If you HAVE seen Avengers: Endgame, but HAVEN’T watched this new Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer, you should rectify that immediately.
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It has been a long time coming, but Roused to Mediocrity has returned.
I’ve miss it too much to let it stay dead. I’m not myself when I’m not nerding out about the things I love. I miss using this medium to tell my friends about the cool shit I’m into right now. I miss diving more deeply into the things that moved me to parse out what impacted me. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been hiding my passion for things the last few years, but I have been, and it’s stupid, and I need to stop.
Part of my life, part of me has been missing, and while RtM might not account for all of it, I need to be writing again, and this is as good a place as any to start.
I’ve shied away from jumping back in for fear I won’t do it consistently enough, but fuck it. Let’s do this.
What better way to get back into the swing of things than a good old fashioned ‘Five Things’ post. So here they are, five random things I’ve loved recently.
On with the show!
1. Avengers: Endgame
Epic is overused these days, but it’s the only word that accurately describes last week’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to long-awaited onscreen battles.
Game of Thrones and the MCU have captured a huge portion of the pop culture consciousness for about a decade (eight and eleven years respectively), and last week included two massive battles royale that were meant to offer some semblance of closure for two devoted fanbases — along with the larger public who’ve been pulled onto the bandwagon.
Within the worlds of each story, both battles had the fate of all (or half of all) life hanging in the balance. Each had wildly overpowered villains. And each had a remarkably high degree of difficulty for the creators.
The difference between the two, in my experience, is that one was a mess, and the other stuck the landing.
Endgame had the same magic that the first Avengers film had in terms of the good kind of fan service — seeing it opening weekend at a 1am showing was not without more than its fair share of roaring cheers. And it offered satisfying conclusions for character arcs that have spanned more than a decade.
The notes all landed in terms of humor, action, acting, and poignancy. These characters we’ve grown to love were given their due at the end of a long road, and some of the more significant moments in the film were — on the other side of the coin from the cheers mentioned above — not without more than their fair share of sniffling throughout the audience.
The theater is often my favorite place to be, heightening the magic and power of cinema. Seeing Endgame with a theater full of strangers all invested enough to start a three hour movie at 1 a.m. was a genuinely communal experience. The quality of the film is the reason that experience was a beautiful one.
Bravo to everyone involved for taking a tough pitch and hitting it out of the park.
2. Russian Doll
I watched all of Russian Doll twice in a week. The first time because I started an episode to try it out and watched all of it in a day. The second time because I was so taken by it the first time that I got Emily to watch an episode, and we promptly watched the whole thing in an evening.
I love it so much. It’s funny and smart, and manages to be sardonic enough that any tenderness and hopefulness doesn’t feel like bullshit.
Everyone in it is great, especially Natasha Lyonne as our hilarious, irreverent, self-destructive, lovable asshole of a protagonist.
Most importantly, the show is my favorite narrative interaction with mental illness — and how much we all need each other — in a long time.
I should write more about this show, and maybe I will, but for now, suffice it to say that I really loved Russian Doll.
P.S. It also includes what will undoubtedly be my favorite line of dialogue from TV all year. I won’t write what it is, because I think it’s spoilery, but feel free to ask via message or IRL.
3. Love by Toni Morrison
I’m pretty sure there has never been a writer superior to Toni Morrison. She has peers, but no betters.
Her style is full of quiet power, never relying on overly flowery or ornate language, but instead delivering perfect prose in which every word is a gift.
She shines light through the stories of ordinary but marginalized people, Black Americans struggling for joy, belonging, or respect; for love, sex, or security; for revenge or power; for a way out or a way in; for hope or release; and in the process she reveals the beauty and darkness in every human life.
To quote Oprah — something I can assure you I never thought I would do in the life of this blog — “Toni Morrison’s work shows us through pain all the myriad ways we can come to love.”
Love is a difficult book to put down; not because of some narrative tension where we need to see what happens next, but because it’s such a gift to live with Morrison’s words. Her characters are so full of humanity, each feels like a full, living person, slowly revealing their inner world. The conclusion is moving and beautiful for all its tragedy, and it moved me to tears.
In related news, this:
4. Bob’s Burgers
Nine seasons in, and Bob’s Burgers is better than ever. At a point when too many shows begin teetering into poor quality, getting more desperate to keep an audience as characters grow stale, Bob’s Burgers just keeps improving. I’d say I don’t get the sense that Bob is planning to strap on any water skis for a daring jump over some sharks, but since that would be an amazing episode of Bob’s Burgers, it would be stupid to rule it out. Yet, the metaphor stands, Bob’s Burgers appears to be in no danger of jumping the shark any time soon.
I get that these characters check all my boxes. Droll weirdos who genuinely love and support each other in spite of all the pot shots is definitely my jam, but those elements alone don’t automatically make me enjoy a show or movie or whatever. More often than not it’s poorly executed, as if the characters were written by aliens who have only a vague approximation of human interaction. Aliens who believe that as long as a line is delivered in a certain tone of voice, with certain musical cues, it’s the same thing as writing genuinely funny and believable moments.
Bob’s Burgers gets it all right, and for my money, the Belchers are the best family on television.
5. Borderlands 3
Okay, so this is over a month old, but I wasn’t writing a month ago. Borderlands 3 is officially happening. It has a release date and everything (Sep. 3)!
If you know, you know.
Being impacted by a celebrity death is an odd phenomenon. How strange to find ourselves grieving the loss of someone we never knew — not in the sense that the loss of a life is tragic, but in a more particular way. Our lives are impacted by a creator’s work or persona, and we feel a deep personal loss when their light goes out.
Anthony Bourdain’s suicide hit me hard last week, much harder than I would have anticipated. It bored into my mind, sunk down into my chest, and rooted itself with a distracting persistence.
I wasn’t a religious follower of his work. I’d read Kitchen Confidential, watched videos of his various appearances and takes on food culture, and caught one of his shows very occasionally, but his presence in my life wasn’t daily or even weekly. Yet, here I was, feeling legitimate shock from his death. As that first day wore on the impact grew, the shadow lengthening.
The truth is that while I didn’t consciously hold him up as a hero, didn’t light candles at his altar as I do for some other artists, I realize now that his presence was significant in how I understand myself and the world. In the mid aughts, as I came into adulthood and was deciding who I would be, he was a trustworthy guide into the pursuit of life and culture as I began to realize that was a priority for me. It’s a sentiment which echoes many who have shared their thoughts about his life and loss over the last few days.
In him, I see so many of the things that make up my idea of a good life — not just good as in pleasurable, but good as in making the world better by living and being. I’d never suggest that traveling enough, or eating well enough, or experiencing enough of the world could ward off depression. Depression is often at its worst in the wake of my best experiences. However, I did hope that living a good life in the other sense would help.
Bourdain was curious, constantly learning, relentlessly searching for connection, was always creating, and most importantly to me, his hospitality was legendary. As a bonus, he also never took any shit or tolerated nonsense, so his hospitality never seemed false or saccharine. He clearly saw the world as it is, not as he wished it would be, and he found it worth exploring even while he railed against the things he saw as unfair toward the marginalized. The stories pouring out from those who only met him once reinforce that this was his way on and off camera.
He had a life filled with so much light and humanity. Yet, there was always that sharp edge. Cynicism and quiet rage were always part of the package. He had a punk rock core that added to his legend. And in part, this made it easier for me to believe that I could perhaps bring light and joy to people. There’s nothing punk rock about me at all, but Bourdain helped me believe that I might be a source of light and life for others, helping people expand their view of the world, even with all the bitterness and rage I carry around and can never truly suppress or hide.
I want to be someone who helps make the world bigger for others. I want to help people discover new things. I want to show people the beauty of what it is to be open and welcoming to new things and ways of seeing. Yet, my mental illness and the weight of my horrible insomnia mean I never have the internal resources I wish I had. I’m never as hospitable as I want to be, never as curious, patient, or kind as I wish I was. I want to be better, I want to make the world better, but I honestly don’t know where to begin.
Bourdain was a good place to start.
When I think of the reasons I’m so depressed and my life is so unfulfilling, the things that come to mind are that I am too closed off, too isolated, too limited, and that I’m not doing good creative work – or any creative work for that matter. So I was inspired by the way that Bourdain was open to the world. He was connected in profound ways to all the variety and diversity the world has to offer, with old friends or people he’d just met. He was always doing good work, telling stories and sharing different ways of seeing and experiencing the world through flavor and culture. He was living proof that we can find ways of seeing each other better if we’ll just sit down and share a meal or a drink.
And still, he decided he had to leave.
I wouldn’t say this makes me feel hopeless, but it removes one of the primary ideals in which I’d invest hope when I found it. I always feel rudderless, like my sail is ripped, the rudder is shattered and the boat is riddled with small cracks, forcing me to constantly bail water. That is the apt metaphor for my life. The better times are simply when I feel more energetic as I keep removing water from my boat one bucket at a time.
Yet, I also believed that there was land just visible in the distance, and that maybe, just maybe, I could eventually find a way to fix my boat just enough to move towards it. What Bourdain’s death makes me feel is that, all this time, what I’d believed was an island on the horizon is just another mirage. Even though my rudder didn’t work and I wasn’t sure how to get moving, I still had a course heading if I could ever figure some shit out.
Now I see that’s not the case. The things I thought might save me never will.
I still believe I need to open back up. I still believe it will help if I start working creatively again. I know there are things that help me feel better when I practice them consistently. But now I also know, more than ever, that even then it will never make things better. Nothing fixes this.
Depression is such a dangerous predator. It adapts to the changes we make. It waits patiently and pounces on every weakness, often attacking viciously in the wake of our best and happiest moments, turning even our triumphs into a mockery. So often, you hear family members and friends say of a loved one who took their own life, “They were so happy last night, we had no idea they were in such a dark place.” That’s because the quiet, lonely moments after we let ourselves be happy are often the darkest and cruelest, when we pause and notice that fetid scent on the air and know what’s waiting in the shadows for the lights to go out.
Depression is an incessant voice in the mind, force-feeding the most poisonous lies again and again until they seem like truth. It is also like the hackneyed murderer from slasher films, always returning for the next installment in the franchise no matter how final the victory seemed the last time around. Chop it up, burn it, sink the ashes to the bottom of the sea, yet still it will return, and when it does, it’s going to be pissed.
It can take away the best of us, and too often has. Even badass tough guys with high emotional IQs and a ceaseless appetite for good food, good company, and amazing experiences.
Goodbye, Chef. The world will be darker without you.
[[Also, let me make it clear that I’m ok. I’m neither suicidal, nor in danger. I just want to be honest about where I am. I’m usually hiding the extent of my troubles. Only Emily sees what my life is really like, the constant struggle and futility. This is appropriate to a degree, but I think I may hide too much at times, and it is stifling. This was simply an honest, mostly stream of consciousness processing of my feelings concerning Anthony Bourdain’s passing, and the surprising depth of feeling it elicited.]]
Here they are. Of all the 2017 releases I was able to catch, these are my favorites. Also, this is a perfectly sane date to release a list like this.
As always, I never make a claim to pick the best movies of a given year, just my favorite.
In part, this is because there are far too many films I missed — see below — and the gaps in my film knowledge and technical understanding of cinema are far too vast for me to pretend this list is in any way exhaustive or academic. But more, it is because I think “best” and “worst” are words used far, far, far too often by writers and critics and whatnot.
Honorable mentions (I’ll probably decide some of these should have been included after all): Ingrid Goes West, Free Fire, Spiderman: Homecoming, The Meyerwitz Stories (New and Selected), I Am Not Your Negro, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Okja, Colossal, War for the Planet of the Apes, The Red Turtle
The depressingly long list of major omissions from my year’s film-going, in no particular order: The Florida Project, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, The Post, Phantom Thread, Blade Runner 2049, Personal Shopper, Coco, The Disaster Artist, All the Money in the World, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, The Square, mother!, Good Time, A Ghost Story, Kedi, Brigsby Bear, Lady Macbeth, Detroit, Menashe, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Super Dark Times, It Comes at Night. If I didn’t mention one of your favs, please include them in the comments!
On with the list! Here are the favorites, in no particular order:
One major thing Dunkirk illustrates is that plot isn’t necessarily… necessary. Throwing out plot because you’re a hack is obviously bad writing. Throwing away plot because you are using a different sort of storytelling can be remarkable, and Dunkirk is remarkable.
The technical precision of this film never detracts from the tension. At a lean and well-earned two hours, the movie is an experience, but without the bombast and melodrama one normally finds front and center in a movie described as such. In spite of its July 21 release date, this is not an experience in the summer blockbuster sense. Instead, the film is harrowing; it is a simultaneously sobering and life-affirming glimpse at the horror and beauty of humanity that never glorifies war.
Not only was the story itself thrilling, but the perfection of the craft Nolan exhibits is equally electrifying. The three overlapping durations of time that weave together into one seamless, moving denouement is some of the most impressive storytelling I’ve ever seen.
This is a visually beautiful war film that I’m really glad I got to see in 70mm. I actually wish I had this one fresher in my mind so I could point out more of the beautiful technical aspects. I guess it’s time to watch it again!
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
On the shortlist of all-time underrated actors, Frances McDormand is in bold letters, and circled twice. At least up until the current awards season.
It’s not that she doesn’t get praise — for example, her performance in Fargo is appropriately revered — it’s just that she hasn’t been the household name she deserves to be.
As dumb as I think most awards are, I’m glad she won the Golden Globe this week. To quote Sam Rockwell, “She’s a badass, she’s a force of nature.” Her turn in Three Billboards is the sort of performance that deserves to be marked in some lasting way. Future generations should look back and take it in.
It’s an impressive win, as this year’s pool of best actress performances looks more like required viewing for the syllabus in a masterclass exploring the power and possibilities of great acting.
McDormand’s performance is obviously no surprise, she’s that kind of actress. For that matter, none of the great performances in this movie come as a surprise. It’s packed to the brim with underrated performers. For instance, I’ve made no secret of my firm belief that Sam Rockwell is a national treasure — another Golden Globe I was actually excited about.
I love that this film is never straightforward, that it is a story about how messy it is to live together. I love the way it engages the destructive and consuming power of anger, even the most righteous and understandable anger. It’s not the clear-cut ‘citizen against the lazy police to get justice’ story, it’s not the ‘blue lives matter, cops are all heroes’ sort of story. To be honest, it’s a Martin McDonagh sort of story — although, it’s really a McDonagh brothers sort of story, because it felt like a bit of a cross between Martin’s work and the work of his brother, John Michael McDonagh.
If you haven’t seen their work, you should definitely take the time to check it out, after Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri, I’d go with In Bruges, then The Guard and Calvary. And don’t forget Seven Psychopaths at the end there.
I already went into significant detail about my love for Baby Driver with this post.
To quote myself briefly: “This is peak Edgar Wright. While a definite shift in tone and location for the director, like all of his films it is an invitation into a world shaped by his deep love of cinema — this time, set to music! … The well-deserved time has finally come. Edgar Wright will no longer be an underrated genius, just a genius.”
I need cinema that is thoughtful, that explores the emotional landscape of what it means to be human. I also need well-made movies that are first and foremost a great fucking time, made by film-loving geniuses for the pure love and joy of cinema. Nobody is better at that than Edgar Wright, and I’m so glad his time has come to experience broader appreciation.
The only rain on the parade is that it turns out Kevin Spacey is a monster. Fuck.
The Big Sick
The best romantic comedies — which are very few and far between — are the ones that make it impossible not to fall in love with the romantic leads. The Big Sick somehow gets the audience to fall in love not only with the two leads, but two entire families.
Full of charm and warmth, Nanjiani and Gordon delivered a film that made me smile and helped remind me that people are capable of being good to each other, even in the midst of all the bullshit that gets in the way. That’s no small task at the moment.
There are several movies on this list that seem to have come around at exactly the right cultural moment, and this is one of them.
Between Edgar Wright, Kumail Nanjiani, and Taika Waititi, this was a good year for personal favorites making good on a massive scale. It would have been difficult for me to keep this movie off of my list even if the only thing to love was that it thrust Waititi into the international limelight. Fortunately, there was so much more to love.
This clusterfuck of a year called for heaping portions of clever silliness, and I knew Taika was just the man for the job. Ragnarok ended up even more bonkers than I’d dared to hope. The movie combined frenetic improvisational energy, an irreverant approach to the characters, and solid filmmaking. The result is a film that rejected and transcended both superhero tropes and stale line-o-rama comedies.
In short, Thor: Ragnarok was as much fun as I had at the theater this year.
After totally blowing it with Edgar Wright, Marvel Studios seems to have course-corrected and now continues to expand the color palette of their films visually, tonally, and emotionally.
Korg for intergalactic president!
At the end of the day, this movie wasn’t made for me — but I sure did love it anyway.
We all knew Jordan Peele was talented, but I’m not sure we knew just how immense that talent was until now. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Get Out is a funny, troubling, tense mindfuck that succeeds on every level. It proves that you can find an audience for original and interesting content. This is smart, thoughtful, inventive storytelling that made loads of cash on a tiny budget.
Hey Hollywood, much more innovative storytelling, please!
Most writers and directors given space and resources to tell stories are straight white dudes. Fairness and representation are good enough reasons for everyone else to have the same space and resources to tell their stories, but it’s also a win-win for film lovers. It’s important because it’s justice, it also happens to result in better storytelling and a more interesting film landscape.
I never would have anticipated having a movie about figure skating anywhere near my list of favorite films, but here you go. Although, I suppose I, Tonya is about as subversive as a sports movie can get. Whatever the genre, there wasn’t a more engaging film released in 2017.
This film speaks directly to some of the darkest parts of our culture, and perhaps even our humanity. The pressure created by our cultural darkness has the power, from time to time, to make something beautiful, but it will then quickly destroy and consume that beauty more often than not. The same suffering that helped transform Harding’s athletic brilliance into a feat no woman had ever accomplished before also contributed to the destruction of her vocation, which was the only thing she truly loved at that point in her life.
While bartending the other night, some customers described the way the film would get them to laugh, after which they would immediately feel guilty for what they had just laughed at. This is entirely by design. I, Tonya pulls the audience in and makes us complicit in her abuse and downfall. Or, more accurately, the film reveals that we have been complicit all along.
Every performance in this movie is great, but Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are the forces that elevate the film to a different level. The writing and direction are fantastic, but it required the work done by these remarkably talented actresses to stick the landing.
The Shape of Water
After being thoroughly disappointed with Crimson Peak, I was really pulling for this to remind me why I roll with Team GDT, and did it ever!
The Shape of Water is the culmination of everything Guillermo del Toro has done to this point. It’s a story about outsiders and beautiful monsters. The lack of a child as the focal point around which all the violence and magic happens was the only common del Toro trope missing. In reality, what del Toro and cowriter Vanessa Taylor did was create a more complex avatar for that childlike innocence in an adult character, played to perfection by Sally Hawkins. It’s one of the unexpected ways this film actually transcends del Toro’s previous work for me.
It takes everything that del Toro is known for to the next level. Most notably, the reversal in which we find a human being the true monster and a monster full of sympathetic humanity is starker than ever, as in escalating to an outright consummated interspecies romance.
GDT also leans all the way into his love of cinema, while fully embracing the beauty and danger of movies. They can be the light in the darkness, a link to humanity, or they can be the thing we use to distract us and drown out what is really happening in the world to the extent that we never try to make it better. There is meaning and beauty to be found, and there are also cartoonish, whitewashed, oversaturated and oversimplified biblical epics. The one side cannot cancel out the other, and there is goodness hidden everywhere.
Side note: Michael Shannon is one of the fucking best. His use of pacing and vocal nuance to pack power and intensity into even his quietest performances — this was not one of those on the quieter side — gets me every time.
Here are all the shows I finished for the first time in 2017.
Movies are still my first love, so this list isn’t quite as interesting as my film list. Still, definitely some gems on here; they don’t argue about calling this the golden age of television for nothing.
Italics means I was rewatching seasons I’d seen before in their entirety. I also rewatched episodes of 30 Rock, Sunny, Bob’s Burgers, Parks and Rec, Archer, and Arrested Development all year, just as I do every other year.
Luke Cage – Season One
The Night Of
The X-Files – Seasons One – Seven
Black Mirror – Season Three
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – Season Twelve
Legion – Season One
Adventure Time – Seasons One – Four
Master of None – Season Two
Fargo – Season Two
American Gods – Season One
Silicon Valley – Season Four
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Season Three
Archer – Season 8
Game of Thrones – Season 7
Strike: Cuckoo’s Calling
Rick and Morty – Season 3
Stranger Things – Season 2
Last Week Tonight – Season 4
Bob’s Burgers – Season 7
Future Man – Season 1
The Good Place – Season 1
Movies are life.
My fantasy super power has always been to stop time, and part of what I would do with that power is watch movie after movie (after movie after movie after movie).
If every title I watched this year was only an hour and a half long, I would have spent 9 days movie-watching in 2017. Obviously, many of these films are longer — sometimes much longer — so I have probably spent closer to two weeks immersed in cinema. I’m happy with that life choice. Honestly, I really miss the days when I watched upwards of 200 movies a year.
Here are the films I spent nearly 4% of my year watching. Lots of great ones that keep my love for the medium as strong as ever.
The key is mostly the same as always:
(#) Movie I saw in the theater.
[#] Movie I saw for the first time.
E# Movies I watched with Emily.
Title = Favorites (These underlined films cannot be movies I saw this year for the first time, they have to be movies that have been able to stand up after repeated viewing.)
*Title = Best movies I’d never seen before. (It doesn’t matter when these movies came out, I saw them for the first time this year, and they were awesome.)
Halloween Movie Fest.
1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot  E1
*2. Moonlight  (1)
3. Rare Exports 
4. High-Rise 
5. The Magnificent Seven   E2
*6. Repo Man 
7. The Royal Tenenbaums (2)
8. Hitchcock/Truffaut  E3
9. Pulp Fiction (3)
10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
*11. The Last Picture Show 
12. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel 
13. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
14. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping 
15. The X-Files: Fight the Future – E4
*16. I Am Not Your Negro  (4) E5
17. The Lego Batman Movie  (5) E6
18. Pete’s Dragon 
*19. Everybody Wants Some!! 
*20. Get Out  (6)
21. The Neon Demon 
22. Raiders of the Lost Ark
*24. Don’t Think Twice  E7
25. The Wolfpack 
*26. Logan  (7) E8
27. Gantz: 0 
*28. Hell or High Water  E9
29. Guardians of the Galaxy – E10
30. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension 
*31. Moonlight – E11
32. Beauty and the Beast (2017)  (8) E12
*33. Eyes Wide Shut 
34. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
*35. Phenom 
36. The Secret Life of Pets  E13
37. Allied 
38. Mad Max (w/ live original score by Morricone Youth Orchestra) – (9) E14
*39. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance 
40. David Brent: Life on the Road 
41. MST3K: Reptilicus 
*42. Moana  E15
43. No-No: A Dockumentary 
44. The Love Witch 
*45. Free Fire  (10) E16
46. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2  (11) E17
47. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – E18
48. Winchester ’73 
49. Jackie Brown
*50. Colossal  (12) E19
51. Filth 
52. A Simple Plan 
*53. The Red Turtle  E20
54. Mifune: The Last Samurai 
*55. A Band Called Death 
56. Singin’ in the Rain – E21
57. Wonder Woman  (13) E22
*58. John Wick: Chapter 2 
59. La La Land – E23
60. Django Unchained – E24
*61. Baby Driver  (14) E25
*62. Boyhood 
*63. Split 
*64. Okja  E26
65. Unbreakable – E27
66. Jaws (15) E28
*67. The Big Sick  (16) E29
68. Iron Man – E30
69. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – E31
*70. War for the Planet of the Apes  (17)
*71. The Verdict 
*72. Spiderman: Homecoming  (18) E32
75. The Nice Guys
76. Collateral – E33
*77. Dunkirk (70mm)  (19) E34
78. Inception – E35
79. Nashville 
80. How to Steal a Million 
81. Train to Busan 
82. The Founder  E36
*83. Vanishing Point 
84. The Incredible Hulk – E37
85. The Girl with All the Gifts 
86. Hot Fuzz (20) E38
87. The Battered Bastards of Baseball 
88. Kong: Skull Island  E39
89. The Breakfast Club – E40
90. The Getaway (1972) 
91. The Hot Rock 
*92. Ingrid Goes West  (21) E41
93. War on Everyone 
95. The Ladykillers (1955) 
96. Death Note (2017) 
97. Out of Sight – E42
99. Passengers 
100. Kingsman: the Golden Circle  (22) E43
*101. Chunking Express 
103. The Evil Dead (1981)
104. Evil Dead II
105. Army of Darkness
106. Blade Runner (The Final Cut) – E44
107. The Shining – E45
108. It Follows
109. 28 Days Later
*110. House 
111. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 
112. Beetlejuice – E46
113. The Void 
*114. It (2017)  (23)
115. Room 237  E47
116. Don’t Breathe 
117. Tetsuo: The Iron Man 
118. XX 
119. Coraline – E48
120. Bedknobs and Broomsticks – E49
121. What We Do in the Shadows – E50
122. The Babadook
123. The Haunting – E51
124. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – E52
125. Shaun of the Dead (24) E53
126. The Devil’s Backbone – E54
127. Pet Sematary 
*128. Thor: Ragnarok  (25) E55
129. Tombstone – E56
130. Gremlins – E57
*131. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (26)  E58
*132. The King of Comedy 
133. The Room  E59
134. Boy – E60
*135. Logan Lucky  E61
136. Nocturnal Animals 
137. The Nightmare Before Christmas
138. The Bad Batch 
*139. The Last Jedi  (27) E62
*140. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore 
*141. I, Tonya  (28) E63
*142. The Shape of Water  (29) E64
Well, well, well. What do we have here? It’s a post about Halloween Movies nearly two weeks into November. Maybe I should just keep HMF going until the world itself isn’t quite so horrible anymore. At least the horrors in a movie end after the credits roll, instead of the waking nightmare in which we find ourselves IRL at the moment.
Enough with the depressing shit, on with the movies about death and stuff! Cheers to another fun year of HMF.
Movie Twenty-Two – The Haunting
“Haven’t you noticed how nothing in this house seems to move until you look away and then you just… catch something out of the corner of your eye?”
The Haunting is one of those films I might never have watched if not for HMF. It’s another debt I owe to my past self for dreaming up this pointless cinematic odyssey.
I said pretty much everything I’d want to say when I wrote about this one previously. This is another film that will make another appearance if I can dream up a fresh way to approach HMF in the future.
I’m currently listening to the book, and it’s even better than this beautifully crafted film. Shirley Jackson is such an underappreciated writer as far as the wider public is concerned.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. I actually bought it this time around.
Where Can You Watch It? No one is streaming it right now.
Movie Twenty-Three – Pet Sematary
“Dead is better.”
The majority of this movie is… bad. The acting is horrible — with the notable exceptions of a solid performance by Brad Greenquist as the recently deceased Victor Pascow, Miko Hughes as the adorable and terrifying Gage Creed, and some cat as Church the cat. Otherwise, this was 80s TV movie acting of the worst kind, but without the excuse of it being a TV movie.
The story was also mostly nonsense. I’ve never read the book, so I’m assuming it’s better, however the fact that King himself wrote the screenplay makes me wonder. I get that there should be suspension of disbelief, especially in horror, but this is beyond the pale storywise. Can’t there at least be some throwaway line that tells us why the town does nothing about the trucks barreling through at dangerous speeds, or why the parents let their kids play so close to such a dangerous road, or why an otherwise benign old man suggests the magical burial ground knowing full well that anything brought back to life will be an vicious murder monster? Also, was it called Pet Sematary only because “Not So Much the Pet Sematary, but an Ancient Burial Ground Located a Seven Mile Hike and Mountain Climb Away From the Pet Sematary” was too long as a title?
Not to say it was all bad though. Spoilers follow, although, can you really still spoil Pet Sematary at this point in history?
Once Gage comes back as an evil death toddler, the movie is much stronger. The final scenes in Crandall’s house are really creepy and fun. How a film can be this bad throughout the majority of its runtime and still deliver such an amazing movie monster in just a few minutes at the end is hard to understand, but there you go. Gage Creed was one adorably creepy little fucker.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? No, but maybe I’ll watch the ending again.
Where Can You Watch It? Amazon Prime
Movie Twenty-Four – A Girl Walks Home Alone
“If there was a storm coming right now, a big storm, from behind those mountains, would it matter? Would it change anything?”
My love for this film is unambiguous. Exhibit A: At the time of this writing it’s the image on the header of this blog.
It’s interesting, original, visually captivating, and sparse in all the right ways. The first time I saw it I said I could watch it on repeat and it’s still true. I just want to keep looking at it.
Again, I need to come up with a new way to do HMF, and I’ve already written about this one in ways I still wholeheartedly agree with, so if you want to see my take check it out here and here. Seriously though, check those out, and watch this movie!
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. I am now the proud owner of the Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray.
Where Can You Watch It? Kanopy, if your library partners with them.
Movie Twenty-Five – Shaun of the Dead
“You know what we should do tomorrow? Keep drinking. We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing, have a bite at the King’s Head, a couple at the Little Princess, stagger back here then BANG, we’re back at the bar for shots. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?”
To be honest, this is probably the movie that started it all for me HMF-wise. I don’t remember why I was so interested in it when it came out, as I hadn’t seen Spaced yet. But I somehow convinced Emily to go see it with me, and my love for this cinematic experience in some Hudson Valley movie theater played a big part in making me wonder why I’d seen so few horror and horror-related films.
It took five years to fully materialize, but the wonderful boys Pegg and Wright’s love of horror turned out to be contagious for my 22-year-old self.
This year we got to see a screening at Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn with a bunch of super-fans, and it breathed even more life into one of my very favorite films of all time. I’ve written about this movie a bunch of times, including a post about revisiting the whole trilogy again and again.
This movie will always have my heart.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ve seen it upwards of 15 times and I’m not planning to stop anytime soon.
Where Can You Watch It? Showtime
Movie Twenty-Six – The Devil’s Backbone
“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”
Back in the days when I didn’t really watch horror, I still loved movies about ghosts. Ghost stories captivated me as a child, just as they have captivated civilizations throughout history. When someone would tell me a good ghost story, my spine would tingle, my skin would prickle, my eyes would water in some kind of weird fear response.
Side note: the watery eyes thing is something I’ve never understood — Google led me to discussion boards where lots of people are equally confused because they also experience it, but I haven’t found any real answers.
Anyway, my love for ghost stories makes Guillermo del Toro’s ghost masterpiece the perfect way to end HMF this year. Tragic, romantic, full to the brim with everything that makes GDT great. As with so many of these other films, I’d just be repeating myself to write much about this within the current format, so here is what I wrote for HMF 2010 and here is 2015.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely. GDT, baby. GDfuckingT.
Where Can You Watch It? No one is streaming it right now.
Happy belated Halloween! The good news is that I was able to watch 26(!) movies for HMF17. The bad news is that I never got around to writing about half of them before the actual holiday.
Fortunately, there are no rules on RtM so I can just post Halloween themed content well into November.
Movie Fifteen – Don’t Breathe
“There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no god.”
I don’t have much to say about this one. I liked Alvarez’s direction, but not his writing. Aside from the interesting premise and terrific performance by Stephen Lang as the villain, the rest of the story felt weak in the midst of an otherwise well-crafted film.
Mostly I just didn’t care what happened to these characters. In a larger slasher film, that’s beside the point. We actually only need to care about and root for the final girl. Whether or not we care for the more ill-fated characters or instead are meant to enjoy watching them die is up to the filmmakers — both are common. Don’t Breathe is different. If I’m going to spend the majority of the film trapped in a house with two characters trying to survive, I need to give a shit about them in a way that isn’t rooted entirely in cliches.
Unexpected aside: I’m realizing I need to change the format of Halloween Movie Fests and ‘Another Day, Another Movie’ for future installments (if there are any). The whole point of this blog — when I’m actually writing it — is that I don’t waste time on stuff I don’t like or care about. Partly because it’s a waste of energy unless I’m offering some genuine critique in a larger cultural context, but even more because I’d rather learn from someone who loves a movie I didn’t get than shit all over a film someone else really loves, quite possibly for great reasons. This is especially true regarding classics I didn’t like or see the appeal of.
It’s not that I never want to be critical, it’s just that it requires more care and thought than what I have time to offer in this format.
I think I might try to think of a way to lean more heavily into the curation — which is what I actually like doing to begin with — for future HMF’s, instead of boring my friends with uninspired complaints about films.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? No.
Where Can You Watch It? Starz.
Movie Sixteen – Tetsuo: The Iron Man
And here I thought House was bonkers. Tetsuo is fucked up — intentionally so. A gonzo body horror metaphor about the replacement of the natural world with the industrial world, the film is less a well-drawn story and more a series of horrifying moments and images following three characters as a man is mysteriously transformed into a metal monstrosity after a hit-and-run.
Super low budget in the best possible way, this is the perfect example of how wide-ranging the possibilities within film are.
Tetsuo is full of gross out scenes that go way over the top, it’s dark and violent, getting more and more insane with each of its 77 minutes. It definitely draws inspiration from films like Eraserhead.
This is one of those ones that felt like it nailed everything it was trying to do perfectly, even if personally it’s not the sort of movie I want to rewatch again and again.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe as part of a more in-depth film study, but probably not for fun.
Where Can You Watch It? Kanopy (if your library participates).
Movie Seventeen – XX
“I have made my contribution. I like to believe that I’ve made a difference in all of this. I have been blessed to watch over you all these years, and to watch over Andy, to prepare the world for this glorious day! There’s nothing to be afraid of Cora. It’s his time, is all. Praise, praise his darkness.”
XX is an anthology of four horror shorts, all written and directed by women — including St. Vincent. As is almost always the case with anthologies like this, it was uneven, but solid overall.
What I really want to write about is Karyn Kasuma. Last year I absolutely loved her film The Invitation during HMF, and her segment in XX just confirms to me that she is a filmmaker we should all be really excited about.
Her short, “Her Only Living Son,” brilliantly uses the Rosemary’s Baby concept, in large part wrestling with white male privilege and how it creates and feeds monsters. That sounds like the short is really political or preachy, but it isn’t. It’s just the sort of horror that tackles the horrifying things in ordinary life by exaggerating it with a horror lens.
I have to go rewatch The Invitation now, but I also can’t wait for Kasuma to do more.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably just the Karyn Kusama segment.
Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.
Movie Eighteen – Coraline
“Hush and shush, for the Beldam might be listening.”
On their own, Laika animation company’s stop-motion films and Neil Gaiman are among my very favorite things. Combine them, and I’m obviously all over it!
I love dark fare created for kids — not that you need to be a kid to enjoy this film. Kids need stories with fear and darkness in them, especially when the hero prevails. Reading scary stories and watching scary shows and movies can be like an inoculation for the greater fear of life. The world is dark and scary, and it’s far better to practice dealing with those themes in small doses, in a safe environment with clearly established frames for where the story begins and ends.
Stories can teach us to be brave, empathetic and compassionate, resilient, and hopeful. I want all kids to experience as much of that as possible.
Here’s Gaiman himself on writing Coraline:
“When I [started writing] ‘Coraline’, I thought, ‘I am going to make my villain as bad a villain as I can… and I’m not going to give Coraline magic powers, and I’m not going to make her some kind of special Chosen One, and she’s not going to be a secret princess or anything like that — she’s going to be a smart little girl who’s going to be scared and is going to keep doing the right thing anyway, and that’s what brave is. And she is going to triumph by being smarter and braver.’” (transcription credit)
Classic Neil. I love that guy.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Most definitely.
Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.
Movie Nineteen – Bedknobs and Broomsticks
“Treguna, Makoidees, Trecorum, Sadis Dee.”
When I was a little kid, around the age of ten or eleven, my brother and I did the same thing almost every weekend. When we arrived with our mom in Wallkill, after she would retreat to her room for the majority of the time until Monday, Matt and I would watch Newsies and Bedknobs and Broomsticks almost every Friday night. Over and over, weekend after weekend.
I didn’t think of it much at the time, it’s just what we did.
Looking back, I thought more about what was happening with all of these revisitations. I realized what I was doing was immersing myself in stories about orphans who find a place where they are wanted and celebrated. Both films are about lonely people who become part of a family that isn’t about blood, but belonging. It salving a wound that I couldn’t possibly understand fully at that point.
Watching it as an adult, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is silly, and at least one set piece too long. And still, I’m moved by what the movie meant to me as a child. That realization years later played no small part in the decision to make my entire master’s thesis about the power of fiction in our lives.
This film was a security blanket for me as a child, providing a familiarity and sense of home for two hours at a time.
Also, the scene where all the old armor and weapons fights off the Nazis was my favorite scene from all of collected cinema for a solid two or three years of my life. Remember when Nazi hatred was the least controversial stance possible?
Will I Ever Watch It Again? If I ever have kids, we’re watching this movie. Also, fuck Nazis.
Where Can You Watch It? No one has it streaming for free right now.
Movie Twenty – What We Do in the Shadows
“Wait, let’s kill them.”
“Well let’s just see what other safety points they have… and then maybe we’ll kill them.”
I wrote about this one for last year’s fest, and it’s all still true. Here’s a slightly edited rehash:
“What We Do In the Shadows is hilarious, smart, clever, impressively filmed, and never overstretches its premise. That last bit is miraculous, given how quickly this could have either gotten old or gone overboard — especially with the mockumentary format.”
It’s tricky to make a sweet, silly, endearing comedy about the murderous undead, but Clement and Waititi nail it.
I can’t wait for Thor: Ragnarok, when the world at large will finally be aware of how amazing Taika Waititi is. His work is sharp and funny. He revels in the flaws and awkwardness of his characters, which is such a huge part of the joy I find in his movies.
I have a soft spot for stories about the search for belonging and identity, and no one does it better that him.
I am decidedly pro-Taika!
Will I Ever Watch It Again? At least once a year, ad infinitum. This is one of those few movies where when I see it available on a streaming service it takes a conscious choice not to just click on it and watch it again.
Where Can You Watch It? Amazon Prime, or come over to my place because I fucking love this movie.
Movie Twenty-One – The Babadook
“You can’t get rid of the Babadook.
I’ll wager with you
I’ll make you a bet.
The more you deny,
The stronger I get.
You start to change when I get in.
The Babadook growing right under your skin.”
File this one under perfectly executed, creepy ass horror films that make me cry.
This movie hits home for me in a way few films ever have. As I wrote for HMF15, “as someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, and severe insomnia, as well as being someone who grew up as a child with too many parallels to Samuel, this film was both difficult and therapeutic. The last time I felt this much deep internal connection between my own childhood and the thematic territory of a film was Where the Wild Things Are.”
After a second viewing the film was just as powerful and moving for me. I was even more impressed this time around with Jennifer Kent’s writing and direction. She hit this way out of the park, Aaron Judge-style.
Gorgeous filmmaking, and I can’t wait for her next film, The Nightingale.
I’d love it if you read my thoughts on what The Babadook meant to me when I watched it the first time, HERE, just scroll past Frenzy.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely. It resonates inside my soul and I’d hate to stay away too long.
Where Can You Watch It? Netflix and Showtime.
Let’s keep it rolling! Here are seven more movies:
Movie Eight – The Shining
“Wendy… darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I said, I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in. I’m gonna bash them right the fuck in!”
This film is a masterpiece. A fucking masterpiece!!
Nicholson is at his most brilliant and insane. It’s probably weird to say a performance like this is a joy to watch, but it’s true — especially on repeat viewings. I smile and laugh almost continuously while watching him do his thing in this movie.
Even more, Kubrick is fucking killing every aspect of the filmmaking game here. This is next level shit. I feel like if I learned more about filmcraft, I’d be even more in awe of every frame of this film than I already am.
Where is The Shining even taking us? What do all the background images and spooky tangents mean? What is Kubrick trying to communicate? Damned if I know. But with this level of meticulous filmmaking, it’s so easy to get lost in the mystery over and over again. It gets better each time.
Bonus: one of the greatest outcomes of starting to do HMF all those years ago is that this year, Emily watched The Shining and loved it. So… yeah, my life is set.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Absolutely. What’s the over/under here? Ten more times? Fifteen? The smart money is on ‘over.’
Where Can You Watch It? No one has it streaming for free right now, but I own it, so come on over.
Movie Nine – Room 237
As mentioned above, The Shining is a pretty mysterious movie. Unlike most films, the mystery intensifies as you watch the film more closely and on repeat viewings. You notice more imagery, color choices, dialogue quirks, background props, etc., and the whole thing just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Like the Overlook Hotel, the film is one big impossible labyrinth, in which the dimensions and shapes don’t add up quite how they should.
Room 237 is a documentary featuring interviews with various devotees about their theories as to what the hell this movie is about. Mostly, their theories work to an extent, but become insane when taking to such an exacting degree.
It illustrates how immersive and mesmerizing this film is. The calculated brilliance of Kubrick’s filmmaking makes it easier to believe that each detail, no matter how small, means something in the larger whole. Details that would be accidents or errors in another film are more likely intentional in a Kubrick film, which intensifies the devotion from fans trying to find meaning and read themselves into the art they love, as we all do.
My favorite part: when an interviewee explained his creation of a print of the film that overlays the film playing forwards and backwards simultaneously. The clips they showed were amazing. I don’t see how Kubrick could have intentionally made the film work that perfectly, even he wasn’t that meticulous, but it was pretty eerie how some moments lined up. Someone please let me know if they hear of a screening of that print.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? No, but it was totally worth checking out.
Where Can You Watch It? Hulu
Movie Ten – The Void
“This isn’t the end.”
If The Thing, HP Lovecraft, and a book about dealing with death and loss had a horrible nightmare baby, it would look a lot like The Void. Obviously, this means the movie is super weird and dark as fuck.
The Void had its weaknesses, but overall I found it an engaging, solid, low-budget horror film. It leaned way into what it wanted to be, never pulling any punches, which really helped me root for this one to work.
Grounded performances contrasted with insane monsters and violence helped the interdimensional madness land.
The real star of the show was the practical effects. The reliance on CGI far exceeds what filmmakers can currently do with CGI — even in big budget films — and the result is a whole lot of films getting hamstrung by cheesy-ass effects. Filmmakers Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski leaned heavily into practical effects and gore, and the result is so much more immersive.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Probably not, but I’m glad I chose to include it.
Where Can You Watch It? Netflix
Movie Eleven – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
“I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.”
This movie spawned an entire sub-genre and inspired countless films and filmmakers afterward. It’s on 13 official lists on iCheckMovies, so the cultural influence is clear.
To be honest, this isn’t really my thing, but I’d gone too long without seeing a movie of such iconic status.
I don’t have much to say about this one.
Where Psycho took its inspiration from Ed Gein and dove way into the weird relationship with his mom, Texas Chainsaw Massacre went hard into the whole ‘grave robbing and making housewares and clothes out of people’ aspect of Gein’s story.
I was actually a little intimidated — which explains why I waited so long to see it — because I don’t enjoy watching torture scenes in any genre. When that’s the point of the whole movie, I was prepared to spend 83 very uncomfortable minutes. As it turns out, this film is so tame by today’s standards that I had built it up to be far more disturbing in my mind than it was ever going to be in reality. I actually found it less scary and more silly, at times even annoying.
At least now I can say I’ve seen it, and for a completionist movie nerd, that’s no small thing.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? No.
Where Can You Watch It? Amazon Prime.
Movie Twelve – Beetlejuice
“As soon as we get settled, we’ll build you a dark room in the basement, okay?”
“My whole life is a dark room.”
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!
Hm. I thought maybe that would cause weirdo Michael Keaton to come help me write this entry.
Remember when Tim Burton was actually inventive and interesting? Or pre-Batman Michael Keaton? Or when Alec Baldwin was super skinny? Or when Geena Davis was rising to the peak of her fame? Ok, I was too young to be aware of Geena Davis as a rising star, but it’s all been recorded.
I think the biggest takeaway I got this time was that this was really a movie for teens — or at least that’s how it plays to me watching it now. Since it came out when I was six, I never really got that.
Anyway, remember the cartoon?! That was a thing that happened.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Maybe?
Where Can You Watch It? Nobody has it streaming for free right now.
Movie Thirteen – It
“Derry is not like any town I’ve been in before. They did a study once and, it turns out, people die or disappear at six times the national average. And that’s just grown ups. Kids are worse. Way, way worse.”
This one launched onto my radar because its huge critical success.
The tone and production are a little cheesy early on. Also, as opposed to The Void‘s practical effects, It features many scares that rely solely on CGI. For me, that drained the terror right out of any scene leaning heavily on less-than-stellar computer animation, which includes the opening murder. If you love obvious CGI in a scary scene, this movie will be your jam.
Negatives aside, It really is a solid film.
All the fear and foreboding that isn’t rooted in CGI was superb. The cast of kids were charming and their terrifying adventure worked perfectly at the heart of the story. I would assume King’s source material should get the bulk of the credit for how real and well-drawn the kids were. The nostalgia came from how close this felt to my own school-age summer vacations. Obviously, I mean that on a relational level, not as a claim that my friends and I fought a fear monster who likes to take the shape of a clown, because that’s all still classified by the government… er, I mean… because that never happened to me as a kid.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I’ll definitely watch this again.
Where Can You Watch It? In theaters.
Movie Fourteen – Phantasm
“You play a good game, boy, but the game is finished. Now you die.”
This is one of those fan favorites that I just couldn’t get into. I think things would have been different if I’d seen it as a kid, because it really is an R rated kids movie about coping with death and loss. Since I didn’t see it when I was a kid, it’s just a big incoherent mess.
The story doesn’t make sense, the biggest moments in the movie make even less sense than the overall story, the things that work don’t happen enough, and I feel like Angus Scrimm’s Tall Man character was unintentionally hilarious instead of haunting — although, maybe that’s part of what people love about it, which would be far more understandable.
Some stuff I read after watching it defends the nonsensical story by saying it’s intentionally dreamlike, but to me that seems like more of a weak defense for a terrible story. In part, my enjoyment suffered from the comparison to House, which really was a nightmare logic, but took the absurdity to such extremes, which is why it works.
JJ Abrams can name and design Star Wars characters based the franchise all he wants, I’m still not going to understand what people love about this movie.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I doubt it.
Where Can You Watch It? Shudder, otherwise no one else has it streaming for free right now.
Halloween Movie Fest is well underway, and it’s glorious.
After so many years, I’m to a point where I could make an entire month-long movie a day stretch using just films I discovered and fell in love with via HMF. Obviously, part of the joy of this annual exercise is to discover new (to me) films I might not otherwise watch, so I’ll probably never do that. Yet, while I’ll never go that far, this year I needed some familiarity in my life, so I brought back a large number of old favorites. In fact, for the first week of movies, there was only one film I hadn’t seen before (House). It was totally worth it. Upcoming weeks won’t have so many re-viewings.
Movie One – Housebound
“You cannot punch ectoplasm.”
A good horror-comedy is a thing of beauty, and Housebound belongs in the hall of fame. Add in What We Do in the Shadows and it’s clear that New Zealand really has their shit figured out in this regard.
For his debut film, writer/director Gerard Johnstone threw a mystery, a family-life comedy and a haunted house story into a blender and the resulting concoction is funny, quirky, charming and original. And as a bonus, it has one of the funniest and most unexpected death scenes I’ve ever seen — watching it for the first time with a small group of people was a genuine delight.
Sure, there are a few hiccups where the story stops making sense in order to keep things moving, but the movie is such a good time that it doesn’t really detract from the overall experience for me.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Indeed.
Where Can You Watch It? Netflix
Movies Two, Three and Four – The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness
“Hail to the king, baby.”
No one is really a stranger to these films, right? This is one of the most iconic horror franchises of all time, featuring perhaps the most iconic hero in the history of the genre.
Constantly referenced in other films, especially in the horror and horror-comedy genres, these movies are part of the DNA of everything that came after. What can I really say about these demented and beloved films? You might not love them, but you definitely love a movie that’s been influenced by them.
The first movie is certainly the most earnest of the three, although it is still insane. After that they just keep getting wackier as they go.
These are those rare movies where what works and what doesn’t work all somehow still add to the overall score. Insane, over-the-top dialogue and acting? 1,000 points! A near complete disregard for continuity between movies? 250 points! Silly, low-budget special effects? 3,000 points! A chainsaw hand? 1,000,000 points!
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Of course, preferably in large groups.
Where Can You Watch It? Evil Dead II is streaming on Shudder. Otherwise you need to pay to rent these.
Movie Five – It Follows
“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”
Another previous favorite I revisited this year, this one holds up really well on second viewing. I can’t say much in case you haven’t seen it. It Follows is better if you know very little about it when you watch it, which you should absolutely do!
As I said the first time, during HMF15: “David Robert Mitchell has created a film that is moody, atmospheric, and wonderfully creepy. Also, Maika Monroe is fantastic as Jay, the terrorized lead. This is a film that will be a genre classic, and I expect to see this referenced, honored, parodied, and copied in coming years.”
Watching it for the second time — as in, without being on edge and creeped out the whole time — it was even more evident how great the filmmaking is. I really love the camera choices Mitchell made. Without going into plot details, I’ll say it would have been easy in a movie like this to use that lazy trope where filmmakers cheat to get jump scares by utilizing the limited frame of the camera lens. Just because something just jumped into frame doesn’t mean the characters wouldn’t have seen it well before the reveal. This officially renders that particular jump scare fake news. It’s everywhere in horror movies — and movies in general — these days. Mitchell doesn’t do this. He uses long takes and camera movement to create a full sense of the space of the scene, immersing the viewer more legitimately in the terror of being followed by a mysterious entity. He creates scares via skillful filmmaking, not cheap tricks.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? Definitely. Viewing two confirmed my theory that this is immensely rewatchable.
Where Can You Watch It? Netflix.
Movie Six – 28 Days Later
“Look, if someone gets infected, you’ve got between ten and twenty seconds to kill them. It might be your brother, or your sister, or your oldest friend — it makes no difference. And just so you know where you stand, if it happens to you, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.”
One of the primary themes at work in most zombie fare is humanity consuming itself. In Romero’s genre-spawning Living Dead films, the reanimated dead are pure mindless hunger. When left to their own devices after the collapse of civilization, those still living are even worse. The monsters are us. Romero started it all by making small stories in the midst of the end of the world, where our prejudice, paranoia, consumption, and militarism are our downfall.
In 28 Days Later, Boyle follows the template, albeit with the living dead replaced by living people infected with pure rage. Boyle dives even harder into the idea that our civilization is a thin veneer. Maybe the world isn’t actually ending, but people still use any excuse to become monsters.
The basic takeaway from most zombie movies is that individuals might be cool, but people on a large scale are the worst, whether they’re alive or undead.
Quibble all you want about whether or not it’s fare to call this a zombie film — which is stupid, because Romero himself wasn’t the one who started calling his living dead monsters ‘zombies,’ plus the word zombie comes from a totally different thing — but thematically this is a by-the-numbers zombie story exploring the worst parts of humanity.
Will I Ever Watch It Again? I own it, so chances are good, even though for some reason I liked it less this time around.
Where Can You Watch It? You can stream it on Cinemax right now if you have a password. If you need to borrow one, mine is jkyoucanthavemypassword.
Movie Seven – House
“She eats unmarried young girls. It is the only time she can wear her wedding gown.”
Ho. Ly. Shit. This movie is, to borrow a phrase from Pierce Hawthorne, crazytown bananapants. 100% bonkers.
Killer pianos, decapitated heads biting butts, magical murder cats, people being transformed into piles of bananas, and a surprising amount of kung fu are just a few examples of what this film has to offer. It’s surreal and dreamlike. It’s a horror film by way of a child’s nightmare — although with more boobs, because the 70s.
And you know what? It somehow completely worked for me. Obayashi got all the ideas from conversations with his young daughter about what she thought was frightening, and then told the screenwriter what he wanted based on that. The special effects were often designed to look silly, like a child created them, but that was spliced in with inventive filmmaking techniques that showed Obayashi was actually a gifted filmmaker and all the craziness was intentional.
If I’m being honest, there were times watching the movie where I didn’t even know why I was captivated by it, but I absolutely was. After finishing it I immediately jumped into some bonus feature interviews with the director to keep the experience from ending. Always a good sign.
Bonus: here’s an interesting video essay I found after I watched it: