“A Quiet Place” – now available for digital purchase and hitting rental/streaming July 10 – doesn’t mess around. It throws us smack dab into a post-apocalyptic world where a family is in danger from monsters that hunt by sound. Tragedy befalls them before the opening title card. What follows is, if you look at any given scene, nothing new – although director/co-writer/star John Krasinski (“The Office”) knows how to deliver tension and scares – but the overall 90-minute riff forces the viewer to see the world in a new way.
“The Strangers” (2008), chronicling a couple (Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler) cornered in their rural home by masked psychopaths, is a beloved cult classic. One of my friends counts it as his favorite thriller of all time. If you’re going to tell the next chapter in this franchise, you better not wade in half-hearted. Luckily, director Johannes Roberts (“47 Meters Down”) dives in to “The Strangers: Prey at Night” (now available for home viewing) with a smart sense of style while also respecting the theme and mythology of writer-director Bryan Bertino’s original.
It’s a damned shame “Upgrade” is going to fail at the box office. While built from standard sci-fi action parts, it really is something of a marvel, with crisp action, solid writing and brilliant execution.
Nothing in John Krasinski’s past would indicate that he had a film like “A Quiet Place” in him, and yet here we are. The onetime sitcom heartthrob has delivered a film that is not just frightening, but intimate and character driven. Sitting in the theater I was reminded of films like “The Descent” and “The Mist,” which similarly play on audience sympathies to up the scare factor by giving us characters we care about.
A bizarrely specific subgenre of horror has gotten a lot of play in recent years: Ouija-board horror. The two films officially sanctioned by the Warner Brothers board game – the bland “Ouija” (2104) and its much better prequel, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016) – are the most well-known. But stories of terror being summoned via a supernatural-themed game date back to 1986’s “Witchboard,” and a quick IMDb search reveals at least 20 movies with “Ouija” in the title, several of which we have all noticed (but probably not actually watched) while lazily scrolling through our Netflix queue.
“Groundhog Day” (1993) is of course the touchstone of the “repeating the same day” genre, so when another film comes along with that premise, it’s intriguing, but it also gives me pause: Will it merely repeat “Groundhog Day” for a younger generation, or will it have something new to say? Available via Redbox and streaming, “Happy Death Day” (2017) is a mixture. It starts off too much in the same vein, but gets more creative as it moves toward a satisfying ending.
“The Cloverfield Paradox” (which recently debuted on Netflix), the third installment of the loosely connected Cloververse saga, takes topical physics such as the recently discovered God Particle and the popular multiverse theory and smashes them into a movie that has little to do with science. Let’s just say it’s not going to pass muster with Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku. But while the space station crew’s paranoia amid a series of disasters is familiar, there’s still fun to be had here if you’re in the mood (and if you already have Netflix, you saved money on a movie ticket this time around).
There were a lot of great films in 2017. So many, in fact, that this year I have decided to do a top 20 list instead of my usual top 10. It means more writing, but trust me, this is a problem any movie buff loves to have.
2017 was a good year for superheros and small indie films, for action and drama and comedy alike, sometimes all within the same movie.
The 2017 “It” remake – now available from Redbox — is the most Stephen Kingy Stephen King adaptation to hit the screen in a long time, as the interactions between the heroic nerds and villainous bullies are palpable, and a lot of the action with titular clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and other monsters feels like King’s words brought to life with modern special effects – something not possible in the 1990 TV miniseries.
There has always been a sense in the “Insidious” movies that they are about more than the scares. In each of the films the audience is given the opportunity to really spend time with the characters, to get an understanding of them outside the horror.