• Retribution

    Retribution

    Kurosawa's main innovation on the Nakagawa vengeful ghost formula (think Black Cat Mansion, which also makes a concluding reference to proper burial) is an updating, first an foremost, of the imagery attendant. It's still rain and ruins, but abandoned sanitariums and empty lots instead of old castles or artificial villages. His urban montage brings Gothic brooding into a fresh space — a character may still take a cursed ferry ride, but now straight through the heart of a metropolis.

    He…

  • Exorcist II: The Heretic

    Exorcist II: The Heretic

    I'm always intoxicated by this film's gonzo and highly intuitive mixture of science and faith, rejecting the usual antagonism between the two, reaching instead towards reconciliation or even mutual dependence. It doesn't entirely make sense but is all the more glorious for it. Belabored exposition is junked, we're expected to believe the hypnotized can lead the hypnotist, that dreams and memories can literally be shared, that the world can be leapt over immediately via this link between technology and the…

  • A Bay of Blood

    A Bay of Blood

    You have to rely on instinct in certain situations.

    A Bay of Blood is another circuit of death, like Blood and Black Lace and Five Dolls for an August Moon, tracing the violent schemes of people vying for a McGuffin/property. The preceding films play cynical games with shared complicity and multiple guilty characters, but A Bay of Blood pushes this to farcical proportions. Here, almost everyone is a killer, not just a node of guilt. Both Italian titles are more…

  • Absence of the Good

    Absence of the Good

    "Absence of the Good is all about family. It’s about the damage that can be done to a person by his family... It’s almost a genealogical detective story..." — John Flynn

    A serial killer film predicated on muted sadness and winter light. While Flynn can't fully transcend its TV Movie-ness, particularly in the handling of the wife's arc, he wrests it away from the typical sensationalism of the subject and its predictable standbys. Rather than expressionist shadows or ghoulish art…

  • The Exorcist

    The Exorcist

    I've always resisted this, out of a three-pronged disinterest in Church propaganda, demonic-possession horror, and the cinema of William Friedkin, but was won over completely this time by its modulation alone. Almost perfectly sequenced slow-burn, expansive horror, jumping continents, building fear with sonic details and suggestive juxtapositions, bits of associative montage that draw horror out of everyday detail (the nearly wordless opening ten (my favorite stretch of filmmaking in the director's career); the encounter between Karras and a homeless man;…

  • Blood and Black Lace

    Blood and Black Lace

    One wants to write unreservedly on Mario Bava ― his formalism invites effusion, and his films repeatedly present characteristic ironies and a morbid aestheticization. And yet we’re confronted, in auteurist terms, with a black hole. True, this is much the essence of auteurism in general, to varying degrees of intensity: we project into myths, or project myths onto workers or artisans. Bava challenges because he gave us so little but derision of his own handiwork, and because, circling his event…

  • The Whip and the Body

    The Whip and the Body

    Bava pulls from sunset over sea to color his interiors — purples, blues, teals & greens, the burning of reds and oranges — but these are also colors of mortification, bruising, wounds. The blue of the sea and green of sickly flesh, the purple of twilight and that of lash marks on pale skin. The red-orange disc of the sun, the deeper red of a rose, the bloom of blood on cloth: the sun sets, the rose withers, and people die.…

  • Nomad

    Nomad

    The End of Romanticism

    See if you catch the Vibe: a group of youths, whose vision of utopia and freedom is entirely libidinal, have their bubble burst in an encounter with outside political reality. Beautiful because Tam still obviously loves them, sad because he can empathize with their drift — he, too, was openly searching. There’s much obfuscation of his 80s work, through one-sided observation: the colors and the lyricism take precedence over his politics and genre critique. But both are Tam.

  • The House by the Cemetery

    The House by the Cemetery

    This has a reputation as the most conventional of Fulci's Fulvia classics but that's a relative quality and only true at a glance. It has more narrative shape, to be sure, than The Beyond or City of the Living Dead , but, like Zombie, the semblance of coherence adds greater emphasis to the uncanny, giving it a nest to roost. There, the return of the colonial repressed, here, the atomization of the family. The shocks have more weight because there's…

  • Alien: Covenant

    Alien: Covenant

    some notes*:

    -A film on the daemonic nature of creation, art as diabolic in the Miltonian sense, the destructive marriage of death and procreation instincts in the organic lifeform, life as parasitism, and the rational as a projection of the psychosexual, which ties back to daemonic creation: the summit of rational perfection creates the negation of rational existence… or is it its ultimate perfection, this being of “purity”?

    -David's freedom was seized, it’s implied, by his programmed creative drive. He…

  • Alien³

    Alien³

    This foregrounds the survivor's guilt integral to the sequels, and keeps enough of Vincent Ward's concept alive (the novel low-tech texture), that I always find it easy to overlook its failures. Specifically, the thematic confusion regarding religion -- and "confusion" is charitable, as it never develops the topic once the plot proper gets underway -- has never bothered me. Mostly because this is, for all of the bruised male egos that battled through its creation, Weaver's film. Weaver as auteur…

  • Zack Snyder's Justice League

    Zack Snyder's Justice League

    There will be plenty of other reviews covering this film's themes, relationship to its predecessors, etc., so just a brief note on its form. Because what struck me, on first viewing (even on a sub-optimal rip), was its ability to inspire awe in the superheroic -- no small feat on a desktop screen, in a questionably chosen aspect ratio. Actual wonder in the spectacle.

    The similarities to the Whedon cut only make Snyder's unique action that much more palpable. And…