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Showing posts from 2018

The Ritual (2017): Review

David Bruckner's The Ritual (2017) is a movie about wrong-turns. Yes, it largely involves four men who get themselves increasingly lost while hiking in Sweden. This is undoubtedly a wrong-turn, but not the first. When four was five, two of the group, at the end of a guy's night out, decide to walk into a liquor store. There are misgivings: Luke is on a bender of sorts; the others want to go home to their wives and jobs. So Robert narrowly joins him inside, a go-between for Luke and the others, alienated by the former's incessant party antics...

Disclaimer: Before you proceed, I wholly recommend watching the movie first! 

Inside, the two men convene, their hushed debate cut short when they spot the cashier. Beaten supine, she gawks wordlessly at them. Robert freezes; Luke takes cover, hearing the assailants return. Enter two junkies, armed and belligerent. They spot Robert and corner him, demanding all he has. Refusal to hand over his wedding ring nets him two healthy blows …

Murder Party (2007): Review

Though relatively new compared to journeyman directors, Jeremy Saulnier is hardly a novice. It might seem otherwise; ten-plus years have seen him produce only four feature-length films. Three of them succeed; one does not. The focus of this review is not to attack the one that fails, but celebrate his earliest, Murder Party (2007). First, however, I'll need to explain my viewing history of Saulnier's canon, starting with Blue Ruin(2013) and leading up to Hold the Dark (2018). I want to explain how the latter misfired, encouraging me to sit down and watch Murder Party (2007).

Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair—I stumbled upon Blue Ruin several years back, and immediately fell in love with both men; they operate in tandem, much of what they deliver working through a constant, healthy partnership. For example, the stark conclusion, of the suicidal revenge plot, is realized by a shrunken, speechless Blair (a directorial talent in his own right: I Don't Feel at Home in This World …

Nacros: Mexico (2018): Review

Technically, Narcos: Mexico (2018) is a spin-off of Narcos (2015). However, given their close ties, I like to consider it the fourth season of that show. The first two focused on Agent Murphy from the DEA, and his fight to take down Pablo Escobar. Season 3 focused on Pablo's successors, as combated by Agent Peña, Murphy's partner. Season 4 occurs before either the DEA or cartels were fully established; it tells the story of two opponents: the Thin Man, Félix Gallardo, and his rise from lowly hill bandit to the most powerful drug trafficker in Mexico; and Kiki Camarena. Kiki is a name that's appeared before in the show, though only in passing. Turns out, his contribution to the war-on-drugs is substantial.

Season 4 is my favorite, and I enjoyed the other three. It gets a lot right, even if it disclaims how various liberties are taken for dramatic effect. Such drama is not limited to dialogue; many additions up the ante, in terms of action. Consider the aquifer scene: Tradin…

I Am Not a Serial Killer (2015): Review

Billy O'Brien's I Am Not a Serial Killer (2015) is the story of a young man growing up in a small town. The only son of a single, female mortician, he lives with his mother, learning how to embalm corpses. Small wonder he has something of an abnormal fascination with death, most notably serial killers. He pores over their hideous exploits, fluent in the modus operandi of many a slayer. However, when he meets an actual killer, very little makes sense, in terms of what he thinks he knows about these elusive individuals.

IANaSK is an interesting horror film, on different levels. It's perspective is somewhat displaced, a frank examination of death in small communities via its tortured protagonist. However, small pinches of quirky humor introduce levity to counterbalance the dark subject matter. One quirky scene involves the protagonist being told by his therapist to behold a sensational object: a duck, coasting on a distant waterfront. The hero is confused, uncertain of the sig…

Castlevania, Season Two (2018): Review

Disclaimer: This review of the second season of the Netflix miniseries, Castlevania, contains many spoilers!

One thing before I begin: Trevor Belmont's whip—called the Morning Star, but which I'll simply refer to as "explodey whip"—is quite possibly the coolest thing ever. More to the point, and what really matters, here, is that all three heroes—Sypha, Alucard and Trevor—were amazing in their own right. Each repeatedly does things per episode that had me sit upright and exclaim, "That was so cool!" And I'm usually pretty critical of recent animation, because so much of it nowadays fails to capture a certain weight. Here, that wasn't a problem. I was thoroughly wowed by the sheer visual heft.

Better yet, the show feels faithful to the games, if you consider a loose adaptation faithful. Alucard's move set, the aforementioned "explodey whip" and Sypha's own magical repertoire all serve as nice visual nods to the attacks of their olde…

Summer of '84 (2018): Review

Directed by François Simard, and Anouk and Yoann-Karl Whissell, Summer of '84 is a wonderfully misleading horror film, one that spells itself out in familiar patterns. The narrator practically sighs during the opening shots. The voice belongs to Davey, the film's hero. We see him cheerfully deliver newspapers on his bicycle. However, the narrator of a bildungsroman (coming-of-age story) or similar formula is usually an older, wiser version of the same character, and Davey's older self sounds solemn and detached. This alone should warn that trouble is not simply afoot, but already come to pass. Over footage of present events, Davey speaks plainly about everyday tendencies to overlook evil in our own lives. He seems to discuss things backward—in hindsight, just like the little girls in Alex Proyas' The Crow (1994) or Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978).

Summer of '84 is horror pastiche, much like Andrés Muschietti's It (2017); they operate in recognition o…

Video: The Musical Affect of Halloween, Forty Years Ago and Now

Hi, everyone. In this video, I discuss music as it is used in Halloween (1978) and it's forty-year sequel to affect the audience in a Gothic sense:

What I mean by that is Gothic in the Radcliffean sense of terror, which is to hide the monster or force the audience to use their imagination, and horror is to show the monster, and take the audience's ability to imagine away from them. In the original Halloween, the music is largely used to affect the viewer by impressing on them a sensation of imminent danger. Much of the visuals are obscured by darkness and there is seldom if ever any actual action; Michael Myers is hidden. In the sequel, the music is used to accent events that unfold onscreen, which the audience watches action (not the promise of action). These are very different approaches in terms of music that is used relative to a dangerous presence inside a Gothic space. However, I contend that there is room for both musical attacks in the franchise; each is part of the la…

Video: Gothic Doubles in Halloween (2018)

Hi, everyone! Just to reiterate, in between art and academic projects, I also write and talk about themes of Gothic horror, in cinema and other media. From time to time I uploaded videos on Youtube, so if you wish to hear about Gothic stuff from me, following my channel, there, is the best way to do so.

On that note, here is my latest video, the use of Gothic doubles in David Gordon Green's Halloween (2018):

The original 1978 Halloween featured doubles; however, the 2018 installment "doubles" its palimpsest to instill the updated Haddonfield with a compounded sense of death. This affect is part of the space's overall history as something infused with legends, replicas, and symbolic relics. All of these factors, in turn, reach out of the past, by which to intimate would-be destroyers and authority figures, in the present.

Give it a watch and pass it along if you enjoyed it. Comments are always appreciated!

Initial impressions of the latest Halloween (2018)

Researching grad school (for my PhD) and starting up my art again, I have less focus than I have had previously in regards to written reviews for films; it's simply far easier for me to voice my concerns or sentiments in front of a camera, at this stage. In any case, here is a video of my thoughts on Halloween (2018) by David Gordon Green. This is a very solid horror movie from a director largely unaffiliated with horror, and I whole-heartedly recommend it:

I tried to keep it short (for me) and spoiler free, but in the near future I should have more time to examine the movie under a microscope. Stay tuned!

Making YouTube Content (example: the Ozark)!

Now that I'm back in the United States, I'll be working on my master's thesis for the remainder of September, writing-wise. In the meantime, I also have access to my video equipment, so I can also record and edit videos for my YouTube channel fairly easily. So, as far as this blog is concerned, that is the kind of content I'll be posting about on here until my thesis is completed and turned in. Once it is, I'll still make videos, but I'll also return to writing articles, as well, either of which you can support on Patreon.

This time, I made a video about the horror themes present in Netflix's Ozark (2017) and Jack Bryan's The Living (2014). Both are crime dramas centered on family life in semi-rural communities, with ties to the cartel, or hit-men. There's much to them apart from the violence, but the violence is what makes them work, as dramas.

Veronica (2017): Review, part 2

For all the successful tricks that Veronica (2017)borrows from older movies, there are some missteps, too. And Paco Plaza shows enough horror know-how to make one wonder why he made these mistakes, in the first place. For example, one particular visual gag is repeated to the point of being exhausting: seeing the monster's shadow slither across the wall.

On one hand, this is a pretty cool nod to Count Orlok, from F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922). In Veronica,they do the gag three times! By the third, the exhilarating effect is gone, and impatience starts to set in. This issue is compounded by the special effects, themselves. Instead of using actual shadow puppetry like Murnau did, Plaza digitally animates the monster's shadow. The more you stare, the faker it looks, and there's plenty of time to stare.

Another problem is how the movie starts. It opens with a languid, dream-like sequence, with a detective responding to a 911 call. Everything moves in slow-motion. People r…