Hannibal (2001)

hannibal

Hungry for More

There’s no question that The Silence of the Lambs is a great movie.  The makers of Hannibal certainly think so; otherwise they wouldn’t invoke its memory every chance they get.  It’s a quality that’s oddly ahead of its time, portending modern sequels like Jurassic World and The Force Awakens that get most of their mileage from milking their beloved predecessors.  Hannibal’s most shameless reference is the title character’s multiple utterances of the famous line, “Hello, Clarice,” which was never actually said in The Silence of the Lambs but plowed its way into pop culture history anyway.  The charitable interpretation of this Mandela effect-made-real is that it’s a knowing joke on the part of the filmmakers, though it’s easier to dismiss it – and the rest of Hannibal’s blatant throwbacks – as pandering. Continue reading

You Should Have Left

You should have left

Bacon and Cheese

At first glance, You Should Have Left seems to be a by-the-book haunted house movie.  It certainly checks plenty of the boxes: the isolated and mysterious vacation home, the precocious child in tune with the supernatural, the sinister presence that grows more and more tangible.  But writer/director David Koepp has more on his mind than weaving a workmanlike horror yarn, attempting – with varying degrees of success – to add a more serious dramatic element to the proceedings. Continue reading

Anaconda (1997)

anaconda

Snake Charmer

As an avid fan of killer-animal movies, one thing I’ve learned is that they are shockingly easy to fuck up.  For every Deep Blue Sea there are a dozen Shark Nights, for every Alligator countless Primevals.  But within the pantheon of trashy creature features, my favorite has to be Anaconda.  The movie has never enjoyed the warmest of receptions – its critical response was mixed at best, and it’s often used as a bad-movie punchline – and it’s not hard to see why.  It’s unapologetically cheesy, old-fashioned, and lowbrow.  But I believe that Anaconda’s true intended audience is the die-hard fans of its genre, and for those of us in that group it’s an absolute corker. Continue reading

The Descent (2005)

The-Descent

What Dies Beneath

Though it enjoys a positive reputation as such, The Descent can only be called a monster movie with a major caveat.  Like The Blair Witch before it, it wrings at least half – if not more – of its horror from its ominous setting.  In this case, it’s the labyrinthine caves of North Carolina, an alien, impossibly dark environment that’s one of the movie’s most indelible characters. Continue reading

The Platform

the platform

Hole Foods

One of Netflix’s latest film releases, Spanish sci-fi/horror movie The Platform is enjoying a minor splash on the streaming giant, which is the most one can hope for in the reign of Tiger King.  Though never stated outright, the movie is presumably set in the future, where the shadowy “Administration” runs a sadistic institution that’s half prison, half social experiment. Continue reading

The Hunt

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Postal Elites

The Hunt is most notable for its cancellation and postponement, brought on by either mass shootings or the president’s tweets, depending on who you ask (in either case, it’s a decision the studio undoubtedly is regretting now).  But now that it’s finally being released, does Craig Zobel’s violent satire live up to the controversy?  Well, yes and no. Continue reading

The Invisible Man

invisible man

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

It’s surprising that in Hollywood’s never-ending quest to remake every horror movie in existence, it’s taken them this long to get to The Invisible Man.  Setting aside the old-fashioned bandages-and-fedora original, the core concept is as timeless as it gets, not to mention relatively cheap to execute on film.  In any case, it’s here now, and thankfully it’s in the form of a standalone movie instead of whatever franchise-baiting dreck we would have gotten had it remained part of Universal’s scrapped Dark Universe project. Continue reading

The Prodigy

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That Boy Ain’t Right

Let’s face it: some kids are just creepy.  If they weren’t, the bad-seed trope wouldn’t be such a workhorse of a horror premise, still bearing fruit eons after its inception.  The fear of our own offspring turning against us is disturbing on a primal, universal level, unconfined to any one culture or time period.  Speaking more generally, the perversion of innocence has always been an upsetting prospect, and what could possibly be more innocent than a child?  Truth be told, there’s not much left to do with the creepy-kid genre, but while The Prodigy doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it delivers an uncommonly solid execution of the formula. Continue reading

Velvet Buzzsaw

velvet buzzsaw

This Just Won’t Cut It

Velvet Buzzsaw is a movie I wanted to like – to love, even.  The last time Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal teamed up we got 2014’s excellent Nightcrawler, and given the gonzo premise of their new collaboration, I thought I was in for a good time.  But the Netflix movie curse spares few; even up-and-coming directors and A-list actors cannot escape its grasp.  The streaming service’s marketing would have you believe Velvet Buzzsaw is first and foremost a horror film, but the truth is the horror is an afterthought.  So is everything else in the movie. Continue reading

The House That Jack Built

the house that jack built

Killer Pad

Among his other virtues, Lars Von Trier has always been something of a troll.  His movies often act as playful middle fingers to his harshest critics, gleefully confirming their accusations with a devil-may-care attitude.  The approach has a rebellious appeal, but it’s also overshadowed some of Von Trier’s lesser works, which have made the mistake of putting shock value above quality.  The House That Jack Built sees Von Trier’s devilish style at its best; it shamelessly aims to offend, but backs up its intentions with original, exciting filmmaking. Continue reading