The Haunting of Hill House (2018)

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The 2018 version of The Haunting of Hill House reminds me, in many ways, of another favorite ghost story of mine, Lake Mungo.  I wouldn’t dare spoil the similarities they share in common, but suffice it to say that both have a scare that affected me in a deep way.  It wasn’t a simple scare.  It was something much more than that.  It hit me right in the bottom of the soul.

And that’s the best way to be scary, I think.  Any idiot can jump out of a dark corner and yell “BOO!”  But it takes a sophistication and a nuance to make your audience ponder the implications of life and death and be troubled by it in an existential way.  If you really want to scare an audience, make them remember that we’re all afraid of death and, much more than that, we’re afraid of what might (or might not) be waiting for us.

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The Predator (2018)

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The Predator movies and I go way back.  I was really young when I saw the first one, probably way too young to be watching it, but my parents were always letting me watch hard-R type stuff with severed limbs and blood.  Naturally, I loved Predator.  One of my favorite memories of being a kid is asking my mom after the finish of the movie if there was a Predator 2, and she said yes, but it just finished filming and it wouldn’t come out for a long time.  I was disappointed, but I understood.  But then she said, “Just kidding!  It came out on video today and we’re watching it next!”

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Hereditary (2018)

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NOTE: This review will contain some mild spoilers.  This, I feel, will be a place where I can explore some of the themes of the film without spoiling any of its surprises.  I want this to be a review specifically for people who are curious about the film and are weighing the decision as to whether or not to actually go see it.

There’s a scene in the Dudley Moore film Crazy People where the main character comes up with a tagline for a horror movie that promises, “This movie won’t just scare you, it will fuck you up for life,” and based on that tagline alone, people come out to see it in droves, setting record box office records.  In a way, that’s how I feel about a lot of horror movies these days, whether it be The BabadookIt Follows or The VVitch and even, yes, Hereditary.  With each of these movies, critics have promised film-goers and experience unlike anything they’ll ever see, an experience in terror so grueling and unforgiving that grown adults might need to sleep with the light on.  With Hereditary in particular, the critical scuttlebutt was that buying a ticket was some sort of Faustian bargain with audiences that might have dire consequences–that going in simply for a good time, you might be buying much, much more than you bargained for.

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Munich (2005)

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Munich is the anti-James Bond movie.  It has a classic set-up for espionage, intrigue and globetrotting assassinations, and then quickly eschews those tropes to show the viewer an uncompromised vision of what revenge truly looks like:  It looks like complete and utter madness, with no end in sight.  The moral, if the film has one, is uncharacteristically cynical, offering no real glimpse at hope or progress, but rather tells us that the situation in the Middle East is in need of a remedy that at this point does not yet exist.

In 1972 during the Summer Olympics in Munich, Palestinian terrorist group Black September kidnapped eleven Jewish athletes from Israel and then murdered them.  In retaliation, Israel sent a team of Mossad agents to find and kill the people responsible for the massacre.

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Annihilation (2018)

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Annihilation is far from being a perfect movie, but goddammit is it good.  It’s derivative as all hell (imagine if Aliens had a baby with The Thing and that baby married Tarkovsky’s Stalker), but never in an ostentatious way.  This isn’t a film-lover’s masturbation fantasy of references.  It’s a story-lover’s genuine affection for the craft, lovingly cherishing details, even cliches, and archetypes and running wild with them instead of having to subvert every expectation.  Sometimes allowing a story to reach logical conclusions unto itself is satisfying enough without having to show off how clever you are.

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The Best of 2017

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Best Movies of 2017:

Lucky
Columbus
Three Billboards
Logan
It Comes at Night
Get Out
Dunkirk
Blade Runner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Little Hours
Wonder Woman
Girls Trip
Thor: Ragnarok
Spider-Man Homecoming

Best TV of 2017:

Feud
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Mindhunter
Twin Peaks the Return
Better Call Saul
GLOW
American Vandal
Alias Grace
Handmaid’s Tale

At Home With Amy Sedaris

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Lake Mungo (2008)

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As a horror fan, I have to admit that, despite myself, I’m a bit jaded.  I don’t want to be, but it just sort of happens.  You can only see so many zombies get disemboweled before the fear you once had, watching something like Night of the Living Dead for the first time just isn’t what it used to be.

So, along came Lake Mungo, a movie that put a genuine fear into me I haven’t had in literal years.  I felt like a kid again.  I was giddy from the fear that it gave me.  It affected me on such a deep level.  It turns out that for me to get scared these days, what I need is a soft, quiet film that explores death and how people cope with loss.

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Set it Off (1996)

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I feel like movies in the 90s didn’t make as much of a spectacle of being diverse.  In today’s movie-going world, it’s a huge problem.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, the 90s (and before) weren’t a magical time, and the problems we have society existed then, too, and were far, far worse (even “liberal” presidents enacting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or contributing to our overcrowded prison system), but it seems like audiences of the time didn’t have to beg and plead with studios and filmmakers to make movies that weren’t all white.

If a movie like Set it Off came out today, it’d be huge news.  But back then, it was just another crime movie.  Four black women (one of whom is a lesbian) rob banks as a means of empowerment.  I mean, maybe Jerry Falwell shit a chicken at the time of its release, but other than that it got generally positive reviews from critics and made a damn healthy return at the box office.  There’s not even a “controversy” sub-section on the movie’s Wikipedia page!

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Blade Runner 2049

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I have a long history with the original Blade Runner.  I first saw it when I was seven-years-old, I think.  Harrison Ford was on the cover, it looked futuristic and cool, in an action-packed sci-fi sort of way, given the, I don’t know, “space pistol” he was holding.  Blade Runner, it turns out, is not appropriate for children.  Not because of the violence, sex and nudity (though for some that may be a valid reason), but because it is a slow, ponderous movie that is more concerned with the philosophical notion of humanity than with action.

I’ve seen Blade Runner maybe about a dozen times—including the theatrical version, the director’s cut and the “final” cut.  I understand Blade Runner is a masterpiece, and while I do like it, it’s just something that resonates with my on any sort of personal level.  I can ooh and ah over the visuals, which are no doubt incredible.  The movie spawned countless imitations.  I know the history of the film pretty extensively.  I just don’t really give a shit about it.

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American Vandal (2017)

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American Vandal was, to me, the most unexpected emotional punch of the year.

Yes, I’m referring to the Netflix series parody of America’s obsession with crime, in the same vain as Making a Murderer, The Keepers or even Scandal… blown up to a four-hour-long dick joke.

That’s right, the Netflix-dick-joke series has more sincerity than most serious, prestige dramas.  It delves into obsession, classism, depression, gender politics, race… and it does so effortlessly, while never forgetting why it’s there in the first place: To be funny.

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