• Love the One You're With

    Love the One You're With

    Putting your student films on Amazon Prime for rental and even purchase isn't the greatest idea. (And no, this isn't a literal student film, but it suffers the clunkiest edits, most blown-out lighting and bad sound mixing I've seen and heard in a "professional" release in years.) But at least money could've fixed most of the technical problems. The script is just as bad.

  • Ride or Die

    Ride or Die

    ★★★½

    “Ride or Die” is a story of roads. Its first third repeats the image of two women driving through a garishly lit cityscape. These shots resemble the highly stylized photography of street scenes which can be found all over Instagram. They make no bones about the degree to which they’re distorted, with color and lighting altered in post-production for effect. When the couple’s in a more peaceful place, they can drive through more inviting surroundings. The sun’s shining, the road…

  • Nobody

    Nobody

    Dad, you already sent me those Facebook memes about good men with guns taking out bad men and the need to protect your house from foreigners coming after our family. I didn't need to watch a movie in which you think you have the right to shoot anyone you want, especially Russkies, as jazz songs play ironically in the background. Yes, I know office work is boring and spending 8 hours a day accounting makes you feel emasculated, but please,…

  • Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records

    Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records

    ★★★½

    As filmmaking, this is a basic and uninspired loop of talking heads (although at least all of them have a connection to Wax Trax; director Julia Nash did not film random celebrities enthusing about Ministry and Front 242.) But it tells a compelling story I did not know before. I wound up watching INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT at the end of a day where I saw a Laibach concert on YouTube and listened to KMFDM's debut album for the first time, so…

  • Before I Wake

    Before I Wake

    ★★½

    Subpar for Mike Flanagan. Very upfront about its themes of mortality and grief, but suffers in comparison to THE BABADOOK (which it kept calling to mind, although reviews here mention PAN'S LABYRINTH.) It never quite achieves the nightmarish surrealism, settling for jump scares and badly animated butterflies instead. The lack of violence and relatively positive vibe led to a dilemma for Flanagan: how to make this story scary? Unfortunately, while "atmosphere" might be the right answer, BEFORE I WAKE lacks the subtlety for it.

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

    Raiders of the Lost Ark

    ★★★½

    I'm writing an essay on RAIDERS for the Quietus on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. Watching it for the first time since the '90s brought mixed feelings. Even when I saw it as a teen, the scene where Indy shoots the Arab man with the sword for a laugh seemed pretty messed-up, and that colonial arrogance, as well as a sexist attitude towards the supposedly "strong woman" Marion (Karen Allen), is all over the film. But the last half…

  • Gheisar

    Gheisar

    ★★★½

    The political subtext of director Masoud Kimiai's THE DEER is much more understated in this tale of the title character's (Behroz Vossoughi, who would go on to star in THE DEER too) revenge of the men who raped his sister, leading her to take her own life. It's a brooding, macho B-movie of its time, pulpy in a way that I've rarely seen in Iranian cinema but which feels close to Donald Siegel or Sam Fuller. Kimiai pays homage to…

  • Cult

    Cult

    ★★½

    CULT takes place in the same thematic universe as Koji Shiraishi's NOROI & OCCULT, where evil gods are slowly plotting to possess humans to take over Earth. But it's much more explicit about its world-building without sharing its precursors' genuine mystery and existential dread. Also, the special effects look ridiculous, and the CGI worms and images of possession are dwelt upon much longer than the brief glimpses of weird "UFOs" and "miracles" in OCCULT.

  • A Self-Induced Hallucination

    A Self-Induced Hallucination

    ★★★

    Slenderman is morally superior to Dr. Drew and Chris Hansen.

  • We're All Going to the World's Fair

    We're All Going to the World's Fair

    ★★★★

    When analyzing a horror movie, it's helpful to ask who the monster is and what it threatens. WE'RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD'S FAIR could only have been made by a director whose formative experiences as a teenager mostly took place online. Where Olivier Assayas, Charlie Brooker or even Kiyoshi Kurosawa have located the monstrous in the Internet's potential to enhance humanity's worst qualities, Jane Schoenbrun is much more optimistic. For one thing, the loneliness and isolation shown in WE'RE…

  • The Deer

    The Deer

    ★★★★

    An Iranian film unlike anything else I've seen from the country, bridging the gap between socially conscious neo-realism and gritty B-movie noir. The stink of despair and disenchantment, deriving both from the pressure of poverty and wounded masculinity, hovers over it. (The fact that even the best version currently available was taken from a scratched print aids that atmosphere; the film itself looks as wounded by life as its characters.) Behrouz Vossoughi's performance is deservedly acclaimed. His character seems worn down by something far beyond his heroin addiction.

    Full review coming on Screen Slate later this month.

  • Violation

    Violation

    ★★★½

    Committed to unpleasantness and denying the rewards of genre entertainment as a political act while removing any catharsis from violence, this actually deserves the hype PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is receiving. It's a far grimmer riff on the rape-revenge/vigilante narrative (it also riffs on "cabin in the woods" tropes), willing to show its protagonist Miriam (co-director/co-writer Madeleine Sims-Fewer) continuing the abuse of power she's suffered from rather than dreaming up an elaborate revenge plot whose messiness somehow stops short of real…