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Category Archives: Movies

Suicide Squad (2016): Desire Becomes Submission. Submission Becomes Power.

Suicide Squad (David Ayer, 2016)


Time to play. photo credit:

After I saw the trailer for Suicide Squad the week before it came out, all the sudden I wanted to see the first superhero movie I’d wanted to see since Iron Man 2. It looked like ridiculous amounts of fun, starred Margot Robbie, who was so good in Z for Zachariah, and while I haven’t been a huge fan of the David Ayer directorial efforts I’ve seen, as a writer, man, he’s out of this world sometimes (two words: Training Day). And then the reviews started coming in, and they were terrible. But a friend wanted to see it and couldn’t find anyone to go with, and it was five bucks a ticket (and the theater in which we saw it, where I’d never been before, was loads of fun), so I figured why not? My ex-wife’s assessment of the film, which she’d seen the week before I did: “you get to see a lot of Harley Quinn’s ass.” What’s not to like? So we went, and while Suicide Squad is, on the David Ayer scale, far more End of Watch than Training Day, I thought it did its job, and even though I understand, and agree with, most of those critical reviews, I thought it did that job pretty well regardless.

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The Conjuring 2 (2016): If You Don’t Shift This Crate of Brillo Pads by Friday, Vengeance Will Be Mine

The Conjuring 2 (James Wan, 2016)


They’re baaaaaaaaaaack… photo credit:

There’s a scene in The Conjuring 2—very early on in the movie, so this isn’t a spoiler of any sort—that really drives home how important cinematography is to an effective horror film. It starts with Billy Hodgson (Benjamin Haigh in his feature debut) has just gone downstairs to get a glass of water, and is sleepily on his way back up to bed. When he gets to the second floor, he stubs his toe on one of his toy fire trucks. After turning off the annoying light and sound features, he nudges it with his foot so it rolls into the tent he has erected in an alcove just at the top of the stairs. He stumbles back to his room. The camera moves with him, and the tent is always in the background. He almost gets there when there’s a sound of grinding metal, which we know is the sound the fire truck makes when it rolls across the floor, and the sirens go off very briefly—less than a second. He pauses for a moment, decides he must have been hearing things, and keeps on back to bed. As he’s getting ready, we can see a small portion of the tent through the doorway. The bottom of what we can see is about waist-high, so if you know anything at all about horror films, you’re expecting something to come bursting out of that tent. Instead, we hear the lights and sirens again, and cinematographer Don Burgess cuts to the bottom of the doorframe just as the fire truck comes rolling slowly up to the doorjamb. It’s just a beautifully shot scene, playing with the audience’s expectations and demolishing them at every turn, and it sets up the viewer to expect that this is not going to be your average horror film, at least not from the DP’s perspective. (If you search “conjuring 2 fire engine” on YouTube, you’ll find the sequence that happens just after this.)

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Four of Hearts (2013): Deuce of Spades

Four of Hearts (Eric Haywood, 2013)


Revised tagline: some legs can’t be uncrossed. photo credit:

First off: while I don’t necessarily consider talking about the content of a character’s character to be a spoiler for a movie, there are those who might. As such, this review can be considered to have spoilers. Proceed with caution.

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Inner Demons (2014): I’m Gonna Try for the Kingdom if I Can

Inner Demons (2014): I’m Gonna Try for the Kingdom if I Can

Inner Demons (Seth Grossman, 2014)


Group Scare-apy. photo credit: (anyone surprised they hated it?)

I will start off with the film’s two biggest flaws, for those of you who want an excuse to get out of this review early. First, yes, the mockumentary/found-footage horror movie is as played-out as calling pocket aces with deuce-seven offsuit because you have a 32% chance of cracking them. And, perhaps even more appalling, yes, this movie’s scares depend on a plot hole big enough that you can drive a semi through it. So those of you who can’t get past those things, I will let you leave class early.


…and now the rest of you are going to hear about the first movie that has actually scared me enough to sleep with a light on since Paranormal Activity 2 (and, for the record, the fifth movie to ever do so; the other three, and take all the time you like to wonder about me, but remember how old I was when the first one came out, were Beware! The Blob, Pet Sematary, and Candyman). Like I said, they rely on a massive plot hole, which I will get to in a second. But when you are confronted with “scrap this footage because of a plothole” vs. “scare the shit out of your audience”, a lot of directors since Alexandre Aja are going to do the latter. And I am here to tell you, when it comes to the scare factor, Inner Demons blows Haute Tension so far out of the water it might be an extra in Sharknado 3.

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We Are Still Here (2015): House Gruetiful

We Are Still Here (Ted Geoghegan, 2015)

[note: originally written 23Sep2015]


All the modern conveniences, but still has that old world charm. photo credit:

Ted Geoghegan got his start working with people like Andreas Schnaas (on Demonium and Nikos the Impaler) and Timo Rose (in Geoghegan’s defense, Barricade, the Rose movie he wrote, is some of Rose’s best work, not that that’s setting the bar too high), then went on to script the confusing, aimless Sweatshop. But at least Sweatshop looked good, even if it suffered from that same confusion and aimlessness. Given all that, one could be forgive for going into We Are Still Here, Geoghegan’s debut big-screen feature, with lowered expectations. And you should go ahead and do so, for that will make this atmospheric, slow-burn ghost story all that much more a pleasant surprise.

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Z for Zachariah (2015): Winter Is Coming

[originally written 29Aug2015]

Z for Zachariah (Craig Zobel, 2015)


Captain Kirk meets Harley Quinn and no one’s written fanfic about it yet? photo credit:

Two of my favorite directors in the history of cinema are Béla Tarr and Yasujiro Ozu, the masters of “slow film”. While I was watching Z for Zachariah, the new film from Craig Zobel (Compliance), I got the feeling throughout that Zobel is familiar with these two masters, and is working his way into slow-film-dom. I don’t think he’s quite there yet, but he’s on the right path.

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Lights Out (2016): We’re the Only Ones Left on the Floor

Lights Out (David F. Sandberg, 2016)


I actually totally did that a few times when I was in high school and my parents wouldn’t shut up about energy conservation. Photo credit:

When this started getting buzz at one point last year, I checked YouTube for the original short, and indeed, there it was. I absolutely adored it, and got excited for this immediately. I’m pretty fond of the whole “awesome short horror film gets a feature length treatment” thing, and I am a huge fan of a couple of them (Dumplings and Grace both impressed me far more than I was expecting), so I went into Lights Out with pretty high expectations. And while it wasn’t a surprise, I was quite happy with the result.

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Cemetry of Splendour (2015): Freedom Is in My Body

Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2015)


I am large, I contain multitudes. photo credit:

Japan has Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Shinya Tsukamoto. America has Julian Schnabel and Elias Merhige. France has Claire Denis. Australia has Jane Campion. Iran has Abbas Kiarostami. Norway has Tomas Alferdson. The UK has Peter Strickland.  Czechoslovakia has Jan Svankmajer. Thailand has Apichatpong Weerasethakul. They are, arguably, the world’s ten greatest currently-working directors, and a new film from any of them is worth celebration. While most of the directors named above have in common that their films are often dreamlike (or nightmarish), Weerasethakul has always struck me as the one who works in the waking-dream vein most natively; everything about his films seems to be deeply connected straight back to the Brothers Lumiere and other fin de siecle avant-garde filmmakers. To experience a Weerasethakul film is to wander through a landscape that is at once entirely alien and constantly familiar.

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The Devils (1971): You Have Been Found Guilty of Covenants with the Devil

The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)

The movie poster.

I feel as though my heart has been touched by Christ. photo credit:

N.B.: This is more of an essay than a review, and as such, some of what is contained herein could be considered spoilers. If that sort of thing offends you, enter at your own risk.

Spoiler Alert!

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Emelie (2015): When a Stranger Traumatizes

Emelie (Michael Thelin, 2015)

Emelie (Sarah Bolger)'s face dominates the top half of the white poster, with the children underneath, much smaller.

You may never want to leave the house again. Photo credit:

In the interests of full disclosure: while I tried not to let my personal feelings about certain aspects of the film influence what I thought of it (believe me, I have more than enough empirical reasons to give it the rating it got), there is no way I could have walked out of this film unbiased. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it at all had I realized some of the details that fit portions of my life that are, shall we say, in a state of disintegration. I found a great deal of this movie painful to watch for reasons that very few other people will. But don’t worry, if you decide to subject yourself to this sleazy, hateful excuse for celluloid, you’ll probably find your own reasons to walk out of the theater horrified that anyone would have greenlit, much less produced, this movie.

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