Category Archives: Horror

They’re coming to get you, Barbera.

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 marks the conclusion of Leigh Janiak’s trilogy of horror pastiche films, which have been releasing weekly on Netflix. The trilogy’s release strategy has perhaps received as much attention as the films. Netflix adopts the weekly programming schedule that it actively helped to dissemble with its OTT service which gave rise to the binge-watching model. It’s not so much an innovation as a throwback, just like the movies themselves.

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Part One: 1994 was a broad throwback to the slasher, specifically taking cards from the self-aware era popularized by Scream. Part Two: 1978 was a pure Continue reading Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021) Movie Review

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) Movie Review

Adam Robitel’s Escape Room was dumped. It was shoveled off to January, the month where genre movies go to die. The first month of the year has become somewhat notorious for having poor new movie releases. To be fair to the studios, it is an awkward area of the release calendar. There is not as much foot traffic in the theaters as there is during the summer months or the November-December holiday weekends. At the same time, January is a time when prestige movies are starting to do the rounds for awards season consideration. It just isn’t a month for blockbusters.

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So studios dump their genre films there—the genre films they don’t have too much faith in, it appears. Sony released Escape Room on the first weekend of January 2019. And it did a shocking amount of business. 16 weeks later, the film had accumulated over $57 million domestic. Given the film ends on a Continue reading Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street: 1978, the second in a trilogy of horror pastiches for Netflix, is a Friday the 13th riff. Following the events of the first film in 1994, the survivors seek the aid of the survivor of a similar incident, C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs). The connective tissue between 1978 and 1994: the legacy of an accused witch by the name of Sarah Fier.

Flashback to a late-’70s summer camp, where Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) is being pursued through the woods. She is caught and strung up by her pursuers, bullies who accuse her of embodying the spirit of Fier and causing havoc in the camp. In truth, someone else at the camp is interested in the history of the alleged witch, someone who believes Fier will bring death to the campers that very night.

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Leigh Janiak directs the Fear Street trilogy, and she does a good job Continue reading Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) Movie Review

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) Movie Review

R.L. Stine’s young adult book series Fear Street was the “grown up” Goosebumps. Books about teens for teens, which allowed for slightly more suggestive horror content. If Goosebumps was a G, Fear Street was a hard-PG. Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street: 1994, the first in a trilogy of adaptations for Netflix, is firmly R-rated.

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I was a Goosebumps obsessive as a kid. I wanted to join the Goosebumps fan club (a real thing), in which I would receive a book every month and updates on all new things Goosebumps. Alas, the club was defunct by the time I signed up—it probably had been for years, considering Stine concluded writing the original series of books when I was three. Fear Street, on the other hand, completely Continue reading Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) Movie Review

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Movie Review

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place was a massive success in 2018, when it was met with a large box office cume and critical appreciation. In part, this critical fascination was due to the sheer silence the film conjured in its theatrical audience. With the sound design so deliberate (and so dedicated to being quiet), idle chatter and candy wrapper rustling in the theater was tacitly discouraged.

A Quiet Place has its moments, showcasing Krasinski’s ability to plant overt seeds in suspenseful sequences which (at their best) conjure delightful tension. Perhaps not the most groundbreaking horror-thriller, but it is not hard to see why it was such a crowd-pleaser.

A Quiet Place Part II—which is now being discussed as one of the first resuscitative heartbeats at the domestic box office since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—has the Continue reading A Quiet Place Part II (2021) Movie Review

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Movie Review

I hadn’t stepped foot in a movie theater in 425 days. It is perhaps the longest consecutive stretch of time I’ve gone without seeing a movie in a theater since I’ve been able to walk. And, all things considered, I made good use of those 425 days. I researched, drafted, and completed a master’s thesis (on horror movies that are nothing like Spiral: From The Book of Saw, but the Saw franchise certainly has an important place in the history I was looking at). I am on the verge of earning my master’s degree; and the time commitment probably would have kept my theater-going to a minimum even if the world was not facing a crisis.

None of this is particularly relevant to my review of Spiral: From The Book of Saw, save for the fact that this was the film that broke my 425-day streak. And I thought it fitting to return to theaters with the type of movie that really keeps me invested in film art: pure horror genre schlock.

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Spiral: From the Book of Saw may be the oddest horror sequel title ever thought up (who wrote the book of Saw? Is it available at my local library? Is it like an Anarchist Cookbook type deal, where it teaches you how to concoct sadistic death traps just like John Kramer used to? So many questions that have no answer). It is entirely possible that Continue reading Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) Movie Review

Willy’s Wonderland (2021) Movie Review

The premise of Willy’s Wonderland resembles the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s. Everyone knows it. They probably knew it when they made the movie. Call it a ripoff if you’d like. I can’t really say, myself, as I’ve never played the games (from what I understand, the enjoyment derives mostly from jump scares, which just ain’t my bag). But there is something to the idea that Willy’s Wonderland is a video game movie of sorts. For one thing, the unnamed protagonist played by Nicolas Cage doesn’t speak—a feature of many a video game.

Cage’s character, a silent stranger who rolls into the rural town of Hayesville, Nevada (the town is so untouched by the modern world that it does not have an iota of internet access), finds himself with his tires blown out on the side of the highway. Towed back to town, he doesn’t have the money to afford repairs. Luckily, Continue reading Willy’s Wonderland (2021) Movie Review

Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review

Director Tim Hunter is perhaps best known for the crime drama River’s Edge starring Keanu Reeves. He has since directed the occasional feature, but most of his work is done on television programs. Fittingly, his Smiley Face Killers has the appearance of a teen drama show (like Riverdale or Scream: The TV Series, two shows Hunter has worked on).

I don’t say this disparagingly; it is simply an apparent feature. The young actors are lit and shot like they are models in an advertisement. Soft focus accentuates them in the frame. Soft, high key lighting highlights their features. At one point, a major character strips down and takes a shower, and the camera lingers on Continue reading Smiley Face Killers (2020) Movie Review

Wrong Turn (2021) Movie Review

Mike P. Nelson’s Wrong Turn, a hard reboot of the 2003 horror film of the same name (which in turn spawned numerous direct-to-video sequels), is (at least initially) so knowingly a “teen scream” slasher that it borders on parody.

A group of late-twenty-somethings hiking the Appalachian Trail find themselves lost somewhere in Virginia and set upon by something lurking in the woods. Almost instantly, the film starts teetering on the “city/country axis” like it’s a gymnast on a balance beam. The rural Virginia folk turn their noses at these “yuppie” millennial travelers, with one confronting them about how they likely never worked a day in their lives (actually, our protagonist has a double master’s degree in art history and dance, so she is a gainfully employed barista).

When our clan of hikers find themselves stranded, one of the first things that strikes fear into their hearts is the inexplicable disappearance of their cell phones. Without this precious tool (“No phone, no GPS!”), they are all but helpless to defend themselves against the crude makeshift traps set for them among the trees. When they come across the people who are terrorizing them, the travelers Continue reading Wrong Turn (2021) Movie Review

Lucky (2021) Movie Review

May (Brea Grant), the protagonist of Lucky, suffers the condescending disinterest of the police, reductionist head-shrinking of social workers, and emotional manipulation and gaslighting of her partner (Dhruv Uday Singh). Oh, and she also gets attacked by a masked man every night of her life.

Lucky, written by Grant and directed by Natasha Kermani, is a lean (perhaps too lean) horror satire that imagines society’s patriarchy, microaggressions, and trauma as a surreal nightmare cycling again and again with no end in sight. As far as “social horror” goes, it’s a pretty perfect premise.

The film starts as a fresh twist on an old favorite. May and her husband Ted are attacked in their home by an intruder in the middle of the night. Only, Ted is shockingly nonplussed by the situation. In fact, Continue reading Lucky (2021) Movie Review