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Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Athena

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

ATHENA is an astonishing piece of filmmaking. I have no idea how they did it. I have one (1) huge issue with it, which prevents it from being one of my top movies of last year, but it’s a big ass spoiler that I will deal with separately at the end of this review. And you may disagree with me, so don’t worry about that for now. What’s important is that this is a thrilling cinematic experience and about as epic as a movie could feel while clocking in at less than 100 minutes. And it’s on Netflix – it’s one of the ones that actually wouldn’t exist if they hadn’t funded it – so it’s a very accessible way to get knocked flat on your ass by a concussion grenade of impeccable spectacle.

For those who haven’t heard of it, ATHENA is an intense French action-thriller about a battle between riot cops and the predominantly French-Algerian residents of a housing project (in a Parisian banlieue, you know, like the parkour movie) after the death of a 13 year old kid named Idir. Idir’s oldest brother Abdel (Dali Benssalah, NO TIME TO DIE) is a straight-laced soldier who exits police headquarters and announces to the press that they’ve promised to investigate which officers were responsible for his brother’s death. He asks that the people of the Athena project please stay calm and peaceful. (read the rest of this shit…)

Resurrection (2022)

Monday, January 9th, 2023

RESURRECTION is an interesting 2022 horror-thriller you can find on disc, VOD or Shudder. I saw the trailer play before movies many times and found it kind of intriguing, but I could never remember the name. I must’ve confused it with the 1909 D.W. Griffith short, or the silent films from 1910, 1912, 1917, 1918, 1923 and 1927, or the pre-code Tolstoy adaptation from 1931, or the Italian one from the same year, or the 1943 Mexican film, or the 1944 Italian one, or the 1958 German/Italian/French one, or the 1960 Russian one, or the 1968 British one, or the 1980 one starring Ellen Burstyn, or the 1999 Russell Mulcahy one I still haven’t seen although you guys really convinced me I have to and then Vinegar Syndrome even put it out on blu-ray, or the one from 2001 or 2010 or the three from 2016. But this is a different RESURRECTION, the one starring Rebecca Hall (THE B.F.G.) and Tim Roth (THE MUSKETEER).

Hall plays Margaret, a successful, seemingly well-liked single mother living in Albany. Her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman, BAD TEACHER) is about to leave for college, and she’s protective of her to an annoying level, but they seem to be on pretty good terms. At first it’s funny how often Margaret will tell her daughter things like “you’re safe” and “it’s going to be okay” when she clearly has no use for such affirmations. At one point when Margaret says something particularly ridiculous, Abbie very astutely points out, “Mom, when you say things like that, I mean… that’s for you, not me.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Watcher

Friday, October 21st, 2022

WATCHER – not to be confused with the Netflix show The Watcher or the Keanu Reeves movie THE WATCHER or the early UPN anthology series hosted by Sir Mix-a-Lot The Watcher – is an excellent psychological horror/suspense thriller that’s a Shudder exclusive and also came out on blu-ray and DVD a few weeks ago. Maika Monroe (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE) stars as Julia, a young woman who moves to an apartment in Bucharest with her husband Francis (Karl Glusman, THE NEON DEMON).

Francis is American, but his mother is Romanian, and he speaks the language, but Julia doesn’t. So she’s immediately out of sorts from having to have her husband translate what people say to her as well as to speak for her. Then the very first thing she sees when they pull up to their building is a creepy guy (Burn Gorman, PACIFIC RIM) looking out a window across the street. Of course their apartment has a huge window facing right at this dude, but at first she doesn’t worry too much about it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

Though BODIES BODIES BODIES is one of this year’s crop of A24 horror releases, its slick filmatistic style, hedonistic twenty-something characters and aggressive electronical dance music soundtrack remind me more of non-horror A24 movies like SPRING BREAKERS and ZOLA than HEREDITARY or THE WITCH. And for good or bad it’s really not in that slow-burn/moody/atmospheric/symbolic vein – it’s pretty much an Agatha Christie inspired whodunit with some blood and some dark humor.

Sophie (Amandla Stenberg, COLOMBIANA, THE HUNGER GAMES) and Bee (holy shit why did I not recognize Maria Bakalova, Academy Award nominee for BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM?) are a new couple, together for about a month and a half. So it’s a big step that Sophie is bringing Bee to meet her oldest friends. There’s a hurricane coming, and they’re all rich kids, and apparently what rich kids do during a hurricane is hole up at somebody’s parents’ remote mansion and have a party. Honestly it seems like a great idea if you have the resources (events depicted in this movie aside). (read the rest of this shit…)

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (and 1992 – Weird Summer epilogue)

Friday, September 30th, 2022

Just as the Weird Summer of 1992 was wrapping up, New Line Cinema gave us arguably the season’s weirdest wide release. Sure, it played half as many screens as its fellow August 28, 1992 releases HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, PET SEMATARY II and FREDDIE AS F.R.O.7., but I think it’s fair to call it mainstream. There was awareness, it was based on a recently popular TV show, and it at least opened bigger than FREDDIE. As far as per screen averages it came in 4th place for the weekend.

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME is, of course, David Lynch’s big screen prequel to his pop-culture-phenomenon TV series Twin Peaks. I’ll get into my history with the show later, but for now I’ll just note that I’m unfamiliar enough that I watched this as pretty much an outsider, looking at it almost as a stand alone movie.

And at first it really does fit into the indie releases of ’92 – it makes sense as a contemporary of NIGHT ON EARTH, ONE FALSE MOVE, RUBIN & ED, and JOHNNY SUEDE. It tells the story of FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch, ZELLY AND ME) teaming up stoic veteran Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak, MARRIED TO THE MOB) and nerdy bow tie wearing rookie Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland, RENEGADES) to investigate the murder of a teenager named Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley, CHERRY 2000, HIGHWAY TO HELL) in the small town of Deer Meadow, Washington. (read the rest of this shit…)

Single White Female

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Like POISON IVY earlier in the summer, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (released August 14, 1992) is a quintessential, much-imitated suspense thriller of the specific type that reigned in the ‘90s. I rented it on VHS back in the day and I believe I liked it, but I have to admit to thinking of this type of thriller as pretty interchangeable and disposable. Watching it now I can see that this is one of the best of its type.

There are many factors to that. Director Barbet Schroeder (BARFLY) creates a tense and atmospheric slow burn of a character piece. The script by first-timer Don Roos (adapted from a book by John Lutz) nicely establishes layered characters in an uncomfortable scenario, plus numerous details to the apartment building setting that you just know will become relevant late in the movie when violence is afoot. And it looks great – credit to cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (SUSPIRIA, TITUS) and production designer Milena Canonero (also the costume designer, as she was for BARRY LYNDON, TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM, DICK TRACY, THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU, OCEAN’S TWELVE, MARIE ANTOINETTE – man, that’s a resume!). The score by Cronenberg’s guy Howard Shore is certainly a big part of setting the eerie mood. And I don’t really know how to measure it but I gotta assume the editing is crucial to the suspense, so I want to mention that editor Lee Percy comes out of the world of exploitation – he was the scamp who bastardized LONE WOLF AND CUB into SHOGUN ASSASSIN, and he did THE KILLING OF AMERICA, THEY CALL ME BRUCE, RE-ANIMATOR, TROLL, FROM BEYOND and DOLLS. Also BLUE STEEL. (read the rest of this shit…)

Raising Cain

Monday, September 19th, 2022

August 7, 1992 brought us the release of not only best picture winner UNFORGIVEN and feature length movie 3 NINJAS, but also one of the most joyfully deranged thrillers of the era, Brian De Palma’s RAISING CAIN. I reviewed RAISING CAIN a few years backoh jesus actually it was 18 years ago what the fuck… and it’s an okay review as far as describing what the movie is like, but I could not in good conscience do a series on the weirdness of Summer ’92 and not revisit it. This is one of the top achievers in the field.

Five years earlier, De Palma had had a huge mainstream success with THE UNTOUCHABLES, a well-reviewed hit movie that nabbed four Oscar nominations and won best supporting actor for Sean Connery. He’d already cashed that in to make the acclaimed war drama CASUALTIES OF WAR (1989), and then his attempt at a big zeitgeisty literary adaptation, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES (1990), had been one of Hollywood’s most notorious fiascos. So it might’ve seemed at a glance like a shrewd move to return to the genre he’d originally been known for – the amped up Hitchcockian thriller. (read the rest of this shit…)

Orphan: First Kill

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

ORPHAN: FIRST KILL is a good version of a usually under-appreciated popular art form: the knowingly-trashy-but-not-too-winky-about-it horror-thriller. I’m surprised and happy to see it getting as much love as it is, and hopefully that’s not setting expectations too high. I think it could kinda be like a 21st century version of the STEPFATHER trilogy. Though both started with the loose inspiration of real life crimes, the ORPHAN premise has the advantage of seeming much more absurd from the beginning, and therefore more ripe for escalation. I haven’t seen anyone arguing that it’s exploitative (in a bad way) to continue the adventures of Esther nee Leena (Isabelle Furhman, THE HUNGER GAMES), the (spoiler for ORPHAN part 1) dangerous escaped mental patient who pretends to be an innocent little girl.

I probly didn’t need that spoiler warning. By now anybody who knows what ORPHAN is knows that wild plot twist: the adopted little girl who’s been terrorizing Vera Farmiga and making everybody think she’s crazy and abusive turns out to be a woman in her 30s with a rare hormonal disorder and a false identity. What makes this prequel so unlikely and so delightfully audacious is that Fuhrman originally played the character when she was around 12, and instead of recasting they brought her back at the age of 24, using Hobbitvision (forced perspective and body doubles) to make her look small. I honestly found it easy to forget, but just knowing they went through the trouble for this movie gives it an extra kick. (read the rest of this shit…)

Unlawful Entry

Monday, July 18th, 2022

June 26, 1992

UNLAWFUL ENTRY is one of those big mainstream domestic suspense thrillers that you don’t see too many of in theaters these days but that were a staple in the ‘90s. This one is directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who they probly called “the director of THE ACCUSED” in the advertising, but to me he’ll always be the director of TRUCK TURNER. One of the greats! The screenplay is credited to Lewis Colick (THE DIRT BIKE KID), who shares story credit with George Putnam (who also had FATAL INSTINCT that year) & John Katchmer.

Kurt Russell (in his followup to BACKDRAFT) and Madeleine Stowe (REVENGE) star as Michael and Karen Carr, a Los Angeles couple who in a skillfully tense sequence discover an intruder (Kaplan regular Johnny Ray McGhee) climbing through the skylight into their enormous home one night. Michael threatens the man with a golf club and scuffles with him, but he holds a knife to Karen’s throat and manages to escape.

When they call the cops, officers Roy Cole (Roger E. Mosley, HIT MAN, THE MACK, McQ, LEADBELLY, THE JERICHO MILE) and Pete Davis (Ray Liotta, two years and two projects after GOODFELLAS) respond. I love the way Kaplan and d.p. Jamie Anderson (PIRANHA) zero in on Pete reacting to the story, immediately showing great concern and protectiveness for Karen, and managing to touch her when she almost steps on glass. He’s obviously got eyes on her, and the way Roy says, “Hey – I know what you’re thinking” as they’re leaving, you get the idea he’s done that sort of thing before. (read the rest of this shit…)

Memory

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

MEMORY is not the best movie we will see from star Liam Neeson or director Martin Campbell (DEFENSELESS, GOLDENEYE, THE MASK OF ZORRO, CASINO ROYALE, THE FOREIGNER), but I think it’s an interesting one. It’s a grim thriller about a contract killer who realizes he’s starting to get dementia and tries to go after some bad people before his mind is gone. That’s pretty similar to the premise of Paul Schrader’s disowned (but I kind of liked it) 2014 film DYING OF THE LIGHT, but it’s actually a remake of the 2003 Belgian film DE ZAAK ALZHEIMER (THE ALZHEIMER CASE), itself based on a 1985 novel by Jef Geeraerts.

It starts with Alex Lewis (Neeson, KRULL) on the job. He enters a hospital in scrubs and we know he’s not a regular nurse by his complete non-reaction to some asshole nearly running him over in the parking garage. It turns out that’s his target, some jerk visiting his mother. We see just enough of of the guy to imagine he might deserve this fate, but also enough of his mother’s terror behind her oxygen mask to think “Man, that’s fucked up.”

As Alex is making his escape he reaches for the keys behind the mirror, and takes a bit to remember they’re in his pocket. Not a big deal, except if you’re a total pro and never make mistakes like that. Can’t make mistakes like that. (read the rest of this shit…)