Steve Erickson has written 91 reviews for films rated ★★½ .

  • Monkey Shines

    Monkey Shines

    ★★½

    Capuchin monkey Boo, portraying the murderous Ella, is a much better actor than the humans cast in MONKEY SHINES. Knowing Romero's post-humanist attitude, this is likely deliberate, but imagine how much better this would be with Jeffrey Combs, rather than Jason Beghe, telling Ella "You're slime, you're filth...I'm gonna tear you open and chew out your fucking head." Probably the weakest Romero film I've seen - it had the potential to be his BIGGER THAN LIFE, but it fades out into silliness instead of exploring the concept of the man/monkey mind-melt allowing the man to live out his worst impulses with any passion or believability.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Father

    The Father

    ★★½

    It'd be foolish to say Anthony Hopkins gives a bad performance here, because he does brings out his character's terror of existing in a shifting reality on a moment-to-moment basis. Still, it's extroverted and mannered in a way that screams "Look at me, I am acting! I am playing someone totally different from myself!" I reduced my star rating after a day's thought because while I found the section after {SPOILER} moving, it now seems grossly manipulative and gimmicky. For…

  • Misery

    Misery

    ★★½

    Eminem's "Stan" 10 years earlier, but with a woman who reads romance novels, mispronounces Dom Perignon and listens to Liberace rather than a closeted bro as the villain. MISERY was prescient about parasocial relationships and the toxic potential of fandom, but its sexist condescension has aged much worse. However, at least Kathy Bates has a character to play, and she tears into her role of the bad caregiver with real delight. (For an analysis of this trope, I recommend Miranda…

  • Gunda

    Gunda

    ★★½

    GUNDA is a very accomplished film - especially in cinematography and sound design - whose last 15 minutes are quite moving and which was apparently made to sensitize audiences to the cruelty of factory farming. So why is my star rating so low? For a movie which is supposedly so austere, it's really rather sentimental and manipulative. I'm sure that pigs and cattle experience real emotions, less sure that when they stare into director Victor Kossakovsky's camera (as they often…

  • Bad Trip

    Bad Trip

    ★★½

    I watched this through a migraine so take my opinion with a grain of nasty-tasting salt (or gorilla semen.) But BAD TRIP is too reliant on its flimsy narrative not to feel like a mediocre hard-R comedy forced into a string of set pieces that prank real people. The gross-outs don't feel that funny or transgressive (although I wished Borat and his daughter had joined Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish for the rich white folx' ball in…

  • Johnny YesNo

    Johnny YesNo

    ★★½

    Although I'm a big Cabaret Voltaire fan, I'd never heard their soundtrack (which filled used record store bins in the '90s) or seen this movie till now. And it's an anticlimax! Peter Care would quickly go on to direct music videos for the group and many others, but this plays like a student film aiming for trippy, experimental neo-noir whose ambition outpaces its ability to deliver on them.

  • The Ghosts

    The Ghosts

    ★★½

    THE GHOSTS becomes genuinely striking in its final 15 minutes, when its departure from Guatemala City allows the film and its characters some breathing room, but to get there one has to sit through an hour of pretty generic Tsai Ming-liang-influenced festival cinema about urban alienation.

    More in my Gay City News piece on Lincoln Center's "Neighboring Scenes" festival: www.gaycitynews.com/lesbian-teen-romance-highlights-annual-latin-american-film-series/

  • Come True

    Come True

    ★★½

    Matching Pinterest boards: sleep paralysis, dark ambient music, dream pop, green filters, anonymous and nearly abandoned Canadian suburbs, dim institutional lighting, creepypasta, IT FOLLOWS, vibe over substance, incredibly stupid endings that torpedoed my star rating.

  • A Dramatic Film

    A Dramatic Film

    ★★½

    Despite the experimental nature of Eric Baudelaire's project - he gave cameras and microphones to middle school students over a 4-year period, let them shoot whatever they wanted at school and home, and edited the results into a 110-minute film - its most compelling sections could've come from a news crew visiting the school. The scene where a white boy is baffled that his Black classmate could identify as both Ivorian and French, despite being born in France, shows how…

  • Judas and the Black Messiah

    Judas and the Black Messiah

    ★★½

    I'm afraid this is gonna sound horribly condescending, but I kept thinking "perfectly adequate." (The NY Times writer who called it the most radical movie Hollywood has ever produced sure wasn't thinking of form.) Part of the problem is a lack of focus. JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH plays like a biopic of 2 very different people at the same time, while also trying to serve as a more general history lesson. While it makes no attempt to cater to…