Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Red Peony Gambler (1968)

Director: Kosaku Yamashita
Notable Cast: Junko Fuji (Sumiko Fuji), Ken Takakura, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kyosuke Machida,
Also known as: Lady Yakuza: The Red Peony Gambler

After finishing up the Raizo Ichikawa era of the Sleepy Eyes of Death franchise, it was time for us to look for a new series of action films to cover. Looking through emails and messages, one series stood out as both highly requested and intriguing, The Red Peony Gambler series. It wasn’t my intent to leap from one massive franchise to the next (this one features 8 films) but the idea of a ninkyo eiga or chivalrous yakuza film, based on a woman gambler from the classic era perked my interest. There were a lot of ways for the franchise to take this concept. With this first entry, simply titled The Red Peony Gambler, the series kicks off in a strong way, utilizing its layered characters and gender-focused thematic weight in some surprising ways. It delivers a thoughtful ninkyo eiga where heroism is never quite what it seems and a string of seemingly untethered events tie together. It’s a sharply written and well-executed film that easily ignites the franchise. Just judging by the first entry, no wonder this series was highly requested for coverage.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019)

Director: Chad Stahelski
Notable Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Mark Dacascos, Laurence Fishburne, Asia Kate Dillon, Halle Berry, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Jason Mantzoukas, Yayan Ruhian, Cecep Arif Rahman

There is a delight in knowing that the John Wick franchise exists. Each film, in its own way, exists as a love letter to classic worldwide action cinema. From the 70s style revenge plot of the original to the excess of style reminiscent of Seijun Suzuki’s later yakuza films of the second, each film wears its influences proudly on its sleeves while introducing a “new” audience in the US to what great action cinema looks like. The third entry of this series, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, is perhaps the weakest overall in terms of narrative, but it’s also one that gives the audience what it wants the most: a gauntlet of non-stop action, dark comedic moments, and bold characters. Chapter 3 struggles occasionally to stand on its own. Yet the sheer intensity of its wild pacing and punchy action set pieces are more than enough to keep fans hooting and hollering for more. John Wick is back and he’s ready to slap a horse into kicking his audience in the face.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hammered in the Neck: Hammer's Dracula Franchise Part III

There is a beauty, style, and look to classic Hammer horror films that only that studio contains. There are only a handful of times in the history of cinema that a studio has defined themselves so steadfast, even when they experiment, one can immediately tell who made it by the style and tone. Hammer is one of those. For this latest franchise article, we were asked to cover some of the major Hammer studio releases and it seemed only fitting to start with the one that most people recognize: Dracula. Spanning multiple decades, the Dracula series is often times as iconic as the original Universal series and it certainly helped solidify both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as genre cornerstones. Truthfully, it was a pleasure to be asked to go back and watch this franchise once again and write this series of articles. Not that my words do it much justice, but even if I can inspire one to revisit the films, then I will have done my duty.

Due to the length of this franchise, it only made sense to split it up into multiple articles to prevent having one massive piece that people will tire of reading by the time they reach the third or fourth film. Since there are nine entries, it made sense to evenly split the articles into three films each. For this third and final part of the article, we will be covering the seventh, eighth, and ninth entries into the series.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Kung Fu League (2018)

Director: Jeff Lau
Notable Cast: Vincent Zhao, Andy On, Danny Chan, Dennis To, Ashin, Madina Memet, Jay Chou

Kung Fu League is one of those concepts that immediately makes martial arts cinema fans excited. Not only is it a film where they were going to, somehow, get four of the most iconic kung fu folk heroes to team up, but they managed to grab some iconic actors to star (or reprise) these characters – even if it isn’t the most famous stars from the roles. Still, the time travel concept of getting them to team up is just stupid enough to work.  There are some incredible stupid Chinese films that pull of ridiculous concepts, so the prospect that Kung Fu League would work was not out necessarily out of the realm of possibility.

Of course, Kung Fu League is also a film directed by Jeff Lau. Yes, that Jeff Lau that continually gives us some of the stupidest and most gimmicky films the last couple of decades. Just a couple years ago he directed Soccer Killer which went viral for its spoof of various superheroes playing the titular sport. If you haven’t seen that, I highly suggest trying to find that clip. It’s baffling.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the Wild: Adam Green

*The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the Wild is a series of articles that will focus on one particular person, for example, directors, actors, producers, etc., that have had a strong career in genre, cult, and arthouse cinema. In these articles, our writers are asked to choose four films from their filmography. They will choose one of their favorites (the good,) one of their least favorites (the bad,) their choice for the oddest film (the weird,) and a fourth film which will be their ‘wild card’ pick. These articles are meant to be a way of discussing the work of these directors in perhaps a new and fun way for our readers - and our writers. Please keep an open mind, discuss, share, and send in your own suggestions for directors for us to cover.

The online community loves to debate the list of “new masters of horror” time and time again, citing new films, bold voices, or box office success in the genre. One of the more interesting talents that are brought up in these discussions is Adam Green. He erupted on the scene with his slasher throwback horror comedy, Hatchet, and has developed a plethora of unique films in a variety of roles. For this entry into The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the Wild, my focus will be on Adam Green and is strangely diverse and intriguing filmography as a director – and I’m sure my choices for each category will surprise fans.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Asako I & II (2018)

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Notable Cast: Masahiro Higashide, Erika Karata, Koji Seto, Rio Yamashita, Sairi Itoh

Ryusuke Hamaguchi is continually proving himself to be one of the finest directors anywhere out there, and that is coming from someone who has unfortunately still yet to see his universally acclaimed Happy Hour. His latest offering, Asako I & II, where it stands at this point in the year, is my absolute favorite film experience thus far. Yes, it premiered in 2018 in many parts of the world, but its U.S release is this year, kicking off at the Metrograph this month (May), courtesy of Grasshopper Films.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Savage (2019)

Director: Cui Siwei
Notable Cast: Chang Chen, Liao Fan, Ni Ni, Guangjie Li, Huang Jue

The harsh tundra of Mount Baekdu in China is the backdrop for one of 2019's biggest surprises thus far, the taut, relentless crime thriller that is Savage.

Wang Kanghao (Chang Chen) is a detective who has been posted to work at a smaller town in the mountainous region, which has been in a swift economic decline since the banning of logging in their local forestry went into effect some years prior to his arrival. Instead of tending to the possible minute local disputes as one would imagine goes on in a town of its size, Wang instead finds himself thrust quickly into a deadly situation as a trio of outlaws rob a passing truck full of gold bars. What ensues is a blood-soaked, frostbitten descent into hell.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Notable Cast: Everybody?

The Marvel box office juggernaut is something to be impressed by, even if you believe the films are mainstream cinematic trash. Just this year, Captain Marvel surpassed all of the Batman films in total box office revenue and that was only a couple of months prior to the release of the focus of this review, Avengers: Endgame. It wasn’t hard to believe that Endgame would be the biggest film in the world and the possibility of setting records was almost a given considering the strength of the franchise and manner that the first half of this two-part film, Avengers: Infinity War, left audiences on the edge. What is surprising is that Endgame surpasses the expectations of quality as a film, taking what was not only presented in its predecessor as a foundation, but maximizing the build of the last 11 years as a franchise to power its action and – more importantly – its emotional core. It’s so effective in wrapping up its long-gestating character arcs and plotting that it’s tempting to say the film is in the running for one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Time will tell if it stays there but as the credits roll, the energetic heft of the film lingers and that’s a testament to its quality.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Director: Michael Chaves
Notable Cast: Linda Cardellini, Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez, Marisol Ramirez, Sean Patrick Thomas, Tony Amendola

The Conjuring Universe has so much potential as a wide-reaching horror franchise. A lot of the potential can already be seen as the series expands past the Warrens with this year’s (first) Conjuring-Verse film, The Curse of La Llorona. The expansion of the franchise into time frames and places outside of the main characters adds a lot of value to what this franchise has to offer horror fans. Last year’s The Nun was problematic for a lot of reasons, but what it did do right was that the main story itself was in its own unique time and place. The Curse of La Llorona takes it a few steps further by tackling another supernatural story based on “real-world” and only loosely tying it to events in The Conjuring franchise, but allowing it to exist on its own. While the concept is great, the execution of the first film to embrace it results in more of a mixed bag honestly.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Scared Stiff (1987)

Director: Richard Friedman
Notable Cast: Mary Page Keller, Josh Segal, Andrew Stevens, David Ramsey, Bill Hindman, Jackie Davis, Nicole Fortier

Scared Stiff was always one of those films that my friends and colleagues would reference, but no one I knew had actually seen it. If they had, they certainly didn’t make a lot of noise about it. This made it one of those films that I was very excited to finally partake in, particularly when it was announced that it would get the Arrow treatment. While the film certainly earns its place as a cult horror film for a variety of reasons, particularly with the ambitiously wild third act, Scared Stiff is not nearly the film that I expected. Between the story and the growing insanity of the what is presented onscreen as the film plays on, Scared Stiff does take a long time to set up its relatively straight forward premise and it never quite finds the proper balance between seriousness and humor.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Blood Splatter: The Silence (2019) / Mercy Black (2019)


Director: John R. Leonetti
Notable Cast: Stanley Tucci, Kiernan Shipka, Miranda Otto, Kate Trotter, John Corbett, Kyle Breitkopf, Dempsey Bryk, Bill MacLellan

Sensory deprivation horror seems to the ‘it’ thing right now. Sure, there has been a lot of success lately in that sub-sub-genre of horror with accolades going to A Quiet Place and Bird Box drumming up a bit of online excitement (and poorly thought out viral videos) which seemingly overlook the low-key brilliance of Flanagan’s Hush, but there is always a balance to things. This is where The Silence comes in. This is on the other end of the spectrum. The bad end. Directed by the gentleman that gave us the underwhelming Annabelle, The Silence takes the silent slant of A Quiet Place and mixes it with the monster mayhem of Bats. Conceptionally, that’s a great combination if I’ve ever heard one. Partner that with a semi-impressive cast – who doesn’t love Stanley Tucci? – and The Silence should have been a shoo-in for one of the more entertaining horror films of the year.

Hellboy (2019)

Director: Neil Marshall
Notable Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church, Penelope Mitchell, Sophie Okonedo, Brian Gleeson, Alistair Petrie, Stephen Graham

For those who were fans of Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy films, the choice for producers to reboot the franchise instead of allowing him to finish his trilogy was one that left a sour taste in the mouth. Most of the behind the scenes shenanigans of the industry are left in the shadows though so no one really knows the why we ended up with a new Hellboy. It is what it is and I went into Hellboy 2019 with an open mind. There was a lot to be hopeful for in this reboot, at least on paper, when it was announced and yet the film remained a wild card for the year. Actually, a wild card is a decent term to use when referencing this version of Hellboy. On one hand, there are things that do work for the film and when those things are working the film is a riot. That's Hellboy's normal hand Unfortunately, the other hand is Hellboy's massive right hand and that is the majority of the film and the best way to describe that is underwhelming. Combine the two together and you get a film that’s a pure wild card piece of cinema. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (2019)

Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Notable Cast: Max Zhang, Michelle Yeoh, Dave Bautista, Kevin Cheng, Chrissie Chau, Yan Liu, Xing Yu, Brian Thomas Burrell

Let’s be honest here. I’m a sucker for the Ip Man movies. I know that, despite their popularity, that there are people out there that do not buy into them and that’s just fine. I’m someone that simply loves the blend of modern elements in what could easily be old school kung fu films. In particular, the “villain” of Ip Man 3 is one of the highlights of the series. Played by the now A-list Chinese megastar Max Zhang, he stole that film in a lot of ways and his final three-part one-on-one fight with Donnie Yen is phenomenal. Turns out I wasn’t the only person that thought he was great because now he has his own spin-off film, Master Z: Ip Man Legacy. Fortunately, this first – of probably many – spin-offs is a great continuation of the series that has the same blend of modern and old but does it with a sense of style that director Yuen Woo Ping brings to the table. It’s not going to be knocking off socks with its reliance on traditional kung fu tropes and the occasionally muddy script, but it’s going to highly entertain and keep the story and character moving forward. Master Z is a blissful modern martial arts flick with enough heart to power its bigger than life action.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971)

Director: Riccardo Freda (Willy Pareto)
Notable Cast: Luigi Pistilli, Dagmar Lassander, Anton Diffring, Arther O’Sullivan, Werner Pochath, Dominique Boschero, Renato Romano, Sergio Doria, Ruth Durley, Valentina Cortese

Since I’ve started digging into giallo films with more purpose over the last handful of years, Arrow Video has been a cornerstone for finding some of the best that the genre has to offer in great releases. Whether it’s classics like Bird with the Crystal Plumage, fringe films like The Fifth Cord, or exploitative ones in the ilk of Strip Nude for Your Killer, more often than not when Arrow releases a giallo it’s worth seeing. In the case of their latest release, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire, its significance falls more in being one of the last films directed by Riccardo Freda more than anything. Although the director was hardly pigeonholed into any one particular genre, his early work to spur the Italian film industry cannot be understated. However, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire is not necessarily a great film compared to many of its giallo brethren. If anything, the film tends to play things a bit too loose with its narrative and would rather kick in intense spurts of blood rather than build a tense tonality or sharp pacing. For some giallo fans, this is still a welcome addition to the genre. For others, the film might be a bit too sporadic to rise to the upper echelons of the genre.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

L Storm (2018)

Director: David Lam
Notable Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Kevin Cheng, Stephy Tang, Adam Pak, Patrick Tam, Michael Tse, Louis Cheung, Janelle Sing Kwan, Baby John Choi Hon-Yik, Liu Kai-Chi, Lo Hoi-Pang, Helena Law Lan, Evergreen Mak Cheung-Ching

As the fourth entry of the series hits theaters and a fifth entry that is looming in the distance, it was probably about time that I go around to seeing L Storm, the third entry into this ICAC focused action thriller franchise. It’s a bit of a chore, truthfully. This series has never been a favorite of mine and my less than lukewarm reviews for both predecessors, Z Storm and S Storm, have certainly kept my expectations low for the rest of the series. Fortunately, this third entry is easily the best one thus far, but once again it’s the massively problematic execution of a rather fun idea that hampers the film from being all that impressive and drags it down to mediocre levels.

Terra Formars (2016)

Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Hideaki Ito, Emi Takei, Tomohisa Yamada, Kane Kosugi, Rinko Kikuchi, Masaya Kato, Eiko Koike, Mariko Shinoda, Ken’ichi Takito, Rina Ohta, Rila Fukushima, Shun Oguri, Ken Aoki

Although I am not personally familiar with the source material for Terra Formars, it was the kind of manga that stirred a lot of fandom. It spawned a lot of different media around its ideas and it was only a matter of time before it received some kind of live action feature film adaptation. What made this live action version so tempting though was not the strange concepts or science fiction/horror/action elements it could utilize as both entertainment and thematic messaging, it was that Takashi Miike was helming the project. After multiple successful adaptations of manga and anime series to live action, including the wildly fun Ace Attorney, the combination could prove too enticing for its own good. Slather the film in some big names from Japan and it would see like the film could make a pretty big splash.

Pet Sematary (2019)

Directors: Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer
Notable Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie, Obssa Ahmed, Alyssa Brooke Levine

Before leaping into 2019’s latest entry into the Stephen King renaissance, it’s perhaps best to start by laying the groundwork and context towards how I feel about the original Pet Sematary material. The book is terrifying, dark, and heavy, although it is hardly perfect (that’s blasphemy, I know,) it’s also a powerful story that is ripe for cinematic elements. The first Pet Sematary film from 1989 is even further away from perfection, utilizing some great atmosphere and terrifying imagery to power through a script that is massively problematic and muddled with needless subplots. The reason it’s necessary to know this is because this newest version of Pet Sematary certainly assumes its audience has either a) see the previous film b) read the book or c) both. In many ways, it plays on the expectations of the audience by playing up or down certain elements to get the audience to feel or move in a certain way. Like a lot of things in the Pet Sematary universe, this plays out as a blessing and a curse. Like its dual source material, this film struggles to find perfect balance of scares to narrative theme and ultimately stumbles further into a middle of the road approach than expected. Pet Sematary is still a thoughtful and often dark decent into the meaning (or meaninglessness?) of death with some impactful moments, but it just doesn’t reach the heights that it might have in the end.

Long Time No Sea (2018)

Director: Heather Tsui

Notable Cast: Zhong Jia-jin, Shang He-huang, Feng Yi-li, Ou Lu, Zhang Ling

Taiwan Film Festival UK 2019:

On the furthermost island of Taiwan, you'll find the land of Orchid Island, home to the people of the Tao tribe, that date back some 800 years ago. A rich culture that has seemed to wear itself away overtime with the locals, especially the youth. The focus is on a young boy who lives with his grandmother, his mother and father both off in the mainland of Taiwan for work, divorced, and leaving him solely with his grandmother. He yearns for his father to return home and that lack of a father figure gives him a sort of aimless feeling day to day as he skips school and tries to keep himself occupied.

A new teacher comes in from the city and begins to develop a relationship with the lonely young boy as the two's backstories begin to unfold to one another. In addition to them, a local radio DJ enters the teacher's life and begins to make him rethink his failing relationship his girlfriend who stayed back in the city. At the school, the principal comes forth with a plan to host a dance ceremony that showcases traditional Tao dancing. Eager to find purpose, the newest teacher undergoes the task.

Right from the from the first scene, the preset fear of the film looking like a travelogue ad for Orchid Island was put to ease when the visually stunning cinematography revealed itself. I went into this one blind aside from a brief plot synopsis. These type of movies usually withhold the glossy fake sheen of such products. Thank goodness great thought and care went into every technical aspect here. It is a beautiful movie and really honors the long lived legacy of a proud people and their home.

The acting is spot on as well. The award worthy newcomer Zhong Jia-jin gives a central perfomance so sincere that he demands future attention and is bound to make a great impression on the industry. Shang He-huang gives a fantastic turn in as the teacher who forms a familial bond between himself and the boy, creating a genuine chemistry between the two performers. Unfortunately, although they do a fine job with what they are given, none of the female characters have enough time to truly shine or be fully developed for that matter, which brings out the beginning of the film's drawbacks.

While the film has a ton of technical finesse and the performances are all believable, the writing falters thus ultimately hindering a potentially great piece of cinema. The narrative is quite rushed, with larger character beats happening so early on, you aren't able to begin to be immersed into the world or feel engaged with the characters until much later on in the runtime. The cliches and coincidences come in fast and hard too. What are the odds that the love interest would repeatedly find herself in the presence of the teacher, considering her odd job occupations seem to shift conveniently in accordance with his geographical location. Slim. I'd say extremely slim. Oh and she happens to be a full-time radio DJ  and the person to come in and help teach traditional dance to the students. It isn't spoiling anything as the smell of it coming is given off from miles away.

Overall, I truly find myself glad to have had the opportunity to see this film and do not regret it. Hopefully next time around, director Heather Tsui will have a more fleshed out script. She really got a lot out of a weaker screenplay. Fortunately so much heart went into this production that it shows on-screen nearly every second. A great celebration of a ultural heritage and beautiful nod to the Tao people.

Written by Josh Parmer

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Blood Splatter: Escape Room / Rust Creek (2019)


Director: Adam Robitel
Notable Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani, Kenneth Fok, Yorick van Wageningen

After the cult status that The Taking of Deborah Logan reached quickly within horror circles, director Adam Robitel almost immediately became a name to watch. When his second film, the fourth Insidious feature, became a box office hit, it seemed as though Robitel was not some kind of one trick pony. He had style, a knack for creating tension, and horror fans were willing to stand by his work. His latest film, Escape Room, looked to be Sony’s next bid for a yearly horror franchise in terms of both mainstream appeal and fantastic gimmick. With Robitel at the helm, there was a great chance that they might be able to pull it off even if the concept seems a bit eye-rolling on the surface.

If anything, Escape Room not only makes a strong statement for a new yearly horror franchise with its Cube inspired puzzle meets trap solving exercises and its fantastic use of an ensemble cast, but it allows Robitel and company make a highly entertaining film to stand on its own. Most of this is due to the impressive use of sets and the director’s knack for creating tension and suspenseful thrills out of some of the most asinine scripting elements. While the overall world building, about a secret organization that has seemingly brought together six strangers to survive increasingly strange and outlandish Escape Rooms, is fairly ungrounded and occasionally formulaic for horror fans to experience, the execution brings it back home to sell the entire thing. There are multiple set pieces that are instantly memorable and Escape Room makes use of the concept impressively well. In particular, there is an ‘upside-down room’ sequence that is both fascinating to watch as the characters attempt to survive the traps and solve the puzzles, but it’s shot in a way that’s wholly disorienting and fascinatingly well-paced. Throw in some rather stock, but fun characters to watch as they try to navigate their own past assumptions about everything and one another and we have a highly entertaining horror film runs with its strengths.

Considering the decent box office and threaded plotting for a sequel, Escape Room is primed for the franchise it was obviously crafted to kick off. Although the film leans towards fringe horror than anything, since it shies away form showing the violence and instead focuses on the fun visuals and thrills of its pacing, this is a franchise that I am more than willing to follow. Particularly if Robitel stays on board to direct. It sounds like both are going to be happening, so you know that I will be in the theater next year when it comes out.


Director: Jen McGowan
Notable Cast: Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson, Sean O’Bryan, Micah Hauptman, Jeremy Glazer, Daniel R. Hill, John Marshall Jones, Denise Dal Vera, Laura Guzman, Virginia Schneider

IFC Midnight did a great job of marketing Rust Creek when it first premiered, using the strong initial reviews of the film to spin a campaign that the film was the first great indie survival horror film of the year. In a way, they aren’t wrong. Rust Creek is a fantastic film. It has a great sense of grounded reality to some great performances, the tension is tight and effective, and the film loves to play with its audience in its narrative. However, calling it survival horror might be a stretch. Now before I get lambasted with people pulling the genre card on me, I keep a pretty open mind to what horror cinema can be interpreted as. While the film certainly uses some survival horror elements, particularly in the first act, it’s pretty light and definitely on the very outskirts of the genre. It’s just fair warning for those who might carry in the wrong expectations. If I was to label it anything, I would call Rust Creek a brilliant dark thriller.

With that bit of context out of the way, Rust Creek is able to dig its heels into its concept and deliver some truly intense and surprisingly thoughtful cinema. It very much starts off as though it’s going to be the survival horror that it was marketed as, when our young heroine finds herself lost in the backwoods and two crass and creepy guys try to take advantage of her. The resulting survival sequence, with her in the woods on the run from these two guys looking to make sure she stays lost, is of the usual variety. It’s impeccably well made though as it doubles down on the reality of the situation starts to build its characters through it. However, Rust Creek is not content in staying in the formula and starts to deviate quite a bit in the second half to some surprising results. It plays on the audiences’ expectations, layers in a bit of more traditional thriller elements, and never pulls away from the characters. To give too much more away would be detrimental to the experience, but the choices that director McGowan makes, the strong and nuanced performances, along with how the tension and pops of thrills unfold make it quite the impressive watch.

Although Rust Creek will probably still fly under the radar as the year goes on because it refuses to sell itself out to wild style or gimmicks, it should be one that genre fans should check out. It’s realism, performances, and strong detailed direction make it a sleeper hit in quality for the year. Rust Creek comes highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Monday, March 25, 2019

Us (2019)

Director: Jordan Peele
Notable Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop

Jordan Peele, quite frankly, came in and busted modern horror wide open in a lot of ways. His debut, the Academy Award winning socio-political satire horror film Get Out, was a massive surprise hit with critics, fans, and box office. Whether one likes the film as much as I did is almost irrelevant. The film was a cultural phenomenon. This leaves a big question mark for a follow up. Although Get Out was often referred to as a ‘social thriller’ or some other bullshit genre as more discerning fans refused to stake it as a horror film, it was very clear from the outset that his sophomore effort, Us, was going to be HORROR in all caps. Still, that question mark loomed over it. Could his second effort be as provocative while maintaining that sense of respect to the horror community and history that Peele so obviously feels? In many ways, it absolutely does. Us is able to spark a thoughtful and layered commentary. The film is loaded with symbolism and detailed nuance to some of its vague narrative elements. It’s also a film that emphatically embraces the horror genre. It’s brutal, intense, and quite suspenseful to boot. If anything, Peele must have seen the that looming question mark and decidedly brushed it aside, refusing to play that game. Us is another horror cinema statement and easily sets the benchmark for the year.