New Scary Movies

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Five women from horror films

Spooky season is here and we are ready to serve up some serious horror selections from the past few years. These new films have been reviewed by two of our librarians, Assh and Cameron, to decide whether they are worth a watch. 

A Quiet Place Part II

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A Quiet Place Part II movie poster

A: I had the great luck to catch this in theaters and I have to say that it definitely lived up to my expectations in terms of scares and tension. The original A Quiet Place was a fairly unique premise, hinging on the fact that in order to survive you had to stay completely silent or else you would risk certain death and this one holds no punches in terms of terror. It helps that this one expands the universe and does a bit of world-building, exploring the trauma of loss and how some react through the eyes of one of their close friends before the invasion. I will ding it for continuing the dead parent trope though because the jump scare from that was fairly predictable and trite. It does leave me wanting more though, and thankfully the ending delivers on that.

Rating: 4/5 Skulls

C: I wasn't as big of a fan of this one as you, Assh. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is scary. The dread is unrelenting and the monsters are terrifying (that xenomorph style of monster must tap into some primal fear.) But, having re-watched the original movie in preparation for this, I was reminded of some of the things that I loved about it, that were missing in the sequel. The first one dropped you into that world without explanation, confident you would keep up. The monsters were ruthless and the story was, too, brutally dispatching characters. The narrative was tight, mostly concerned with surviving one bad day, when the slightest misstep means death to everyone.

The sequel just felt a little looser and tamer. This one is more of a road movie, they’re trying to get somewhere to fulfill the mission and we’ll meet some friends and foes along the way. I get that the filmmakers couldn’t just make the same movie twice and it is probably inevitable that the scope of the story would have to be broadened. I do think this is a very good movie if only a notch lower in my esteem than the original.

Side note: Is it wrong that I kind of identify with the monsters? Are their methods extreme? Yes. No argument there. But… the world can be pretty noisy with its leafblowers, dinging cell phones, and screens talking at you (when you’re just trying to pump your gas.) Wouldn’t we all appreciate a little peace and quiet?

Rating: 3/5 Skulls

 

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The Invisible Man movie poster

The Invisible Man

A: The entire time I watched this film I felt at the edge of my seat - you get to experience the terror and fear of the main character who is trying to escape a terrifying relationship while being gaslit and tortured. I could feel my pulse rising every time she would turn a corner and feel like her escape was finalized and then she was pulled back in by his inability to let her go. This film personifies gaslight, gatekeep, girlboss to a whole new level. She's gaslit by all of the people who have the power to help her, her abuser's brother gatekeeps the money she richly deserves by forcing her to go back to the home in which she escaped from to get it, and she girlbosses her way out of this hellish marriage by outfoxing an absolute terror. If only every person who has escaped their abusive partner can get their happy ending this way. 

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

C: This movie is intense. Elizabeth Moss plays Cecilia, a woman attempting to escape from her abuser, Adrian. But, even when she reaches the relative safety of her friend James’s home, she knows that Adrian will never let her go. What is worse, even though she is clear-eyed about the lengths Adrian will go to keep her in his control, none of her friends and family believe her. This movie really shows the isolation that victims of abuse can experience, where it’s easier to label someone as “crazy” than to believe them. This movie speaks to our times when perpetrators of “invisible” crimes (whether they were truly unknown or just ignored) are now being made “visible.” It’s also a tour de force performance from Moss and a top-notch thriller.

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

Luz: The Flower of Evil

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Luz: the Flower of Evil movie poster

A: Full disclosure: the fact that this is a Colombian arthouse horror absolutely s e n t me. My mother is from Barranquilla - I have to rep everything from Colombia - so the fact that this film was genuinely amazing was icing on the cake. I found the premise of it to be reminiscent of many of the films we see from A24. It's character-driven with tight casting and a sense of dread creeping over you as you watch it. At the heart of the film is the idea of faith - whether you adhere to it or whether you shed it, and this is such a central point of Latinx culture that I felt very seen. It's trippy and fantastic and just creepy enough to keep me on edge. It's also just a beautiful film, it's well shot and every scene feels stark and intimate.

Rating: 4/5 Skulls for me.

C: This movie didn’t really work for me, even though this kind of slow-burn, arthouse fare is usually right up my alley. I did really like the cinematography, particularly the way the mountains are filmed in such vibrant color. Small touches, such as the oversized moon and an impossibly bright rainbow lent it a surreal, fairy-tale quality. The story was scary and weird. In a provincial community in the Columbian mountains, a religious zealot is intent on enforcing his personal interpretation of Christianity (where his daughters are angels and he keeps the “Messiah” chained in his yard.) But, it was a little too languidly-paced and the narration too dreamy and lyrical. I’ll chalk it up to personal preference, though – while it didn’t come together for me, I can definitely see why others have loved it.

Rating: 3/5 Skulls

 

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Antebellum movie poster

Antebellum

A: You know, I really wanted to like this film. The premise sounded similar to Octavia Butler's Kindred, and while I knew it would be horrific to watch, it would be an important statement on the Black experience in America. And Janelle Monae! Who can say no to Janelle Monae? Sadly, I will. I didn't feel connected to the story - instead, I just felt disgusted and angry - which I know I, the viewer, am meant to. I will say that I did get a kick out of the number of people who needed their just desserts finally getting it - the statue scene is... *chef's kiss* But overall I didn't feel like this was a great film. I know it's not meant for me, and I still think people should think about and be aware of the situations in the film, but overall you're better watching something else.

Rating: 2/5 Skulls, because I love the actors. The story though? Not so much.

C: I felt somewhat disgusted by it, too, and I think it might be that the opening's long sequence of horrors visited on Black people felt a little exploitive. This historical imagery must be handled carefully, and it has been in movies such as 12 Years a Slave or shows such as The Underground Railroad. Those stories work to show the complex, systemic racism and failure of humanity in a society built on holding people as slaves. But here, that material is put to use mostly for a schlocky thriller. The villains are two-dimensional, simply evil racists who want to punish Black excellence. And most of the Black characters are not given fully-realized personalities, either.

But, after the first scenes, I generally enjoyed this movie. Janelle Monae as Veronica is great and when she gets her vengeance, it's deserved. Gabourey Sidibe as Veronica's best friend, Dawn, is a blast, especially when she is laying waste to hapless suitors.

Rating: 3/5 Skulls

Host

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Host movie poster

A: This was suggested by Cameron and it is just... absolutely terrifying. If anyone else had to work from home and use Zoom regularly during last year's nationwide lockdown, you will get so creeped out by this film. At first, I was turned off by the fact that it seemed like another film that wanted to jump on the digital presence bandwagon - but it's so much more than that. Honestly, I think it really turned the medium on its head - now you don't even need to be present with the medium to piss off ghosts, you just have to be "that girl". It's a truly scary film and a little gory for people who don't like blood, but I thought it was a great take. Now just be careful what you do on Zoom, you never know what kind of spirits may be present.

Rating: 4/5 Skulls

C: I watched Host when it came out last year and the world still felt very much in lockdown. This movie really captured that period of isolation, when we could see our family and friends, but we couldn't be with them. In Host, a group of friends meets for a virtual hangout on Zoom, and, hey, why not hire a medium and have a séance; what could go wrong?

I doubt it's much of a spoiler to say the answer to that question is "everything." Of this group of movies we watched, Host was the most terrifying, bar none. I re-watched it this time with a friend who spent the last half of the movie with a blanket pulled completely over her eyes. I screamed multiple times, even though I knew exactly what was coming, having had those images burned into my brain from my earlier viewing.

Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate this movie's 60-minute runtime. Horror movies generally keep it short, but I like that the filmmakers didn't draw this out longer than they needed to. Please keep an eye out for my upcoming Ted Talk: The Movies are Too Dang Long These Days.

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

 

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One Cut of the Dead movie poster

One Cut of the Dead

A: What a refreshing take on this genre! At first, I was a bit confused and put off - who hasn't seen enough cheap Zombie horror to last a lifetime? But that's not exactly what this film is about. It's about the shooting, and the background, and the minor details that totally get overlooked by the audience when you're shooting a film. I will say, I was a little annoyed at first with the start of the film, but it quickly grew on me and by the halfway point when it does a complete 180 I was hooked. It's funny! I didn't think I would laugh as much as I did either, but I do think that if you like J-Horror this is a fun, more light-hearted take on the genre. It's not jump out of your seat scary or psychologically damaging (I can't look at my own long hair in a mirror without getting massive Sadako vibes), but it is a great film.

Rating: 3.5/5 Skulls

C: This movie is so much fun. For the first 30 minutes, it's an inept zombie film that will try your patience. But, every "mistake" or scene that doesn't make much sense pays off in the back half of the film. It becomes a madcap romp and an exuberant ode to the endeavor of movie-making. Stay for the scenes that play through the credits, where you get to see the actual cast and crew at work, making the magic of movies happen.

Rating: 5/5 Skulls

 

 

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Kindred movie poster

Assh’s Suggestion for Cameron

Kindred

If you want a film about the terrors of being sucked into a nightmare family, this is the one. The vibes here range from We Have Always Lived in the Castle levels of family dysfunction to The Innocents' "Am I crazy? Or am I being gaslit by the people around me?". This is a film about a pregnant woman whose partner wants to get away from their overbearing family and finds herself being overwhelmed by their behavior after his untimely passing. Is there something sinister going on? Or is she just being driven mad because she is suffering from grief? I think that this is a refreshing take on the genre and Cam might like it.

 

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The Dark and the Wicked DVD cover

Cameron’s Suggestion for Assh

The Dark and the Wicked

Thanks, Assh! I look forward to seeing that. I'm going to recommend The Dark and the Wicked to you. This is a pretty by-the-books possession/haunted house story, but it's a good one. Two siblings return home to help their mom take care of their dad, who is on his deathbed. Their mother would prefer they stay away, but they're both wracked with guilt for abandoning their parents to the ravages of time, as they went on with their own lives. They should've listened to their mother. Dun-dun-duuuun!

The themes of guilt and mortality can be pretty heavy, but this movie wastes little time in getting to the scary. There's a fair amount of jump-scares, but the scenes that really stuck with me are the ones where evil gets in your head and makes of grotesque mockery of what you hold dear. So...fun stuff! And very scary.

By Assh on October 22, 2021