October 2018 In Review

October has come, along with the opportunity to watch a great deal of horror films. Just my month. So, without further ado, let's have a look at what I've seen this past month.

Venom - 1/5 - A Venomous experience

Q - The Winged Serpent - 3.5/5 - On the basis of that wonderful poster, I just had to see this film. Larry Cohen's film centres around a small-time crook who's tired of life continuously knocking him down, all while a flying Aztec monster is devouring New York citizens. It's a bold idea that pays off, as Michael Moriarty does a great job portraying Jimmy, and is the more compelling part of the film. The flying monster aspect works well, but the ritualistic killings feel like an unnecessary addition to it all. Still, this is a great picture worth the watch.

Christine (1983) - 4.5/5 - John Carpenter adapts a Stephen King novel, telling the story of a toxic romance between Arnie, a young man often the target of bullies, and Christine, a demonic car which Arnie fixes up. As bullies can't help but vandalise the 1958 Plymouth Fury, and those who care for Arnie threaten to disrupt the addictive relationship, Christine shows her horrific power, resulting in the grisly deaths of some. It's a tale that remains compelling, because the time has been taken to understand our protagonists and their actions, while the talented cast put their all into the roles. It's yet another great Carpenter flick which I'm glad to have witnessed over this year.

Wolf Creek - 4.5/5 - Considering the recent news of John Jarratt being charged with sexual assault, the scene of his character, Mick Taylor, performing an assault has another layer of being fucking disturbing. As for the film itself, what Greg McLean has delivered begins as a slow burn, showcasing the vast nature of the Australian outback, while allowing audiences to get to know the protagonists, and like them for the people they are. Once Mick Taylor enters, it's a disarming character who turns on the charm. Then, both the protagonists and the audience are thrust into something hellish, grisly, and relentlessly horrifying. It's one hell of a ride that will leave you on edge, and stay with you for quite some time. Horrific experiences like this are exactly what I live for.

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Best film of the month & Best film rewatched: Halloween (1978)

To All The Boys I've Loved Before - 4/5 - What a charming and delightful little gem this was. Lana Condor lead a terrific cast, who all do a wonderful job in playing their roles, even if a few characters are a bit too much of caricatures. This is an adorable romcom which hits all the right notes, providing an engaging romance and chucklesome comedy in a delightful little package, which never outstays it's welcome.

Matilda [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - After a stressful day of travel, a nice little remnant of my childhood such as this is exactly what I needed. An enjoyable and entertaining film, even if it doesn't all hang together for me.

The Bad Batch - 1.5/5 - With such an interesting premise and a great assembled cast, this next feature from Ana Lily Amirpour was highly anticipated from me. For what it's worth, there's quite some arresting visual imagery on show, and Amirpour is admirably working in the more intriguing school of "show, don't tell". Sadly, there's little else to recommend here, as the end result feels ultimately pointless, glossing over important story parts (one which especially came off as pointless), and definitely doesn't need to have a near 2 hour runtime. The great cast do little with their roles, largely flitting in and out as though they're doing the hokey cokey, while unable to do much with the lacklustre material. A cannibal dystopian film shouldn't be as boring as this.

Son of Frankenstein - 4/5 -  As I venture further into this Universal series of Frankenstein films, I can feel the filmmakers stretching things ever more to justify how the iconic creature returns after such magnificent, and seemingly final, ends. It's a massively unnecessary sequel, but seeing the effects such previous events had on the town and it's inhabitants, as well as the Frankenstein legacy, is a really interesting point to take, as the sins of the father affect further generations. Boris Karloff remains a phenomenal presence as the creature, and Bela Legosi is a creepy addition as Ygor. I do wonder how future instalments will justify themselves, but I'm more than keen to find out.

Best film seen in cinemas: Halloween (2018)

Vampires (1998) - 2/5 - Throughout the year, I've been working my way through the filmography of my favourite director, John Carpenter, and even though I was expecting to eventually reach a low point, I didn't anticipate it would feel so crushing. I love the basic idea of a Church approved Vampire hunting team doing their job in such an organised manner, and the Western influences are apparent in Carpenters direction. Unfortunately, the former is tossed aside for a generic plotline, where actors sleepwalk through their cookie cutter roles as asshole, misogynist characters. The end result came off as, what I'd call, pretty "bro-ish", and is certainly a low point in the career of my favourite director.

First Man - 4.5/5 - What comes to your mind about Neil Armstrong? It's certain you'd remember his status as the first man to walk on the moon, or his famous One Small Step speech, but what about the man himself? That's less of a known quantity, and serves as the main aspect for this biopic. If you're expecting a conventional retelling of Neil Armstrong's journey to the moon, you'll be sorely disappointed here. Damien Chazelle chooses to have space exploration serve as the backdrop, for a focus on coping with grief. A balance is struck between two clear constrasts, as the drama and character are delivered in a touchingly understated manner, with just enough being told to get to the core of it all, without needing to shout it all out loud. Yet, when it comes to the space set scenes, things get absolutely tense, making for some of the years most catch your breath moments.

Ryan Gosling plays to his strengths, internalising the feelings in his portrayal, to capture the personal loss which has greatly affected Armstrong. He doesn't need a big Awards friendly moment, usually requiring a monologue or shouting, it's a compelling performance in its own right. Claire Foy brings a powerful presence to the role. She's clearly nursing the same hurt that her husband is, and does all that she can to help and understand, while having to keep her family together. Her character is a necessary part, to help get to the core of Armstrong, a task which would be more difficult without her character. It's just a shame more couldn't be done with the character, as Foy's performance does more for the character than the writing.

As the nearly two and a half hour runtime flies by, First Man is a wonderful follow-up to Damien Chazelle's Oscar darling, that makes for a compelling look at loss and grief. 

Kler - 4/5 - Let's make this perfectly clear, this isn't a story which demonizes religion, and those who follow it. The focus is on a specific number of people, who commit awful acts, because they feel protected under the veil of organized religion. Those whose actions are swept away under the guise that it's harming organized religion. Wojciech Smarzowski composes compelling tales around this, but despite an early attempt to link the three protagonists, you can feel the strains made to connect them all together. One thread especially feels extraneous, while some storytelling choices feel rather misjudged. But despite that, this is a powerful tale that stays long in the mind.

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Best film watched for the first time: The Phantom Carriage

Bad Times At The El Royale - 4/5 - After making an outstanding debut with The Cabin In The Woods, Drew Goddard makes his long-awaited directorial follow-up just six years later. What's been delivered for this sophomore film is an engaging tale which feels inspired by Tarantino, depicting various strangers with their own personal tales, told from multiple perspectives, as they collide at a rundown hotel with a dark secret. Each character is portrayed tremendously, but Cynthia Erivo stands out among the cast, with a strong performance, and an impressive voice. Chris Hemsworth is also worth mentioning, proving beguiling as a charismatic cult leader that feels very Manson-esque. It's a shame the 141 minute runtime is very much felt, and there are pacing issues throughout, but it's overall a gripping and fun experience, told in a gorgeously composed manner. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) [rewatch] - 4/5 - Ben Stiller's return to directing has its weak points, such as the heavy handed inclusion of Papa Johns, and the crammed in Benjamin Button scene, but it's also a confidently directed piece which won me over. But then it's worth mentioning when such a thrilling battle is waged over a Stretch Armstrong figure. As he further steps out of his comfort zone, we are granted many reasons to root for the eponymous Walter Mitty, helped by a likeable performance by Stiller. Plus, Adam Scott relishes his antagonistic role, and for good reason. 

Halloween (1978) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Yes, I am watching this much earlier than I usually do for my annual tradition, but with the follow-up being released, I decided to make an exception. No matter how many times the I watch that gutter hit the window, Annie's realisation about her car being unlocked, or see Michael's face gradually appear behind a sobbing Laurie, the moment remains as powerful as it did upon first viewing. A powerful directorial effort accentuated by a brilliant score, this is a strong example of the power held by John Carpenter, and one of the greatest films I'm glad to have ever seen.

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Biggest Disappointment: Bohemian Rhapsody

Halloween (2018) - 4.5/5 - A follow-up that delivered just what I wanted.

The Happiness of The Katakuris - 4.5/5 - My first film from Takashi Miike, and to call it unique is an understatement. The basic premise sees a family working together to run a country inn, which they hope will be bustling with customers once a nearby road is finally built. The problem is, whenever guests enter their establishment, they end up dead, and to keep the business running, the family must hide the bodies.

On top of that, the films tone is a comedic one, and included are claymation interludes (usually for budgetary reasons), zombies, a volcano, and musical numbers. It's quite the assortment which doesn't always flow together well, but largely works, because it's a character driven piece firstly. There's an optimistic heart at the centre of it, saying that all will be right and family can come together. Utterly fun, horrific, and baffling in the best possible ways, this is certainly an experience I won't forget.

The Phantom Carriage (1921) - 5/5 - When I look at how few silent films I've actually watched, I'm rather ashamed at how few I've ventured to watch. There's so many great pieces I have yet to experience, and I am grateful this one can be crossed off that list.

A film centred around an enticing premise, where the last person to die in a year must work tirelessly for Death, driving a Phantom Carriage to pick up the souls of the departed until the end of the next year. This is a gothic & haunting tale about the sins and regrets of our past, brought to life thanks to atmospheric direction. We shouldn't care for our horrendous lead, we shouldn't believe his rote character arc, but the tremendous performances draw us into it, and the affecting aftermath is proof the final product has utterly succeeded.

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Biggest Surprise: Foo Fighters: Back & Forth

Terrified (2018) - 4/5 - A trio of ghostly disturbances occurs within a neighbourhood, told by Demi├ín Rugna in manners suitably horrifying. While he can go for the cheap jump scare throughout, there's also a confidence to let the tension build, and moments especially get under ones skin. The most notable example is set at a dinner table, where viewers are left eagle eyed, trying to see the slightest movement. It unfortunately loses its way towards the end, in an attempt to rapidly wrap things up, but on the whole, we're left with a massively effective piece. 

Urban Legend - 3.5/5 - A post-Scream slasher that certainly owes a debt to Wes Craven's game-changing flick, what director Jamie Blanks has delivered is effectively grisly, even if it doesn't wholly hold up. The idea of a killer weaving urban legends into their methods is an intriguingly unique one, leading to some pretty well executed offings (especially one involving a runaway car). As the capable cast put their all into the (mostly) well defined roles, we're granted reasons to care for those caught in this murderous game, which makes it a shame how cartoonish it becomes by the end. Enjoyable, at the very least.

Dog Soldiers - 4/5 - Boy, Neil Marshall can certainly make the most of a small budget. This time around, he's delivered an utterly tense, viscerally gory, and incredibly well crafted siege film, depicting military men against Werewolves. Think a more furry Night of the Living Dead, complete with a great assortment of well drawn characters, and bouts of humour that land. It's a shame we don't get more Werewolf films, but I'm glad we at least have this one.

Moana [rewatch] - 4/5 - Taking a break from watching all of these Horror films ('tis the season, after all), in order to remind myself why I adore this film. Pua and Heihei help, but the incredibly drawn and believable characters, the catchy numbers, and the Kakomori are why.

Worst film of the month: Venom

Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein - 4/5 - Forget Freddy vs Jason or Batman V. Superman, this is the clashing of worlds to see. A unique mashing up of worlds, as comedic legends cross paths with Universal's array of monsters, delivering a fun time that never outstays its welcome, even if the gags don't always hit. 

Bohemian Rhapsody - 2/5 - There's a good film to be made from the stories of Freddy Mercury and Queen. This is not it.

Foo Fighters: Back & Forth - 5/5 - Director James Moll uses this opportunity to depict the history of rock band Foo Fighters, covering up to their 2010 album Wasting Light. It does well to cover Dave Grohl's time in Nirvana, how forming this new band was his method of grieving for his deceased friend, and highlighting the arduous journey up to now. There's a real sense of getting under the skin of its subjects, detailing their creative process, and casting a light on the turbulent times, such as the rotating number of members, the fraught time making the second album, and even a near death experience. It's a candid and honest time, surrounded by informative and funny moments, all making for a very enjoyable package that makes me love this group all the more.

Halloween (1978) [rewatch] - 5/5 - I may have watched this less than a fortnight ago, but I wasn't going to let a thing like that interfere with my annual tradition. John Carpenter's phenomenal score, the revealing glimpses of Michael Myers in the background, the point of view shots accompanied by heavy breathing. It all works together phenomenally, to make a massively effective final product.

Best film of the month: Halloween (1978)
Best film seen in cinemas: Halloween (2018)
Best film watched for the first time: The Phantom Carriage
Best film rewatched: Halloween (1978)
Biggest Disappointment: Bohemian Rhapsody
Biggest Surprise: Foo Fighters: Back & Forth
Worst film of the month: Venom

Number of films watched: 24