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Note: this review contains spoilers. It’s awfully hard to please me when it comes to demon-possession films. They are usually packed with so many standard scares that have thoroughly lost their charm: bone-cracking body distortions, ceiling-crawling monstrosities, various hisses and grunts, spooky seance scenes, and the poltergeist movements of household furniture. I’ve seen it. Lots. I just wait for the inevitable jump-scare coordinated with a musical sting, but I’m rarely truly affected. It might surprise you then to hear that while Hereditary invokes all the aforementioned tropes, it is nevertheless one of the more devastating horror films I’ve seen. I suspect most viewers will enjoy the experience (if “enjoy” can be used for such a feel-bad film), but I think the emotional impact is going to be strongest for mothers – especially mothers of teenagers – and for grown children who were hurt by their mothers (young children should not watch this film). Hereditary opens after the death of grandmother Ellen, at a stilted memorial service attended by her daughter Annie (Toni Collette), son-in-law Steve (Gabriel Byrne), and grandchildren Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Annie clearly experiences conflicted and partially repressed emotions about her mother, who sounds like a woman devoted to her family who also harbored a decidedly ugly side. Annie has no time to process her grief and anger before another horrific loss hits the family: Peter takes his sister Charlie to a party, and through his lack of supervision she is killed in a gruesome…

Aging, morose naturalist Russell Core (Jeffrey Wright) is summoned to a remote Alaskan village a few days after a woman’s young child is taken by wolves. The mother, Medora Sloane (Riley Keough) greets Core with long, whispered poetic soliloquies about her husband (stationed in Iraq) and the general isolated grimness of remote Alaska. It doesn’t take long to realize: it’s going to be that kind of movie. You know, a little more fartsy than artsy. On his first evening there Medora tries to seduce Core; she seems also to harbor a seriously self-destructive streak. The next day he outfits himself and goes looking for the wolf pack despite a few sinister warnings by Native Alaskan villagers, who regard Medora and her family with suspicion. Upon his return to the village Core experiences a nasty surprise in his investigation, Medora flees, and her husband Vernon (Alexander Skarsgård) returns home and initiates a bloody revenge mission. Local sheriff Donald Marium (James Badge Dale) is put on the case (for both the young boy and the mounting murders) as he and Core begin to uncover more mysteries. Well, not so much “mysteries” – as bodies. The film is a slow, and I mean a slowwwww-paced slog, interspersed with unpleasant killings and a second-act shootout so egregiously violent as to beggar belief. The creepy Alaskan frontier is stunningly if implausibly rendered (the project was filmed in Canada), haunting and beautiful all the same. The talent and charisma of Wright and Dale go a long…

I’m going to come right out and say that I loved “Sharp Objects”, based off Gillian Flynn’s 2006 debut novel, despite considerable flaws. I’ve described the series in shorthand as “True Detective” Season 1 – for ladies. Both programs center around the boilerplate fascination with murdered white girls (I mean… I guess we haven’t exhausted this topic yet?), and both are steeped in a folksy (and not entirely convincing) American Bible-belt dystopia. But most notably, both series devote serious runtime in detailing and caressing the deeply self-absorbed, crummy behavior and worldview of the series antihero. In “Sharp Objects”, instead of having to listen to the fingernails-on-chalkboard manguishy monologues of Matthew McConaughy’s Rust Cohle, we are instead treated to the vodka-drenched, hundred-year stare and whispered dramatic line reads of thirtysomething St. Louis reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams). Camille is a crummy St. Louis reporter returning to her home town of Wind Gap (population 2,000) to investigate a serial murder case involving pretty girls. Camille is troubled (with a history of self-harm and a very active alcohol dependency) and describes herself as “white trash” to her St. Louis boss; she’s haunted by visions of at least two ghostly young women, and she listens to Led Zepplen while drink driving her beat up Volvo around town and having one cynical corn pone conversation after another. By the way I hope you wanted to watch her driving around drunk, listening to music. Those scenes take up about thirty percent of the program’s runtime. It turns…

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Four typical teen girls Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Wren (Joey King), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), and Katie (Annalise Basso) find a website detailing the sketchy legend of Slender Man (Javier Botet) and instructions on how to summon him. Sounds like a good idea, right? After trying…

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Ghost stories today aren’t what they used to be, and as much as I enjoy gore and over-the-top carnage, there’s something to be said for a quietly effective thriller. The Uninvited is not only a great little mystery that stands the test of time, it…

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Ah, Leprechaun, early-nineties fairy tale horror and the first feature to hit the big screen in January of 1993. The film is a quarter century old and has inspired many knockoffs and parodies – and spawned six sequels. Despite the…

Uninvited (1988)

"Is this movie really about a poisonous demonic cat that lives inside a regular but radioactive cat?" Yes. Yes it is.

TV Time! “Tennison” (2017)

It seems the beloved British sleuths of yesteryore are providing us, one at a time, with lucrative opportunities for a revisit. We'll soon be seeing a youthful Poirot, Foyle, and Barnaby soon - mark my words!

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)

Known in retrospect as one of the earliest sci-fi space epics to feature attempts at realistic science as well as a plotline based more in human nature than improbable alien encounters, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a delightful adventure that stands…

There is so much I enjoy about slasher films, but it is a genre I rarely dip into due to often intolerable quantities of misogyny, transmisogyny, homophobia, and ugly racist tropes. Every now and then a slasher is tame enough on…

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