In cinema, I always want to be surprised, shocked, and to have my expectations confounded, even dashed. This is precisely what keeps me passionate about film post-1980—otherwise, I’d just be watching my Michael Findlay and Jean Rollin favorites over and over. It’s movies like Cub, Victoria, and Lake Nowhere that cause me to continually take chances on contemporary cinema, while many others are content to mutter, “Conjuring 2 was pretty good.” No. No it wasn’t. Not nearly good enough.
Cub Let me take a wild stab here and guess that many, nay the majority reading this, have suffered the stigma of being the “weird kid,” with troubles the group didn’t want to bother to understand. Well, here is your triumph. This visually exquisite and tight thriller about a Belgian scout troop on a French holiday pulls no punches (animal abuse, multiple child deaths, gory endings for both male and female adults) and yet boasts a rounded, satisfying conclusion that will somehow have you (or I should say, had me) applauding that someone made a wholly original horror film with a continually surprising story that goes nowhere you’ll expect, and yet ends somewhere that makes absolute sense and will satisfy most viewers. You’ll feel like you “watched something” after Cub, and if you’re at all like me your mind will resonate with its images and shocks. Add to that the marriage of an artful and well-paced electronic score by Steve Moore, and this one is pretty unmissable.
The Witch Mainstream? Yes. Many of you reading this will have already seen it? Sure. But The Witch (or VVitch) warrants inclusion here simply because it is one of the best horror films made within the last 20 years. Director Robert Eggers held back his idea, until he could find investors that were willing to shell out for 17th-century-authentic fence posts, and that dedication to an idea, that creative passion, well in this case it’s a winner because it meticulously creates a world where you are lifted out of your theater seat or off your couch into absolute New-England-settlement realism, a time when witches were very real in the minds of the faithful, and the garden-variety horrible (like dead crops, disease, death and hunger) happened with regularity. Did I mention the allegory of feminine coming-of-age, and its “threat” to a good, Puritan family? That’s there too, The VVitch spares no one, and no awful possibility, for a family literally just trying to survive in the New World. Nothing that happens is expected, or even pleasant, but as the film concludes, you may be moved to spontaneous applause, and will definitely feel like, “goddamn, I watched a MOVIE there.” Indispensable, for both horror geeks and mainstream cineastes.
Blue Ruin, an ultra-twisted, modern Hatfields/McCoys bummerfest, and Green Room finds that team with more money, bigger-name talent, and a wholly different story to tell, that of some luckless punk rockers who end up witnessing a murder at a skinhead club, a gig they took out of desperation in the first place. From there, the whole house of cards tumbles, lots of characters you’ll like die horribly, and Patrick Stewart puts in an evil, nonchalant turn as the white-supremacist group leader. The ending to Green Room is equal parts bleak and triumphant, and anyone who hasn’t seen it at this reading might want to hop on, because I, among many others, eagerly await seeing what Saulnier et al. will produce next.
Darling A difficult proposition perhaps for some, because Darling is a contemporary re-imagining of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, which so many of us know and love, but for me Darling does so with aplomb, hitting all the right notes at all the right times. Trading Paris for NY’s upper crust, blonde for brunette (the lovely and hypnotic Lauren Ashley Carter), and the slow descent into madness for supernatural/Satanic forces that may be controlling the show in this most-ritzy of Manhattan dwellings, Darling plays like a dream director Mickey Keating must have had about Repulsion, like that room that’s not your room but it is, and though the elemental parts are basically the same, stroboscopic/hallucinatory effects, supernatural rumbles, whispers, and Satanic messages carved into locked doors take the place of a rotten rabbit carcass on a plate, and cruel ladies at the beauty parlor. Darling is a cool film, and I recommend even skeptics give it a chance. It all ends up “nicely” with a song by My Castle of Quiet regulars Harassor.
Straight on Till Morning, the recreation of production design and most importantly the mood of that era are so palpable. In a palatial home, two beautiful women, one a bit younger, play out a tightrope-walk of a romantic/sexual dynamic that’s pretty much tense from the very first scene. Look deep into the crotch of those suffocating but oh-so-wonderfully seamed black stockings, because what’s there isn’t exactly as pretty as you’d like, and involves enormous compromise, patience and exhaustion. Ultra clever and otherworldly in its perfection.
Mystic Inane - ass't 7"s | Scumripper -s/t | Dry Insides - all | Cape of Bats - Violent Occultism, etc. | Wounds - III | Nordwind/Order of the White Hand - split | Muerte - all | James Harlow - s/t | Prison Moan - Parasite Hole | Pink Mass - SLVT KVLT | Steve Moore - Cub OST | Obduktio - s/t | Moros - Life Assisted Suicide | Vlk - Of Wolves' Blood | Total Abuse - Excluded | Graves at Sea - The Curse That Is | The Repos - Poser | Wet Ones - s/t | KK Null - Plasmagma | Cadaver Eyes - Class Mammal | Absolute Power - s/t | Alkerdeel - Lede | Hostium - The Bloodwine of Satan | Cherubs - 2 Ynfynyty + Fist in the Air | Verminaard - Wardens of a Light-Starved Realm | Haxen - s/t | Null & Void - The Immeasurable Dark | Slave House - s/t | Nurse - s/t | Crowhurst - II | Ustalost - The Spoor of Vipers | True Love - Meditating Through Illusion | Bleak - No Light, No Tunnel | Lead Sprinkler - Ne Pas Peindre Le Diable Sur Le Mer | The Gate - Live! | Finished - Cum Inside Me Bro | SIRE - s/t demo | OPPONENTS - Blood on the Streets | Vasculae - Head Against Wall | Istidraj - Metafizika | Street Sects - End Position | Thanatoloop - Torturadortorturado | Misery Ritual - I Hurt Because I Must | Our Place of Worship Is Silence - The Embodiment of Hate | Alexandra Atnif -