what to watch

The Belko Experiment

Image result for the belko experimentI can hardly count how many movies I have said were my “best Midnight Madness experience ever” at this point.  But if there is a film that fits the bill of quality, gore, fear and sheer madness that works so well with the live tiff Midnight crown, it’s The Belko Experiment.

I went into this one like “oh, cute, the guy from The Newsroom is in it.” The world building is so strong, that a quick opening montage and you are right on board with this spooky corporate allegory and you know this will be far from “cute.”

Americans are recruited to work at a cushy office in Colombia.  Over the top security is justified by the dangerous area and workers are treated to the cliche office of their dreams.  When the building locks down and  a mysterious voice floods the intercoms demanding employees participate in a bloody game, the foreseeable chaos ensues.

This Battle Royale meets Office Space take isn’t the only one of its kind, but it is no doubt the most successful.  It is the absolute best blend of gore and fear, completely balanced to keep it a legit thriller despite the splashing blood.  It also prompted me to update my zombie contingency plan for the office.  My monitor riser makes an amazing shield.

Great if you liked: Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, Mom and Dad, Shaun of the Dead, Mayhem, The Final Girls

 

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In a Valley of Violence

Image result for in a valley of violenceThere are always moments when I bring up Westworld and someone responds “I don’t like Westerns.”  And often, I retort “well it’s more of a Sci-Fi than it is a Western.”  But, as someone who also never liked Westerns, I think I need a new retort.  Maybe I watched the wrong kind.

In a Valley of Violence is the right kind.  I saw this at a small festival for the sole reason that I trust Ethan Hawke.  Predestination had played the year before at the same fest and I wanted more of that.   I was totally blown away by how much fun Valley was and was revitalized in a desire to watch some cowboys.  The cast acts the hell out of this off beat script and it results in a real delight. It has all the ‘dog protectiness’ of John Wick and the “this dude made a western?” of The Quick and the Dead.

This is usually where I put the short synopsis to prime you for the flick, but it honestly would be really difficult to narrow this down to a few sentences.  In the tradition of a Western, rising actions are numerous.  The mysterious Paul stumbles across a town en route to Mexico where they run into this priest, and there are these girls, and a cop, and something about being an army deserter, I don’t know. Just trust this one.

Great if you liked: No Country for Old Men, John Wick, The Quick and the Dead, There will be Blood, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Gangs of New York

Mom and Dad

Image result for mom and dad posterThere is a lot of buzz about Nicholas Cage and his horror chops these days with the release of the Mandy trailer.  Nick showcases some pretty spooky scary screams in that joint, and is being praised for his self aware “Cageiest performance ever.”  But for those of us that saw Mom and Dad, Cage going… full Cage… in horror is nothing so new.

This one part The Crazies and one part Santa Clarita Diet flick is the most fun you’ll have watching suburban parents try to slaughter their own children.

When an unknown cause inflicts a suburban town, parents are suddenly hit with an insatiable need to kill their own children.  Children left to fend for themselves, desperately cling to life by fighting back at their own parents.  Carl and Josh must survive this impossible day by using everything they know about their own family to fend off their murderous mom and dad.

This obscene horror comedy is so much more.  It serves as a blatant allegory for the stresses of being a suburban parent and what it means when your whole life is suddenly about your children.  Brent and Kendall struggle with their changing identity from individual to parent, you know, until becoming totally murderous.

I had so much fun watching this, and Cage and Blair are so flawless as the psycho Mr. and Mrs. Jones types. Blair’s performance is so great in this off beat genre, I feel obligated to campaign for her in more roles.

And, while I am not making early assumptions about Mandy, this movie features some pretty epic full blown Cage that I don’t imagine can be topped.

Great if you liked: Santa Clarita Diet, The Guest, Mum and Dad, The Crazies, Get Out, Cooties, Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Jennifer’s Body, Weeds, Little Evil, Idle Hands, The Belko Experiment.

You’re Next

Image result for you're next posterThis month, I participated in Grim Magazine’s Slasher Madness bracket, where I, obviously, picked You’re Next to win.  But, despite making it to the final showdown, it lost by a large margin.  That leads me to assume one thing; not enough people have seen it.

I stumbled across this slashic by having my ear to the horror grindstone and it both revitalized my slasher fandom and skyrocketed me into becoming the massive fan of the blogged about, The Guest.

Erin is on her way to her new fiance’s family during their anniversary celebration.  The nerves of ‘meeting the parents,’ are taken to new heights when the family finds itself under attack by masked killers.

What this movie does painfully right is take us back to the slasher basics by mixing the right amount of camp and gore into a new story about a ‘cabin in the woods’ massacre.  It keeps it simple, doesn’t set out to do anything it can’t accomplish, and therefore leaves the viewer satisfied in the way you were after the seminal slashers of old.  Final girls have had such a great boom this decade, and Erin is no exception.  Yes, this was written and directed by men, but Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett are great at handling their female leads, something they double down on in The Guest.

Great if you liked: The Guest, The Strangers, Funny Games, A Clockwork Orange, The Purge, Hush, Vacancy, Black Christmas, Halloween, Friday the 13th

John Dies at the End

Image result for john dies at the end posterSorry, twitterverse, this movie’s title is a spoiler.  You’ll also never believe what happens at the end of The Sixth Sense.

This movie is weird as hell.  Is that enough of a selling point?  I immediately fell in love with this for being so strange and weird and fun and remember it being an hours long universe building mind trip, but it’s 100 minutes long.

After a party, Chase wakes to discover is friend, John, is missing.  After getting some mysterious phone calls from what appears to be a clairvoyant John, Chase sets on a mission to solve the mystery of the new drug, “soy sauce,” and save the planet from what might be an otherworldly, sinister force.   Along the way, he encounters ghost hunters, evil beings, and maybe an alternative universe or two. This movie takes you so many places, you will honestly feel both older and revitalized by the end of it.

Told by Chase to a reporter, the transcendence of a linear timeline in the plot is stacked with non-linear story telling, and it’s used with careful purpose.  Watching the level headed Chase transform throughout the narrative via his own telling is relateable enough to have you wonder if you’d, you know, hunt ghosts or whatever.

In the same way you fell for the “whatever is going on,” weirdness of Dirk Gentley, you’ll fall for this.  You will spend some time trying to reason the transcendence of space and time, and ultimately land on having a great time.

Great if you liked: Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Service, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, A Scanner Darkly, Bubba Ho Tep, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Phantasm.

Cube

I told IMDB that I liked this movie, and it started recommending movies to me like “Sphere” and “Triangle” as if the only qualification was that I liked movies titled for shapes. That said, Triangle looks dope. (And NGL, Circle is very similar and will probably be up here eventually).

Cube is like the expanded Saw franchise without the gore. Before Saw 2, there were lots of cool indie sci fi films that asked what would happen if strangers (to each other and the audience) were in an unfathomable predicament and had to reason their way out. Cube is one of the best of these.

Six strangers wake up trapped in a seemingly endless maze filled with twists, turns and traps.  Each stranger is attempting to reason why they have been selected for this deadly game and why they have been put near the others.  If you’re like me, math stresses you out, so prepare to be stressed.  The attempts to solve the cube are so frustrating for you and the characters, you’ll be scratching your head angry at every past high school math teacher for not making you care more.

Films like this are great because you never know who is telling the truth, it raises ethical questions of who’s lives matter most, and forces you to wonder how you would behave to stay alive.

A fun tidbit is that there is a sequal to this called “Cube 2: Hypercube” and a disappointingly named third called “Cube 0” as if no one noticed how good “Cube Cubed” would have been.

I recommend this for a rainy Sunday inside, which will hopefully happen at some point this sunny October, ammiright?

Great if you liked: Saw, Exam, Circle, Triangle, Identity, Coherence

The Crazies (1973)

Yesterday was a rough day.  The world lost George A. Romero AND Martin Landau.

For those unfamiliar, Romero is the godfather of the modern day zombie.  Before his iterations, there was no head shot, no double tab, no infectious bites.  Romero’s career is riddled with “of the Dead” features that have inspired an entire genre and generation of film makers.  Further, his films were diverse in such a way that they were so before their time.

But almost any casual fan has watched a Romero zombie flick.  Here is my oft missed selection.

The Crazies tells the story of a small town wherein an infection has caused certain people to both laugh at and commit heinous violence.  The infection is born of a failed military operation, and the town is sealed off by personnel attempting to contain the situation and study the results of this accidental test.  A small group of survivors attempt to evade quarantine and save themselves from the military wrath.

This film is so different from your average fright, and is a new take on a ‘zombie’ genre film as the ‘zombies’ are not the rotting bitey corpses you imagine, but psychopathic versions of living people. The opening scene is pure terror and the third act is absolutely devastating.  This oft missed film totally breaks the mould and is absolutely wroth the watch.

Great if you liked: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead

War on Everyone

In a love letter to the buddy cop films of the 60’s, War on Everyone takes the genre to the dark places Rush Hour doesn’t. (New to Netflix which is exciting yo).

Writer/ director John Michael McDonagh (brother of Martin McDonagh of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths) is an Irish movie thoroughbred making this his American film debut.  And boy, can you ever sense it.  This film spills over with Irish style humour you’ll recognize from your McDonagh brother favourites, which can be jarring in an American accent if I’m being really honest.

Honestly, Michael Peña to everyone else; do you even buddy cop?  In another film that turns buddy cop on its nose, End of Watch, this guy shines bright like a diamond.  This perfect pair up brings the comedy in this somewhat twisted flick.

Much like it’s buddy cop counter parts, War on Everyone isn’t winning any awards for ‘political correctness,’ but it approaches that style of humour through the right lens (in my humble opinion) and lets you laugh (this is a discussion for another time but I am happy to have it.  In a word, my thoughts are that there’s a difference between being in on the joke and the joke relying on an offensive premise).  There’s not much more to say than that if you wanted an Irish/ British approach to the buddy cop genre, by which I mean it’s grittier and more taboo, with a shockingly perfect cast, this is it, buddy.  It also includes easily my top 5 favourite one liner of all time and it’s killing me not to spoil it.

Great if you liked: End of Watch, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon

 

Equilibrium

Remember all those books you read in high school about the dystopian future? Fahrenheit 451? The Handmaid’s Tale? The Giver? 1984? All ‘dem? Now imagine someone took all of those, added pre-Batman Christian Bale, some ridiculous gun fighting and made it into a badass sci fi action flick. Boom. Equilibrium.

Don’t let writer/ director Kurt Wimmer’s tendency toward unnecessary remakes scare you, this totally original (well, save for the books mentioned above) sci fi is an absolutely wonderful self contained story line.

In the not so distant future, the government has suppressed all emotion with the mandate of preventing war via a drug to be taken at required intervals.  (The giver, anyone? #Soma).  Along with doing so, all sources of emotion are contraband and, if found, burned on site. (451, anyone?).  John Preson is a cleric tasked with maintaining the world order.  After meeting a woman who has been off her drugs, before her execution, Preston questions his emotionless lifestyle.  After slipping up, he seeks out the resistance and considers the uprising.

There was a while when ipod video was still a thing and this was the only flick I had saved on mine, so I watched it far too many times.  But with the current “rise up” climate, this one comes straight back to me.

This is a really fun take on the dystopian drama that will ease you into wanting the more heavy stuff. I just blew through V for Vendetta and am on kind of a resistance rebel kick, and this blends in seamlessly.

And side note, the whole gun fighting thing is actually pretty dope.

Great if you liked: 1984, The Giver, Batman Begins (ugh), The Prestige (also ugh, but same Bale, I guess), The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Minority Report, Gattaca