“Death is a disease,” begins writer/director Bomani J. Story’s The Angry Black Girls and Her Monster. “And if death is a disease, there’s a cure.” And that’s exactly what 17-year-old Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes), her family and community indelibly marred by this blight, sets out to accomplish in this pressing, powerful modern interpretation of the Frankenstein story. Within the framework of this familiar narrative, Story spins a tale that, though we’ve seen before in many regards, is fresh and urgent and proves there’s still plenty of life in the corpse of Mary Shelley’s saga of the Modern Prometheus.
By the time you get to the third installment of a franchise, you often know what to expect. Sometimes that can be repetitive and stale, but when it comes to The Roundup: No Way Out, the sequel to 2022’s The Roundup, itself a follow up to 2017’s The Outlaws, the filmmakers know exactly what audiences want—star Ma Dong-seok punching dudes very, very hard and being droll and hilarious as he does—and delivers a substantial amount of that. And it is good.
As the protagonist of The Night of the 12th says, every investigator has one case that haunts them, that they never solved and can’t let go. They let you know from the jump exactly how this will play out.
What if Romeo and Juliet but with warring small town Italian farm mob families? That’s the basic conceit of Pippo Mezzapesa’s Burning Hearts, where a forbidden romance shatters a fragile truce and stirs up a generational blood feud.
You ever have a friend that trouble just seems to find no matter what? They’ll be walking down the street or riding the bus, minding their own business, and someone always talks shit or tries to start a fight for no discernable reason? That seems to be Becky (Lulu Wilson) and fascists. After dismantling a gang of white supremacists led by Kevin James in 2020’s Becky, the precocious murder-teen is back, slightly older and a bit more grizzled, to fuck up more fascist assholes in The Wrath of Becky. And she is indeed wrathful.
When a pair of criminal brothers on the run attempt to find shelter from a storm in an isolated farmhouse inhabited by a reclusive family, they get much more than they bargained for as the mother, a steely, badass Joely Richardson, fights back.
Nowadays we think of the Satanic Panic of the 1980s as almost quaint, forgetting how it decimated countless lives and gripped the country in a destructive frenzy. One talking head in Satan Wants You refers to the book Michelle Remembers as “Patient zero for the Satanic Panic,” and the documentary digs into that now-discredited tale that fanned the flames of mass hysteria.
Well, Egghead & Twinkie is freaking adorable. In Sarah Kambe Holland’s twee, lo-fi indie comedy, when trans-racial adoptee Twinkie comes out to her conservative parents it doesn’t go great. She sets out on a cross-country adventure with her nerdy bff Egghead to meet her online DJ crush.
When a young orphan nurse takes a job caring for an ailing baroness at a remote estate, you know spookiness is about to happen. And filmmaker Marie Alice Wolfszahn’s Mother Superior doesn’t let us down.
Last time they went to freaking space. In a Pontiac Fiero! So, the biggest question about Fast X, the tenth chapter in the Toretto-centric saga of Southern-California-car-enthusiasts-turned-international-mega-spies, is how the hell are they going to outdo that? Well, Jason Momoa as gay-coded street race Jesus is one way. Unfortunately, Momoa and his delirious, gleeful performance is the only thing Fast X has going for it. It’s also never been clearer just how much this franchise misses the late Paul Walker and how much it’s lost its way since his death.
Among fans, the Star Wars Holiday Special is a kind of myth, an artifact some have seen but that’s spoken of as a fable. In reality, it’s an ill-advised lunatic oddity aimed to cash-in on raging Star Wars mania that George Lucas tried to bury. Which just made people want it more.
Comedians making horror movies or otherwise moonlighting in the genre is nothing new. And then there’s the oft repeated adage about the fine line separating the two—just look at Jordan Peele’s quote about the difference between horror and comedy being the music. Anyway, the latest comedy personality to dip his toe into the scary end of the pool is The State and Brooklyn Nine-Nine alum Joe Lo Truglio, who makes his feature directorial debut with Outpost.
To viewers of a certain age, the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow holds an infamous spot in our collective memory. For many ‘90s kids, it was our introduction to an updated carnival geek/freak show. Corey Wees’ documentary, Circus of the Scars, offers an in-depth time capsule of this specific cultural phenomenon and era.
In certain circles, experimental metal band Earth is revered with a sense of mythic awe. Heavily influential, especially to the early grunge era and continuing today, Clyde Petersen’s documentary, Even Hell Has its Heroes, tracks the group’s path, specifically mastermind Dylan Carlson, offering a glimpse behind the reclusive curtain.
Douglas Sirk was the master of American melodrama, his films commercial juggernauts while being largely panned critically. Roman Huben’s documentary, Douglas Sirk—Hope as in Despair, digs into the drama of his own life.
A sucker for documentaries that explore the most niche, off-the-beaten-path slices of life, Abby Hagan’s film, Punderneath it All, about the world of puns, punning, and pun slams, is freaking catnip.
Set in 778, director Paul Urkijo’s Irati follows a young man and woman tasked by a witch to travel deep into a strange, remote forest to retrieve a corpse and claim a birthright. Been there.
Falcon Lake fronts like a horror movie. Grainy 16mm presentation calls to mind early slashers, a genre-esque score layers suspense and tension, a teen girl obsesses over a legendary death, and there’s even a cabin-in-the-woods setting.
What’s worse than dealing with a shark attack? Dealing with a giant shark attack. And what’s worse than dealing with a giant shark attack? Dealing with a giant demon-shark attack. And this isn’t your average giant demon-shark, no, this is a giant demon-shark, called forth by a vengeful Aztec deity, that makes people hallucinate and have horrific visions. In addition to all the usual destructive giant shark shenanigans.
Young martial artist Ria (Priya Kansara) wants to be a professional stunt performer. Her older sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), has dreams of being an artist, though she’s dropped out of art school. Problem is, their Pakistani immigrant parents, while indulgent of the whims of their children, have aims of their own. When the directionless Lena agrees to an arranged marriage to too-good-to-be-true doctor Salim (Akshay Khanna) and his family who may or may not have a nefarious endgame—Ria has an overactive imagination and is prone to flights of wild fancy, so who’s to say what’s real—it’s up to the younger sister to save the day. Or maybe just ruin the Big Day.
If John Wick was a sparse Finnish spaghetti western, one full of brutal, graphic carnage and a grizzled, silent protagonist absolutely eviscerating Nazis, it might look quite a bit like writer/director Jalmari Helander’s Sisu. The Rare Exports helmer delivers a wild, head-stabbing, fascist-exploding good time and the feel-good movie of 2023. Unless you’re a Nazi. But if you are a Nazi, you should feel bad about yourself and the choices you made.
Even in the best of circumstances, weddings are stressful as hell. Sure, they’re lovely, joyous occasions, but you’ve got a monumental logistical task, simmering family drama, travel, accommodations, drunk relatives. It’s a lot. And then you have to worry about a crew of vengeance-minded mercenaries showing up on the day to wreck up the joint. Oh, that didn’t happen to you? Cool, cool. Though that is the basic premise of Shane Dax Taylor’s The Best Man.
This is the place where I was going to make a crack about how it’s spring and of course what we really want to do is spend a beautiful weekend day sitting in the dark watching horror movies with a bunch of like-minded weirdos. But the weather in Seattle has been utter trash, so you don’t have anything better to do than attend the BoneBat Comedy of Horrors Film Festival.
When a filmmaker sets out to make a movie with a specific political message, all too often the result plays didactic, blunt, and heavy handed, practically screaming, “This is our movie, this is our message!” from the rooftops. It can be off-putting, even if you share the same viewpoint—most people don’t watch movies to be lectured one way or another. Cam director Daniel Goldhaber’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline is certainly a movie with something to say.
Fugue, Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s follow up to her coming-of-age mermaid-horror-musical The Lure, originally premiered in 2018, but is just now receiving a U.S. release. And it’s kind of a weird bird. It presents as a thriller—it looks and acts the part—but for all the aesthetic posturing, it ultimately boils down to a domestic drama, albeit an unusual one, about identity, love, family, and more. If anything, presenting as it does serves as a red herring or a subversion of expectations—it looks like one thing, but in reality, is something much different.
When star Marko Zaror and writer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza team up, you damn well better believe we’re paying attention. When this Chilean duo gets together, we get movies like Kiltro, Mandrill, and Redeemer, among others, and rarely does Zaror get to shine as brightly as he does in these films. (Unless he’s facing off against Scott Adkins.) And their latest venture, Fist of the Condor, delivers just what fans want and expect.
It doesn’t always happen, in fact it’s pretty rare, but every once in a while my movie tastes line up with the Oscars. This just so happens to be one of those years. Everything Everywhere All at Once was easily my favorite movie of 2022 and it won, well, damn near everything. And now we can officially call her Academy Award winner Michelle Yeoh, which is pretty fantastic.
Writer/director Shal Ngo’s feature debut, The Park, is a tale of opposite forces, both colliding and pulling against each other. Playfulness crashes into sadism, goofiness bangs heads with savagery, practical concerns compete with wild dreams, and, most centrally, hope struggles to overcome despair. It’s Mad Max via Lord of the Flies, blending action and horror in a post-apocalyptic saga of roving child murder gangs, earnest friendship, and an abandoned amusement park.
There are certainly examples I like quite a bit—Trollhunter, the Rec films, a few others—but for the most part, I don’t and never have enjoyed found footage as a cinematic approach. It’s never done much for me, and I generally find the drawbacks outweigh the benefits as an aesthetic and narrative conceit. That admittedly large caveat out of the way, Robbie Banfitch’s The Outwaters uses this format to dive headlong into experimental cosmic horror. This microbudget affair puts a fresh sheen on the subgenre, and though it tumbles into familiar pitfalls and engenders extreme, polarized reactions from viewers, both warranted and understandable, it ranks toward the top of the found footage pile.
Ah, summer camp, where generations of teens have gone to learn outdoor skills, fall in love, lose their virginity, and subsequently be murdered by either psychotic killers or supernatural forces beyond their control. Or, in the case of Erik Bloomquist’s horror-comedy, She Came from the Woods, both.
There are two kinds of Frank Grillo movies, Frank-Grillo-gives-a-shit and Frank-Grillo-doesn’t-give-a-shit. Essentially projects he cares about and jobs he takes for a paycheck, and it’s obvious which is which—in one he’s clearly engaged and the other, well, you can guess. Little Dixie, the latest from writer/director John Swab (Ida Red), with whom Grillo has worked several times now, fortunately falls into the latter category. Also, Frank Grillo with a chainsaw. (Which, unfortunately, is not as cool as it sounds.)
A lazy, layabout slacker, a missing brother, and a pack of anthropomorphized cats bent on executing sketchy pet shop owners. That’s the basic premise of writer/director Reiki Tsuno’s Mad Cats. This inherently strange tale mixes banger martial arts throwdowns, kinetic gun play, a weirdo mystery, and “forbidden catnip from ancient times.” The result is chaotic and odd, with an off-kilter approach that balances comedy, melodrama, action, and ambition.
The 95th Academy Award nominations are here…and that’s all I really have to say on the matter. Some of these are great and I agree with them. Others, as usual, are absolute head-scratchers. Make of this information what you will.
Horror, particularly some version of an internalized monster, as a metaphor for emerging sexuality, burgeoning romantic feelings, and family life engulfed in turmoil is nothing new. In My Animal, director Jacquelin Castel and writer Jae Matthews use this approach to tell the bittersweet tale of a young outsider wrestling with dark secrets, primal urges, and new love.
If you’re ever a criminal and think to yourself, “I’m out after this one last job,” just walk away. Right there. Right then. Seriously, nothing good will come from your efforts. You won’t wind up sipping mai tais on a tropical beach, you won’t pay off your lingering medical debt, you won’t wind up in that cozy dream cabin with your happy family or whatever dream you’re after. When you chase a final score, it only ends terribly for you and everyone you care about. Movies teach us this time and time again, but if you still haven’t grasped the concept, Out of Exile is here to remind you one more time.
All the important bits are right there in the name: Kids vs. Aliens. There are kids, there are aliens, and they fight. That’s the gist of director Jason Eisener’s first feature since 2011’s Hobo with a Shotgun. (If you haven’t checked out his excellent docuseries Dark Side of the Ring, do so, even if you’re not a wrestling fan.) Like his previous endeavor, though in decidedly less brutal fashion, what works best here is a total blast, but at times the thesis statement of the title wears a bit thin stretched out to 75 minutes. (And sans credits, it’s more like 68.)
Children are creepy. The woods are creepy. Children in the woods? Creepy. This fact, above all else, is what There’s Something Wrong With the Children, the new movie from Roxanne Benjamin (Body at Brighton Rock), truly grasps. With that as the primary conceit, the filmmakers construct a tense, taut horror tale. Straightforward and offering little in the way of surprises—we rarely, if ever, veer far from typical genre markers—the film, though familiar, never feels stale or rehashed, and ultimately delivers a damn good time.
Movies are pretty cool. A bold statement, I know. One of the perks (responsibilities that require additional work) of this job is that at the end of the year I get to shout out my favorite films by voting in a number of film critic groups. One that’s near and dear to my heart is the Seattle Film Critics Society in my hometown, and, wouldn’t you know it, we just announced our nominations.
If you look at M3GAN, the new dancing uncanny valley murder doll movie from Blumhouse, writers Akela Cooper and James Wan (the duo behind Malignant), and director Gerard Johnston (Housebound), and think, “Hell yeah,” you’ll probably have a fine time. What’s fun about it is really damn fun, equal parts campy, goofy, and spooky. In these moments, it knows precisely what movie it is, what the audience wants, and how to deliver exactly that. It's everything in between these fun bits, however, where the problems lie.
It’s that time again. The time of year where we pour over what we’ve watched in the past year and whittle it down to our favorites. Not my preferred activity; as I’ve said many times I’m not a fan of ranking, grading, and otherwise pitting art against other art.