don’t need to try to see whether you like it anyway.

The film poster showing a grass field with a bloody hand stretching up out of it.
Continue reading

Horse Girl (2020)

Horse Girl
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena, Alison Brie
Cast: Alison Brie, Molly Shannon, Debby Ryan, John Reynolds, John Ortiz, Lauren Weedman, Hazel Armenante, Jake Picking, Toby Huss, Robin Tunney, Matthew Gray Gubler
Seen on: 3.11.2021

Content Note: cripping up

Plot:
Sarah (Alison Brie) lives a very quiet life. She works at an arts and craft store with Joan (Molly Shannon) and very much likes crafts herself. She lives with a roommate, Nikki (Debby Ryan), who keeps inviting her to go out a little more, but she rather stays home to watch a supernatural TV show about Agatha (Robin Tunney) and Darren (Matthew Gray Gubler). In her time off, she likes to visit a horse that used to be hers. But Sarah finds herself having strange dreams and zoning out more and more. There is something going on that she just can’t grasp.

Horse Girl is a very well-made film that is serious beneath its soft appearance and its sense of humor. With a fantastic performance by Brie, we get a character study that packs a punch after a soft beginning.

The film poster showing an ultra close-up of Sarah (Alison Brie) .
Continue reading

Lapsis (2020)

Lapsis
Director: Noah Hutton
Writer: Noah Hutton
Cast: Dean Imperial, Madeline Wise, Babe Howard, Ivory Aquino, Dora Madison, James McDaniel, Frank Wood, Arliss Howard
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2021
1-gif-review

Plot:
Ray (Dean Imperial) tries to take care of his brother Jamie (Babe Howard) who suffers from a mysterious illness. Treatments for this illness are expensive and experimental, but Ray is determined to get his brother help. Even if that means having to go cabling – that is, laying miles and miles of cables through the forest on foot, a requirement for the new quantum technology that is taking over the world. Ray is suspicious of the technology and he needs to take an illegal short-cut to start working soon, but in his desperation, he will do anything.

Lapsis is a unique and very entertaining film. I really enjoyed it and its off the beaten path thinking and style.

The film poster showing a big golden cube with various cables potruding from it.
Continue reading

Buster’s Mal Heart (2016)

Buster’s Mal Heart
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Writer: Sarah Adina Smith
Cast: Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil, Sukha Belle Potter, Toby Huss, Lin Shaye, Lily Gladstone
Seen on: 9.9.2021

Plot:
Buster (Rami Malek) has made a name for himself by taking over summer holiday homes during winter. He’s been at it for years and has managed to evade capture so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Before that, he used to be Jonah. Jonah worked as a night receptionist in a hotel, trying to care for his wife Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) and daughter Roxy (Sukha Belle Potter). But the constant night-shifts and the lack of sleep were starting to get to him. To get through the dreary nights, he starts talking to a guest who simply refers to himself as The Last Free Man (DJ Qualls) and believes that The Inversion is coming.

I saw Sarah Adina Smith’s first film The Midnight Swim many years ago, but it’s really one of those films that absolutely stayed with me. So, when I realized that her second film – Buster’s Mal Heart – was available on Netflix, I had to watch it immediately. And while it wasn’t quite as captivating as The Midnight Swim for me, it was absolutely captivating enough.

The film poster showing Buster (Rami Malek), his face distorted as if caught on a crappy videotape.
Continue reading

Reminiscence (2021)

Reminiscence
Director: Lisa Joy
Writer: Lisa Joy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan
Seen on: 31.8.2021

Plot:
In a Miami almost entirely drowned Nick (Hugh Jackman) and his employee Watts (Thandiwe Newton) run a small reminiscence business. Their clients come to relive their memories in the most realistic way possible with them. Everything changes for Nick the day that Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in, hoping to find her lost keys. Nick and Mae become very close – until Mae disappears, leaving Nick scrambling to understand what happened with her, with them. Unable to let go, he digs into her past and uncovers more than he bargained for.

I had not realized going into the film that it was a noir set in the future. If I had, I may have liked it a little better, but fact is, I usually don’t like noirs and Reminiscence reminded me again why that is.

The film poster showing Nick (Hugh Jackman) standing with a gun in his hand, pointed at the floor. Behind him is a half-submerged street with boats and the other main characters are superimposed over the setting orange sun.
Continue reading

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse [The Testament of Dr. Mabuse] (1933)

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse
Director: Fritz Lang
Writer: Thea von Harbou
Based on: Norbert Jacquescharacter
Cast: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Gustav Diessl, Rudolf Schündler, Otto Wernicke, Oscar Beregi Sr., Oskar Höcker, Wera Liessem, Theodor Loos, Karl Meixner
Seen on: 26.7.2021

Plot:
Hofmeister (Karl Meixner) knows that he is on the trail of something big – something that could get him back into the good graces of Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke). There is a man who controls the crime in the city and Hofmeister has discovered his name: Mabuse. Only before he can tell Lohmann all about it, Hofmeister is attacked. And Mabuse is a psychiatric patient under the care of Professor Baum (Oscar Beregi Sr.) with a brilliant criminal mind, but no way to communicate with anyone, much less outside the hospital. Lohmann can’t make heads or tails of this story – but the crimes continue.

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse is a German cinema classic and it’s easy to see why, even apart from its political history. Mabuse is an interesting character – kind of a proto-Joker, I’d say – and the film has very imaginative cinematography.

The film poster showing a drawing of a face within a face.
Continue reading