To say that "Black Christmas" is the movie society needs to take note of is a massive understatement. Directed by Sopia Takal and written by herself and April Wolfe, "Black Christmas" is a modern updating of the 1974 classic. Whereas most remakes and reboots take the safe and give us what we as an audience expect, this 2019 update is at once a loving tribute to the original but also pushes it into scary and very real directions. Lead by a standout performance by Imogen Poots as Riley Stone, "Black Christmas" has themes that are sure to resonate with young women. Riley, herself a victim of a sexual assault, is forced throughout to constantly face her abuser and the ramifications of her speaking out against him.
The fact that writer-director Ana Lily Armipour’s genre-hopping A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) ranks so highly in ITOL’s top 50 films by women of the decade list is a testament to its originality, cult appeal, and fang-sharp social commentary. Billed as an Iranian Vampire Western, and set in the fictional Bad City, it nods to a myriad of influences from classic horror and film noir, to Tarantino, comic books and David Lynch- clanking industrial images and sounds loom large and fever-dream music-sequences are woven throughout.
"Body at Brighton Rock" is a horror film. However, it's not a very well executed one. There are a lot of jump scares in all the right places: a hand on the shoulder, a loud noise, someone jumps out from the bushes. When well-executed, the jump scare can be very effective. A prime example is in "Jaws", or in "The Shining". However, for the case of Body at Brighton Rock, the jump scare is used as a lazy way to keep the viewer awake, rather than actually scaring them. As a result, you walk away from this film feeling deeply unsatisfied.
Okay, frankly I didn’t really know how to start this review other than saying: This movie’s weird. Not weird in a bad way or anything like that, but Lucile Hadzilhalilovic’s “Evolution” constantly had me scratching my head and looking away with how graphically creepy and oddly confusing it can be. The film’s premise is actually pretty intriguing and relatively simple as we follow Nicolas (Max Brebant), a sickly young boy living in a sea-side town where young boys and women are its only residents. However, when Nicolas discovers the body of a boy in the ocean, he begins to question everything around him. He questions how why they’re actually on the island if his mother is who she claims she is, and why he and the other boys must be hospitalized. This questioning is what makes him dangerous to the women, whose motives aren’t so clear, and what makes him look for a way off of the island.
“Wounds” is Babak Anvari’s latest film--he is a British-Iranian filmmaker best known for his directorial debut in 2017 with the brilliant “Under the Shadow”. Here, he takes the same cultural critique approach of that film and uses that framework to critique millennials. “Wounds” is based on Nathan Ballingrud’s novella, “The Visible Filth”--which I haven’t read, but if the conclusions this film draws are similar to those of the source material, then by god, I want it on my kindle NOW.
Having tortured genre fans with “Goodnight Mommy” (2014), Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (this time partnering with screenwriter Sergio Casci) have returned to administer more pain with “The Lodge” (2019). The film focuses in on Aidan and Mia who are dealing with a particularly traumatic divorce and find themselves snowed in in a cabin with their soon-to-be stepmom. From there proceedings go from bad to worse, much much worse. “The Lodge” has a claustrophobic atmosphere, building a palpable tension that makes much of the second half near unbearable. The film is etched in grief and the trauma of generations’ past, making it one of the most harrowing experiences in recent years. Franz and Fiala take their time, building their film slowly, with time spent crafting a set of characters that while not likely are deep and nuanced.
Fish-people are creepy. H.P. Lovecraft knew it, that one guy in “The Cabin in the Woods” knew it, and even “The Mighty Boosh”’s Old Gregg character would deter any right-thinking individual from renting a boat for some lonely night-fishing on a lake. It beggars belief, therefore, that the mere-community has been so underrepresented in cinema (barring a few B-movie schlock-fests, of course). Thank Poseidon then, for Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s “The Lure”: a Polish horror-musical about Golden (Michalina Olszańska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek), two mermaids who make for dry land and earn a living as singers in a nightclub, while finding themselves getting in too deep with the humans they would otherwise be pulling down to the briny depths for dinner.
"30 Miles From Nowhere" is an ambitious film and a revolutionary one in a lot of ways and frankly it's a refreshing one for it's an original approach to filmmaking and storytelling. As part of the film's commitment to diversity, the film's cast was very racially diverse and gender-balanced, with the film's director, being a woman (Caitlin Koller), and the film's writer also being a female in the form of Seana Kofoed who also produces along with and Kelly Demaret. When we consider how the horror/thriller genre is still mainly dominated by male filmmakers, a film like "30 Miles From Nowhere" is like a piece of fresh air, being somewhat welcoming and daring to be different.
In the years following the cultural craze of the “Twilight” films and shows like “True Blood” and “The Vampire Diaries”, it would be easy to dismiss another story that’s about the struggles of a human falling in love with a vampire. Through “Kiss of the Damned” (2013), writer/director Xan Cassavetes shows that there are still original ideas to bring to the genre, and what a difference it can make when the focus of the story shifts from forbidden romance and manipulation to the desires of the female lead.