November 2020 In Review

Another month has passed by, and we're ever closer to being rid of 2020. In-between revisiting some 2020 features, I managed to revisit some films I previously loved, dip into a bit of extreme cinema, partake in the SoHome Horror Fest III, and watch some more films of 2020. So, let's see what I viewed over this past November.

Yes, God, Yes (2020) - 3.5/5 - For her feature debut, Karen Maine delivers an interesting tale about sexual awakening, supressed in a religious environment. Natalia Dyer is excellent as Alice, conveying her character's inner struggle between her religious upbringing, and what her character is feeling. The film brings to mind The Miseducation of Cameron Post & Lady Bird, even if it doesn't reach the heights of those two films. You can tell this originated from a short film, as the story feels a bit all over the place in this 78-minute runtime. With that said, it doesn't stop this from being a compelling and humorous work, with a non-judgemental look at sexual attraction.

Colour Out Of Space (2020) - 4/5 - The grand return of Richard Stanley to filmmaking, and it's a gripping piece of cosmic horror. As a meteorite distorts the reality surrounding a family, their farm, and the Alpacas that cost them so much, we're thrust into a tense and horrific scenario. It's gorgeously realised with lush colours, as the monstrous beings that plague the farm are brought alive in nightmarish ways, in spite of some glaring CGI. The tremendous cast ground this story, led by a wonderful Nicolas Cage. Here's hoping it isn't such a long wait for Stanley's next film.

A Serbian Film (2010) - 3.5/5 - If you know this film just for its infamous scenes, then let me regale the plot to you. Milos is a retired porn star lured into one last job. It offers a massive payday, but is shrouded in secrecy, with the director only assuring it will be "real art". What's crafted is a slow build, as we see how Milos' former employment affects his relationships with his family, and how he's perceived by his brother. As he dips his toe into the role, stranger elements make themselves known, which Milos would not have agreed to had he known about. Soon, he finds himself unable to escape a hellish and dehumanising descent, which will be as unforgettable to him as the viewers. It's difficult for me to say I liked what SrÄ‘an Spasojević did here, or if I'd ever recommend it to anybody. What I can say is it's a fascinating story, depicted with MTV style erratic editing, as sights and implications are put across, as horrifying for viewers as for Milos. It left me affected by the end, and I'd be surprised if I ever watched it again.

Irreversible (2002) [rewatch] - 4/5 - I swore I'd never watch this film again, but a friend getting into extreme cinema wanted to give this a try. The reverse chronology allows us straight into the revenge, wondering what led to such a rage-fuelled search. It leads to THAT scene, which remains one of the toughest things I've ever watched, before leading onto the tragedy-twinged sight of these victims, joking, embracing, and being carefree. The camera remains dizzying and unsettling in the opening moments, but the "Time Destroys Everything" message hit me more this time.

The Hatred (2018) - 3.5/5 - A genre mash-up resembling The Crow and Antonia Bird's Ravenous, where revenge is a dish literally best served cold.

The Nights Before Christmas (2020) - 1/5 - For a film where Santa and Mrs Claus are played as Rob Zombie's take on The Joker and Harley Quinn, this feels really subdued.

Milk Teeth (2020) - 3.5/5 - Felipe Vargas crafts this short film, where boys at an orphanage give their teeth to a creature down a drain. All in a hopeful effort to get themselves adopted, this dark fairy-tale brings Del Toro to mind. Creepy and heartfelt.

Best film of the month and Best film rewatched:
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Backward Creep (2020) - 3/5 - Christopher G. Moore's short sees the aftermath of a car accident, which leads to an unsettling time. Short and to the point, this is a creepy 4 minutes with a great use of the car's rear view camera.

Bad Candy (2020) - 2.5/5 - The first feature to play at SoHome Horror Fest III. A cousin to Trick 'r Treat, this depicts interconnected tales set over a Halloween night, where those who deserve punishing get it. It unfortunately suffers from the anthology problem, as it veers in quality between the many segments. There's just a few too many tales, the majority of which lacks in chills, and I would've preferred some being cut to give more focus towards others. With that being said, I was a fan of two segments; a home invasion one, where the real terror is a predatory man, and a spin on The Most Dangerous Game, which throws so many ideas that it keeps you guessing throughout. I just wish more of the tales reached those heights, but I'm mainly struggling to remember some of them.

Council House and Violence (2020) - 3/5 - Ross Graham crafts a simple short, with no flab to it. A pregnant woman wakes ip tied to her bed as part of a satanic ritual, unaware it's a part of her tenancy agreement. A simple idea delivered humorously, with an excellent killer line to boot.

Dead (2020) - 3.5/5 - The first secret screening of Soho Horror is Hayden J. Weal's film. A supernatural comedy from New Zealand, we follow Marbles, a medium who helps ghosts to pass onto the afterlife. He finds the spirit of Officer Tag, a police officer who's been recently murdered, and agrees to help bring the killer to justice. The hilarity comes naturally, amidst a story with a touching core about regret and loss. I wasn't a fan of who turned out to be responsible, it felt like a convenient idea which could've used more work to reach the touching end.

Livin' After Midnight (2020) - 2.5/5 - A girl awakens tied to a chair, as a guy threatens to cut her into pieces, but he's irritated by the loud occurrences by his cohort. The humour is derived from the in-fighting between these murderers, as they discuss what's happening around a water cooler. A fun idea, but it could've done with more life in it.

There Will Be Monsters (2020) - 3.5/5 - Opening on a drunk girl vomiting, she gets preyed upon by a group of guys, circling like vultures. The human horror we see turns supernatural, as the tables get turned on the real monsters. There's a further twist which feels unnecessary, detracting from the story.

Danni and The Vampire (2020) - 3/5 - Danni's a drifter looking to feel fulfilled with life. After freeing a vampire from confinement, she tries helping him complete his goal of making a safe-space for vampires everywhere. Max Werkmeister delivers an entertaining mash-up of genres, which feels just as inspired by feel-good dramedies as tales of bloodsuckers. What makes it work so well are the charming pairings, be it the alluring leads whose bond we believe in, or the pair chasing them, who contrast between peppy and self-serious. Unfortunately, it loses steam and runs on for a bit long, which diminishes the finale.

Best film watched for the first time: Survival Skills

Snake Dick (2020) - 3.5/5 - An exceptional title which gives you everything you need to know about this short film. Ladies in their broken down car are harassed, by gross catcallers, before the realisation sets in that actions have consequences. The tables are turned fantastically, in this neon setting against the music of PilotPriest.

Grisly Girls (2020) - 4/5 - A guy finds himself stalked by girls in doll masks, who are intent on taking vigilante justice. Gorgeously stylised, and appropriately grisly.

Medusa: Queen of the Serpents (2020) - 2/5 - Matthew B.C. aims to mix fantasy with social realism, as a prostitute with a drug addiction finds herself taking on a transformation after receiving a snake bite. The story wants to be about empowerment and escaping toxicity, but it doesn't turn out as gripping as one hopes. It feels as though there's quite a bit of filler, not spending as much time on Medusa and the well-deserved revenge as one hopes. The grisly effects work pretty well, but the CGI work is more glaring.

Behind The Door (2019) - 4/5 - One woman's desperation sees her contacting her deceased father, in the hopes of finding something of great importance. It becomes a psychological game of cat and mouse, occurring in tense and compelling ways.

Mateo (2020) - 4/5 - A zombie wanders the lands, his mind having returned, but disconnected from his decaying body. We hear thoughtful musings on how man has ravaged the land, and us not appreciating what we have at the time. A contemplative gem.

Trick or Treat (1986) - 3.5/5 - A bullied metalhead finds hope, as his deceased heavy metal icon sends him messages on how to take revenge. What unfolds is a brilliant ride, as we get a heavy metal Freddy Krueger, brought alive so well thanks to Tony Fields. It's wacky in the most entertaining of ways, complete with kids almost committing murder, an elaborate Humpty Dumpty costume exploding, and the day nearly being saved by a toilet. A killer soundtrack scores this gem, even if the title feels ill fitting. Rights issues have prevented this film from getting a physical media release, but it's available on YouTube if you fancy something entertaining from the 80's.

Biggest Disappointment: Ride Like A Girl

Survival Skills (2020) - 4/5 - What Quinn Armstrong has crafted is an assured directorial effort, stylised as a lost VHS tape. A police training video gets progressively unsettling, as the cheery lead gets beaten down by the injustices of the system, hurting those inside it as much as outside it. Keep an eye out for whatever Armstrong does in the future.

Little Willy (2020) - 4/5 - What happens when a former child actor, best known for a Childs Play style film, finds havoc wreaked on his psyche? How does he react when tormented by the line from his feature film? We get a horrific and hilarious feature, with excellent performances.

It Came From The 80's (2020) - 4/5 - Stylised as a trio of trailers to long-lost horror films, this is a loving and fun tribute which gets more entertaining with each fake trailer. The best has to be Snack Attack, which is Jaws but with Vending Machines.

Regret (2020) - 4/5 - My most frightening experience of SoHome Horror Fest III. A spine-chilling tale of a man who can't make his fathers funeral, tormented by his inner demons. They're horrifically visualised, making for a skin-crawling time.

The Quiet Revolution: State, Society, and the Canadian Horror Film (2020) - 3.5/5 - This documentary is an interesting look on the history of Canadian horror films, and how it birthed the careers of many creatives, who further inspired today's filmmakers. I say that, but it does feel like a film of two halves, split between directors David Cronenberg, The Soska Sisters, and their own films called Rabid. The latter half feels like an advert for the 2019 remake, but it follows on nicely from the history, by showing how those early steps opened things up for a more diverse roster of filmmakers.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Sometimes, you just need to unwind by watching a multiverse collision, as a Chuck Jones style pig, an Anime inspired girl piloting a mecha, and a Nazi punching Nic Cage team-up to stop a brick wall of a man. It's astounding this worked so well, and that it could deliver on the heart and humour so masterfully.

Biggest Surprise: Little Willy

Friday the 13th (1980) [rewatch] - 2/5 - Considering tis the season, I decided to give this opening instalment another try. I've softened a bit on this film, especially when the gory kills are done so well, but I still can't call myself a fan. While I don't hate the characters (bar one irritating guy), they were definitely too hollow for me to care when the slaughter occurred. The slow-motion was distracting, not helping how all over the place the pacing was. We get into the final confrontation in the last half-hour, and it's a tiresome cycle that repeats itself until the eventual end. Most of all, it baffles me that this film gave birth to such a long-running franchise, especially when its icon wasn't the killer in this film.

Halloween II (1981) [rewatch] - 3/5 - Goodness me, the imagery and kills are doing a lot of heavy lifting in this needless sequel. Finishing off Laurie Strode's night from hell takes us to a hospital, complete with forgettable characters, an increase in gore and explosions, and a soap-opera twist. Still, a fun continuation.

Wild Tales (2015) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - What a pleasure to revisit this anthology of darkly comedic tales, each centred around revenge. For me, it peaks with the opening segment, but the rest of them give it a darn good try. It's interesting how The Strongest worked less for me this time around, while The Proposal jumped much higher up for me.

Ropes (2020) - 4/5 - A tense tale of survival, as man's best friend becomes a vicious nightmare.

Blind (2020) - 0/5 - An infuriating watch which doesn't care about making sense, or sticking to its own guns.

Tom Merritt (1999) - 3/5 - Not gonna lie, I watched this entirely for Mads Mikkelsen. What I got was an interesting 6 minutes of love-rivalry, delivered with a dreamlike quality that was rather interesting.

Behind The Moomins (2010) - 3/5 - An interesting documentary with the cast of Moomins and The Comet Chase, as they discuss what the characters mean to them, and how they were affected by the series as children. For a glorified DVD extra, it was sweet seeing this cast recounting such things.

Worst film of the month: Blind

The Ringmaster (2020) - 2.5/5 - A film that's its own worst enemy, as it regularly deflates its tension, and fails to capitalise on its ideas. 

Death Of Me (2020) - 0/5 - A miserable and xenophobic tale.

Dave Made A Maze (2017) - 3.5/5 - If you want something that's visually inventive and bursting with originality, you could do worse than this directorial debut by Bill Watterson. The main characters are grounded by relatable worries, with the titular Dave especially fearful over where he's at in life, while they're brought alive by excellent performances. There is an excess of supporting cast, many seemingly existing just to up the body count, and it feels padded, even at 81 minutes. In spite of this, there's a lot of fun to be had here.

Possessor (2020) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Mind-bending as it is enthralling, this will linger in your mind.

Ride Like A Girl (2020) - 3/5 - Watching this film was an interesting experience. For the first two acts, the film speeds through major elements at an infuriating rate. Major developments aren't given room to breathe, so barrels through them at a breakneck pace, leaving the film to feel guided by a checklist of what it must do. In spite of this, the third act really sang for me. I found myself swept up in the story, fully invested in Michelle Payne's struggle, and feeling emotional by the end. Weirdly, I would recommend this film on the emotional strength of the third act, in spite of the messiness before it.

Digimon: The Movie (2000) [rewatch] - 1.5/5 - My first time revisiting this film in nearly two decades, and nostalgia can only take me so far.

Having seen the original Digimon movies, it's clear how much the Fox Kids dub destroyed it. The trio of stories being smashed together leaves us with flimsy attempts at connective tissue, thanks to a character being given more prominence, and an infuriating voiceover. The pacing and voice acting is often rushed, dumping out vital pieces as though there's no tomorrow. It doesn't help there's an incessant need to quip all of the time, but it can hit, and contain the wit LittleKuriboh and TeamFourStar put into their Abridged parodies. It doesn't help with how bland the main characters were from the final section, leaving it to feel disconnected after coming on the heels of a great ending. I will admit to enjoying the soundtrack and its manic energy, but it doesn't make up for this shoddy translation.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) - 3/5 - It's hard to believe the controversy this film endured upon release, because it was marketed around a murderer dressed as Santa Claus. What we have is a fascinating film for more reasons than that premise. When the focus is on the fractured psyche of our lead, that's when I found the film most interesting, as the mishandling of trauma by pious figures only worsens our poor leads state. These parts felt at odds with the traditional slasher elements, as the gratuitous nudity and the random murders feel taken from another film. This remains a fun feature to watch, but unsure of what it wants to be. Although, nothing warms my heart more than seeing an 8 year old deck Santa Claus in the face.

Best film of the month: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Best film seen in cinemas: N/A
Best film watched for the first time: Survival Skills
Best film rewatched: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
Biggest Disappointment: Ride Like A Girl
Biggest Surprise: Little Willy
Worst film of the month: Blind

Number of films watched: 40