What We Do in the Shadows” (2014) opens with a close-up of an alarm clock going off, followed by a hand reaching out of a coffin to turn it off. The film’s comedy of contrast – which we follow in various permutations for the next 90 minutes – is illustrated right away: vampire lifestyle mixed with the daily grind. While I admit that writer-directors Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi find various angles into their premise, the movie gets a little long in the tooth, and I suspect it plays better as a sitcom (Season 1 recently wrapped on FX), which benefits from shorter bursts of story.
Writer-director Jordan Peele’s “Us” reminds me of Alex Garland’s “Annihilation” (2018). Both are followups to a breakthrough piece of chilling sci-fi/horror that I and everybody else loved – “Get Out” (2017) in Peele’s case and “Ex Machina” (2015) in Garland’s. And in both cases, in my opinion, these followup efforts fall flat. Why? Well, it’s impossible to get into a filmmaker’s head. I’m tempted to say the filmmaker is aware of the expectation that he craft high art, and he tries too hard. That’s probably a case of me conflating my expectations with Peele’s – who is simply telling the stories he wants to tell — but I can’t deny that I found “Us” to be unengaging, overlong and even boring.
(For Summer’s positive and spoiler-light review of “Us,” click here.)
The Perfection” (Netflix) has one of those trailers that seems to give away the whole movie, so after making the mistake of watching the trailer, I let it fade from my mind a bit before watching the film. As it turns out, this horror thriller from director/co-writer Richard Shepard – who has a lot of credits but not many “wow” credits before this – is only partly like the trailer suggests. “The Perfection” so smoothly toys with and contradicts our narrative expectations that I wonder why more movies don’t use this tactic.
It’s accurate to call “Happy Death Day 2U” a dumb movie, and accurate to call it a smart movie. It seems as if Blumhouse studio asked writer-director Christopher Landon (who also directed the 2017 original, from Scott Lobdell’s screenplay) to go hog-wild building on the premise from the first entry, and Landon does just that. This sequel isn’t nearly as much of a straight rehash as the horrible trailers suggest.
Writer-director Jordan Peele’s latest horror offering, “Us” – which hits digital June 4 and disc June 18 — opens on a seemingly endless wall of caged rabbits, a promise of future symbolism. The slow and agonizing zooming out and the screeching music, driven by a chorus from hell, invokes an anxiety I haven’t felt in a long time. I felt this fear in snippets throughout the movie, although the pinnacle of the horror is the beginning. Despite this — and the surprising mixing of genre signals — I thoroughly enjoyed Peele’s followup to the 2017 classic “Get Out.”
Ihad put off watching writer-director Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!” (2017) for a long time. Most of the feedback I had heard was that it’s random and pretty pointless. For some reason, curiosity got the best of me and when I saw it on Amazon Prime streaming, I gave it a shot.
Iwatched the trailers of some notable summer movies so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the picture:
Similar to the two “Strangers” films, “He’s Out There” (2018, now on Netflix) strips the horror genre down to basics and tells a scary story of people in random peril at a remote cabin. It plays the requisite horror notes well, includes one moment that literally made me flinch, and offers a touch of mystery to keep a viewer wondering about the villain’s motivations. And while I wasn’t bored by the film, I knew I had Yvonne Strahovski to look at if the plot ceased to hold my interest.
Don’t put on “The Devil’s Candy” (2015, Netflix) if you want something light. But if you’re in the mood for a stylish, heavy-metalized thriller, this is your film. I checked it out because it’s a Shiri Appleby movie I hadn’t seen, and it also features her fellow 1990s teen star Ethan Embry. They play Astrid and Jesse Hellman, who — along with daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) – comprise a family that moves into a big but affordable country home outside of town.
Our year-end countdown lists wrap up with Shaune’s picks for the 10 best movies of 2018: