February 2021 In Review

February is behind us, I hope you are all doing well. My month in film saw me bounce between Hellraiser films, double-bill both Borat outings, venture further into David Lynch, and make time for the latest Pixar film. So, let's see what films I watched this past February.

Anti-Life (2020) - 1/5 - A bog-standard sci-fi flick which reminds you of better films, and then makes you question why you aren't watching them instead.

Willy's Wonderland (2021) - 3.5/5 -  A grisly delight. If you've ever wanted to see Nicolas Cage stomping on an animatronic gorilla's head in a urinal, this is the film for you.

Night of The Living Dead (1990) - 3/5 - Of all the projects he could've made his directorial debut, Tom Savini aimed high in remaking George A. Romero's classic, Night of The Living Dead. He approaches the material with no interest in resting on the original's iconic status, and subverts expectations in rather interesting ways. I do question some of the decisions in the film, especially involving some of the lesser developed side characters, but this is clearly a different beast than its predecessor. Led by a terrific Patricia Tallman and the great Tony Todd, this is a remake worth your time.

Hotel Artemis (2018) - 3/5 - I do wish I liked this film more. An excellent cast has been assembled for this delicious premise, but it's a case of better in theory than in execution. This is a good example of world-building, but could do better when it comes to building the majority of the characters. It's a story that works best when moving the pieces into place, as it all builds towards a lacklustre third act.

Hellraiser (1987) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - An exceptional piece of horror where the real monsters are human, and the Cenobites are interestingly secondary antagonists here. Clive Barker is a talented director, and it's a shame he stopped directing feature films.

Club Oscar (2005) - 1/5 - Essentially a DVD extra for Shark Tale, as the characters dance to music in the club. That's it for 4-minutes, and it's just all so pointless.

Best film of the month & Best
film rewatched: Parasite

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) - 3.5/5 - When it comes to sequels to horror classics, this was a better final product than I expected. Granted, I do wish more time was put towards story and characterisation, especially where the new characters are concerned, and it became tiresome when there was a certain case of somebody being overpowered. Yet this was a tremendous way to expand on the first film, as the mythology is fleshed out with a gruesome trip into Hell, and more of Clare Higgins deliciously playing Julia is welcome.

Sator (2021) - 4.5/5 - A chilling tale which feels inescapable, this will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Ticks (2019) - 2.5/5 - A group are out camping, when one of them gets poorly due to a tick burrowing under their skin. This is a gruesome piece of body horror, but at only 4-minutes, it's over rather suddenly.

Heathens (2020) - 2.5/5 - A group of heathens try to make their human sacrifice before the school bell rings, in this blood-soaked short which feels like the stepping stone to something larger. On it's own, it feels like a scene we've seen done better elsewhere.

To Freddy (2021) - 4/5 - Before they each go off their own ways, a group of friends go on a camping trip for a last hurrah. Prior to that, the titular Freddy finds a package addressed to him, containing a series of notes. The first one predicts the future, saying somebody would kill him on the camping trip, causing him to become wrapped up in the predictions. A tense and tragic feature which makes for a compelling watch.

Best film watched for the first time:
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Sasquatch's Scary Stories To Tell By The Campfire (2019) - 3/5 - A short hosted by Sasquatch, an alcoholic puppet who tells a story which takes humorous and unexpected turns. It's entertaining enough at the time, but there's little more to it.

There's A Gorilla In The Closet (2020) - 3.5/5 - Remi Frechette crafts an entertaining throwback, as a detective duo try to solve a mystery involving a Gorilla in a stately manor. Stylised in black and white, this is a wonderful way to work around the budgetary concerns, utilising darkness to great advantage. A fun homage.

15 Things You Didn't Know About Bigfoot (2021) - 4/5 - Zachary Lamplugh co-writes and directs this mockumentary about journalism, and how it's changed in this age of clickbait headlines. We follow Brian, who's sick of the assignments he's getting, and wishes to move onto something with more journalistic integrity. With his cameraman of many years, Brian follows a Bigfoot researcher into the woods, and his skepticism is tested by strange circumstances. It unfolds in a hilarious way that's reminiscent of Adult Swim, and has a lot of heart which makes it utterly endearing.

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) - 2.5/5 - For all the fun & gory moments, this feels so out of place with the franchise thus far. There's a decent idea in Pinhead being untethered while his good self tries to save the day, but it feels more like A Nightmare On Elm Street sequel, and so far from Clive Barker's original work. Doug Bradley remains tremendous in the lead role, even if the character is more of a cartoon amidst a cast going full ham.

Music (2021) - 0.5/5 - There's nothing sincere about Sia's directorial debut, using the title character's autism for crass Oscar bait.

Biggest Disappointment: The House That Jack Built

Lowlife (2018) - 4.5/5 - What an exceptional debut from director Ryan Prows. Told through a Tarantino-esque lense, this dark comedy follows the intersecting stories of a luchador, an ex-con recently reunited with his best friend, a motel owner full of regrets, and the pregnant woman they all meet. It's a fantastic tale which proves engrossing, as it unfolds in exciting ways over a breezy runtime.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) [rewatch] - 4/5 - A film I used to watch a lot during my teenage years, and I'm now revisiting for the first time in ages. I was wary of how the film would've aged, and there are elements which certainly haven't aged well, including the antisemitism. In a surprising turn, there are elements which aged very well, such as Borat shitting in front of Trump Hotel, and what we're left with is a hilarious & biting reflection of American jingoism. It wouldn't work as well without the committed performances, and when Sacha Baron-Cohen uses wonderful slapstick to destroy antiques in a Confederate store, and chases his producer through a hotel naked while carrying a fisting dildo, you can't call him anything less than committed.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020) - 3.5/5 - The idea of Borat returning 14 years after his last movie, my initial thoughts went to unnecessary sequels which didn't work after such a lengthy time away. Upon retrospect, the biting of the first film could be applied to the Trump presidency very well, which makes it a shame this film doesn't feel as biting or hilarious as it's predecessor. Granted, there are some exceptional moments, such as the father-daughter dance, or the scene at the Women's Health Centre, but there are moments which feel too shackled to the over-riding narrative between Borat and Tutar. To be fair, this pairing is the best part of the film, allowing for Sacha Baron-Cohen to work wonderfully alongside the exceptional find that is Maria Bakalova. If anything, I wish we could've had more of them two together, as opposed to short moments like Borat cutting hair. Also, for a film which had to adapt to the Pandemic, that was woven into the narrative VERY well.

Parasite (2019) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Director Bong's blackly comedic, razor-sharp masterpiece is a perfect Valentines Day watch. But then it's perfect to watch any day of the year.

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) - 1/5 - The fourth entry into the Cenobite franchise was plagued by behind the scenes drama, resulting in director Kevin Yagher wanting his name taken off as director. The film charts a journey Paris in 1796, where the Lament Configuration gets an origin story, to a contemporary tale, and rounding things off with a portion set in 2127. There's an interesting idea with lineage, as Pinhead faces off against a family across centuries, but it feels far too compressed when packed into an 85-minute feature. There's also decent moments which are gruesome, but you can tell the series is transitioning over to CG dependency over practical effects. It's a film which shoots for the stars, but crashes down due to the final product.

Biggest Surprise: Lowlife

The Owners (2020) - 2.5/5 - What unfolds is rather grim and nasty, containing lashings of well-constructed gore, yet these don't make up for how lacking in tension the film is. While the premise brings to mind Don't Breathe, Fede Álvarez's 2016 film, this comparison does The Owners no favours.

Snakes on a Plane (2006) - 2.5/5 - For all the promise the title brings, this isn't as entertaining as I had hoped. It does have it's moments, especially with the pretty nasty streak running throughout, but is hampered by too many characters littering things, at the expense of substantial character development. The visual effects have aged horribly, but not as bad as that music video in the credits, which feels bordering on parody.

Hellraiser: Judgement (2018) - 2/5 - A film which takes the franchise back to basics, but is an unfortunate case of wasted potential.

Archenemy (2020) - 3/5 - Superheroics with an independent spirit, Adam Egypt Mortimer's latest offers an intriguing spin on a well-worn genre.

The 39 Steps (1935) - 3.5/5 - Not a favourite of mine among Hitchcock's work, as some aspects didn't hang together for me, while the budget noticeably affected other points. Regardless of that, this is an important thriller which is rightfully influential, and an enthralling mystery to get sucked into. Fronting the proceedings are marvellous lead performances, which make for a lean 82 minutes.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) - 4.5/5 - A film on which I'm certain my feelings will improve upon rewatch, and I'm already in love with it at the moment. A mesmerising and merciless prequel to the Twin Peaks TV series, as Laura Palmer's final days are detailed in heartbreaking and horrifying ways. I'm still grappling with much of it, but among this is some of the best work I've seen in Lynch's filmography.

Worst film of the month: Music

Wrong Turn (2003) - 2/5 - Considering there's 6 instalments of this franchise currently released, I'm surprised it's taken me this long to watch a single one of them. Written by Alan B. McElroy and directed by Rob Schmidt, this backwoods slasher throwback had some gruesome moments & set-pieces which I found effective, but ultimately left me cold. Most of all, I didn't understand why Eliza Dushku had to be second to a less interesting lead. While I didn't care for the majority of the characters, they had a reason to be there. The plot didn't bend over backwards to have them crash in, and suddenly take charge of somebody else's story, as though that makes up for a regularly lacklustre line delivery.

Wrong Turn (2021) - 2.5/5 - There's more on this films mind than gruesome kills, yet it isn't enough to sustain an entire feature.

Panda Bear It (2020) - 3/5 - An interesting microbudget tale about grief, and not having to suffer in silence.

Soul (2020) - 4/5 - The latest film by Pixar is such a sweet story, as the gorgeous animation matches the vibrant tale to talk about our passions in life, and how it isn't the all which makes our life fulfilling. It's a shame the film falls into the same trope as Spies In Disguise and The Princess and The Frog, where the Black lead character isn't allowed to be themselves, yet Jamie Foxx makes the role work so very well. Add to that excellent supporting performances including Tina Fey, Richard Ayoade, and a scene-stealing Rachel House. Round it all off with an exceptional score by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste, and we have another excellent feature from Pixar.

Shattered Glass (2003) - 4/5 - Hayden Christensen gets a bad rap from his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, but it's far an indicator of his acting talents. He excels here as Stephen Glass, a young writer eager to reach fame through his articles at the New Republic, but his quest for the story leads to him becoming the centre of that story. This is a film best gone into knowing as little as possible, so what I will say is co-writer and director Billy Ray crafts a compelling tale about journalistic integrity, told in such a tremendous way which will shift your viewpoint, aided by an exceptional cast, including a terrific Peter Sarsgaard.

The House That Jack Built (2018) - 2/5 - My relationship with Lars Von Trier is a mixed bag, as his films manage to captivate me in some instances, and then test my patience in others. That's very much the same here, as some sequences engrossed and disgusted me, while others left me feeling infuriated. This was originally conceived as a TV series, and the structure makes sense, but it comes off as bloated within a single feature film. It's an excellent idea from beginning to end, fronted by the best performance I've seen from Matt Dillon, and the choice of a closing credits song left me absolutely howling. I just wish I found more to like here.

Best film of the month: Parasite
Best film seen in cinemas: N/A
Best film watched for the first time: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Best film rewatched: Parasite
Biggest Disappointment: The House That Jack Built
Biggest Surprise: Lowlife
Worst film of the month: Music

Number of films watched: 33