• Summer of 84

    Summer of 84

    ★★½

    A fun but forgettable 80s homage. Summer of 84 seems intent on merely checking the boxes of its influences, rather than building off of, or exploring them in any interesting way.

    It's well shot, and decently acted, but the various elements here never feel like they are doing much more than going through the motions. Imagine 'Stranger Things' with less talented kids, no supernatural elements and no killer synth score, and that's basically what you end up with here. The idea of your neighbors being evil has been explored in much more interesting ways elsewhere.

  • The House of the Devil

    The House of the Devil

    ★★★½

    What really impresses about this 80's throwback is its slow burning sense of control.

    Ti West doesn't go in for cheap jump scares to keep us engaged. In fact the vast majority of the film is refreshingly mundane, as we watch a dorky young woman...just be a dorky young woman. The elements of weirdness, foreboding and dread are mixed in slowly, amidst walkman dances, pizza orders, and annoying roommates.

    The House of the Devil gets the ambiance of being an…

  • Cosmos

    Cosmos

    ★★½

    Unwittingly and sinisterly, Cosmos is the perfect film for our current age.

    That's not because of the simplicity of the set-up, (three geeky friends playing with astronomy equipment out of a car one night). Or because this premise allows the directors to craft a well-shot film with lots of moody, noir-ish nighttime photography. And not it's because of how the film turns a story about mundane details into something of well...cosmic significance.

    No.

    Cosmos is the perfect film for our…

  • It Follows

    It Follows

    ★★★★½

    It Follows damn near gave me a panic attack.

    This thing works with so many primal elements at once. Sex, social anxiety, the fear of being followed, of placid, everyday life suddenly turning into a nightmare and then back again.

    It just manages to stick its fingers right into the heart of all of those apprehensions. The film creates a placid, gorgeously shot world where dread and doom can suddenly overflow amidst the most casual of middle class moments.

    Much…

  • I Am Mother

    I Am Mother

    ★★★★

    Taking the domestic trope of the overbearing, protective mom into a far grimmer speculative domain, I Am Mother is a sharp, well-paced concept piece.

    A film set in a futuristic bunker, whose run time mostly features a single person talking to a robot would be, in most hands, an invitation to dramatic boredom. But Grant Sputore just nails the subtle back and forth between a young girl and her cyber-mom. In the process, he slowly begins to unravel the mysteries…

  • The Taking of Deborah Logan

    The Taking of Deborah Logan

    ★★★★

    This is a sly film that taps into some pretty strong emotions. Namely, the physical and mental decline of a loved one.

    From the film's opening, Deborah Logan (played brilliantly by Jill Larson) is already doomed. Not by things that go bump in the night, but by the brutal clinical reality of Alzheimers.

    Horror as a genre typically focuses on the young and innocent. The old and infirm are usually, as best, bit players in scary movies. This film asks…

  • The Signal

    The Signal

    ★★★

    The first 20 or so minutes of this are gorgeously done. Just a simple, naturalistic story of 3 young friends trying to sort out their own dynamic on a cross country trip. It's beautiful intimate film making.

    Then, for whatever reason, we are suddenly flung into what basically amounts to 2-3 different twilight zone episodes at once. And while the charisma and development of that opening set-up is enough to keep us engaged...it just isn't enough to overcome the sudden…

  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

    The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

    ★★★★

    A welcome splash of reality from a time when spies were easy to glamorize. This is, intentionally, the ultimate anti-James Bond film.

    Spy's in this telling aren't suave, murderous womanizers. Merely slightly more autonomous bureaucrats in the grinding back and forth of cold-war era politics. They are angry, disillusioned, petty, and cheaply self-serving. And the whole thing is shot in a murky black and white that feels downright noirish.

    I can't think of another film I've seen that communicates the sheer geopolitical exhaustion of the cold war era.

  • Black Death

    Black Death

    ★★★½

    Man, the middle ages sucked.

    This is refreshingly... not what you would expect. Black Death seems at first to have all the trappings of a conventional horror film, albiet transplanted into a medieval setting (and one that actually has a solid production budget).

    But, as in the very best horror, it's ultimately the vileness of human rather than supernatural behavior that has the most power to shock and upset. There is no mercy or pity in this film, there are…

  • Black Sunday

    Black Sunday

    ★★★½

    This is worth watching for cinematography alone.

    This has to be some of the most sumptuous black and white I've seen, from any era. Almost every scene drips with chiaroscuro. I became so enamored by the gorgeous contrasts of black and white that the plot (pretty run-of-the-mill) became... kind of superfluous?

    There are some strong scenes, although it's hard to top the opening prologue. Its doomed medieval gothiness kind of feels like a the gold standard for that sort of aesthetic. So much of horror is in the ambiance, and Black Sunday delivers that in spades.

  • Underwater

    Underwater

    ★★½

    I suspect James Cameron's The Abyss was so expensive, and so traumatically difficult to make back in 1989, that Hollywood basically refused to back another film with a similar setting for decades.

    Underwater has the budget for a cast with a few stars, good CGI and strong production values. Ultimately though, its crushed beneath the benthic pressure of too many layers of genre. It sort of wants to be an action film, sort of a thriller, and sort of a…

  • Color Out of Space

    Color Out of Space

    ★★★½

    Personally, I think H.P Lovecraft's stories work better as inspiration rather than direct adaptation. It's hard to capture the old-fashioned, cosmic horror of his writing in a way that translates well to narrative film.

    Richard Stanley's adaptation pulls it off about as well as anyone has. The direction is tight and focused, and this is easily the most professional cast to have done a Lovecraftian film in several decades.

    The family at the center of this, who wind up traumatized…