August 2022 In Review

August has passed us by, which marks another Frightfest event in London. The entries dominated my month, along with anime, a murderous orphan, and universal soldiers. So, without further ado, let's see what films I watched this past month.

Hypochondriac (2022) - 4.5/5 - A magnificent reworking of the werewolf mythology through a mental illness lens.

Buster Keaton: The Genius Destroyed By Hollywood (2016) - 3.5/5 - A 56-minute long documentary which explores the life of Buster Keaton, while intercut with footage of him taking the last train ride of his life. While I do wish this was longer and went deeper into the man, what remains is an interesting look at his work process, his childhood origins as a child performer, and how Hollywood destroyed his career which turned Buster to alcoholism. Queued up to it all are scenes from Buster's films, utilised for maximum effect to show how effortless a performer the man was.

Burial (2022) - 4/5 - An excellent exploration of the evil that men do and the legacies that mythologise mere mortals

Prey (2022) - 4.5/5 - After the increasingly convoluted ways the Predator series evolved, Dan Trachtenberg strips his prequel back to basics with exceptional results. A brutal and tense flick where human and animal alike are hunted in thrilling ways, with a visualisation of "the circle of life" being a humorous highlight. Central to it all is Amber Midthunder putting an excellent performance into Naru, a Comanche warrior that wants to learn from her mistakes and protect her people from the outside threats. I do wish the VFX weren't so glaring, although that's a small issue within this wonderful continuation of the franchise.

Mean Spirited (2022) - 3.5/5 - An engaging tale of former friends grappling with their desire to be seen and a demonic presence.

Glorious (2022) - 3/5 - An entertaining two-hander, focusing on an unseen entity and a broken-hearted man chatting through a glory hole.

Nope (2022) - 4/5 - A grand spectacle that's brimming with originality and executed so wonderfully, this is Jordan Peele's Jaws. It may have a bit of slow start, yet when it gets going, this is a tense and humorous ride that's unlike anything else I've seen this year. It approaches how people grapple with trauma, and the way animals are used for entertainment purposes in very interesting ways. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer stand out amongst the tremendous cast, although Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott are absolutely worth mentioning also. This is a film I'm eager to see again.

Best film of the month, Best film seen in cinemas,
and Best film watched for the first time: Next Exit

Cerebrum (2022) - 2.5/5 - A debut about a father and son haunted by their manifestations of grief.

Orphan (2009) [rewatch] - 4/5 - Grappling with the loss of their unborn child, a couple decide to adopt a 9-year-old Russian girl called Esther. All isn't as it seems with Esther, which is the biggest understatement I can give. It's a shame the career of Jaume Collet-Serra has gone from sticking to Liam Neeson blockbusters to Dwayne Johnson blockbusters, as I really like his horror work and this may be his crowning achievement. A simple idea is utilised in delightfully bonkers ways, with the big reveal and the third-act being utterly magnificent, but that's not all there is to this film. At the centre of it is engrossing character drama with a family working through their painful past, although I did wish Peter Sarsgaard's character would wise up a bit quicker before it was literally staring him in the face. There are thrilling and nail-biting sequences throughout, with some terrific performances all around. Vera Farmiga was a joy, but Isabelle Fuhrmann is exceptional as Esther herself. Consider me cautiously excited for the prequel.

Orphan: First Kill (2022) - 3/5 - From kills to curious tries at de-aging the lead, this is a bonkers delight.

The Ones You Didn't Burn (2022) - 4.5/5 - A blistering feature debut.

Splinter (2022) - 1/5 - A home-grown feature with a curious premise that's unfortunately dragged out.

The Summoned (2022) - 1.5/5 - An unfortunately toothless film.

Dracula (1979) - 2.5/5 - A grand production design helps this adaptation look so sumptuous, as John Badham brings alive this blend of the gothic and romanticism that unfortunately felt unengaging and dragged on. I liked the reinvention of Dracula's brides, although Frank Langella's puffy-haired take on the bloodsucker did little for me.

Shin Ultraman (2022) - 3/5 - A big-screen reboot of the tokusatsu series which balances kaiju fights with governmental politics.

Best film rewatched: Orphan

Piggy (2022) - 4/5 - A blistering look at bullying.

New Religion (2022) - 4/5 - An accomplished picture which gets under ones skin.

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) - 4/5 - Director and co-writer Halina Reijn has crafted an absolute blast with this Gen-Z whodunnit, set within a darkened mansion in the middle of a storm. The biggest threats are the underlying grudges and paranoia, as the mystery mounts up regarding the rising body count. While this is happening, the film hilarious takes down its privileged array of characters who use buzzwords to hide how disingenuous they actually are. The cast immaculately portray these unlikeable characters, with Lee Pace and Rachel Sennott being the MVPs. A welcome surprise.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (2022) - 3.5/5 - The Dragon Ball series is one I adored as a child, particularly when playing the PS2 Budokai games. I've been away from the franchise for a while, particularly being absent as Super was airing, so this was a welcome return for me. It appeared geared to entice returning fans of the franchise, as there are many nods to the series' long past and humorous jokes.

It was lovely that Piccolo and Gohan got the focus, as their mentor/apprentice relationship gets a revisit when they take centre stage to stop the newly reformed Red Ribbon Army. This is made-up of interesting new characters, such as the superhero loving genius Dr Hedo and his creations Gamma One and Gamma Two.

Despite franchise heavyweights Goku and Vegeta being off-world, there's still time devoted to seeing them training off-world which was a weaker distraction from the main plot. However, the most distracting element was the CG art-style. Granted, it's stunning to behold during the fight scenes, yet it looks jarring and out of place during any other scenes in the film. Despite this, it was a welcoming return to this franchise.

Scare Package (2020) - 1.5/5 - In preparation for watching the sequel at Frightfest (which I didn't even end up seeing), I decided to finally check out this video-store set anthology. There's some interesting meta-ideas, such as somebody wanting a bigger role outside of setting up the cold openings, yet they're executed in the most haphazard ways. The wraparound is the worst offender, as it seems to have no idea where to go to the point of hinging on a lazy cameo appearance. The idea of getting filmmakers to subvert horror tropes is a nice idea, but I do wish the final product was much better.

In The Mood For Love (2000) - 4.5/5 - Goodness, what a gorgeous film. This was my first film from director Wong Kar-wai, and he's crafted a beautifully shot, melancholic piece on desire and longing. Anchoring the film are two exceptional performances from Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, playing the duo who develop feelings for each other after their spouses begin an affair together. I must check out more of the directors work.

The Lair (2022) - 2/5 - The opening film from Frightfest 2022 came with a lot of promises attached to it. The blurb promised The Thing meets The Dirty Half-Dozen (the latter explicitly said within the film itself), and director Neil Marshall called it a cousin to Dog Soldiers and The Descent (harkening back to his best received works). The final product lives up to none of those comparisons and feels significantly less competent.

Credit where it's due, there's some fun and grisly kills to behold. What a shame the film isn't all that, as the characters are either racist stereotypes, brought alive with dreadful accents, or left to deliver interchangeable quips. There's laughs to be had, although barely any of them are intentional.

Biggest Disappointment: Terrifier 2

The Visitor From The Future (2022) - 4/5 - Director Francois Descraques adapts a web-series to deliver a highly effective French time-travel comedy. A man travels to the past to prevent an ecological disaster by either killing the person responsible or changing their mind. What comes alive is an unique take on the format popularised by A Christmas Carol, delivering a fun ride from the opening scene that transitions from hilarity to an emotional tale about a father and daughter reconnecting amidst a nuclear wasteland.

Next Exit (2022) - 5/5 - Set in a well-established world where ghosts exist, Rahul Kohli and Katie Parker both sign up for an experimental procedure to end their lives as part of the ghostly research. They're paired together for a road trip to their final destination, leading to a hilarious and heartfelt two-hander which avoids Hollywood pitfalls for a massively effective film with an ending that will leave you teary.

Daughter (2022) - 4/5 - Director Corey Deshon stylishly crafts this chilling feature shot to resemble a recently unearthed classic. The story follows a captive group who have to play happy families to appease the patriarch, unsettlingly played by Casper Van Dien. It raises more questions than it can answer, yet the tone and atmosphere established let those worries disappear so effectively.

A Wounded Fawn (2022) - 4/5 - What an absolute trip this was. The latest from director Travis Stevens is a film of two halves, beginning with a slasher tale that builds atmosphere and unsettles so effectively as it goes in directions expected. Then the second half arrives, and it's a bonkers journey which draws on Greek mythology to heap misery on those that deserve it. Instances do feel a bit longer than necessary, yet it's only a small part of this stunningly crafted, visually gorgeous feature.

Night Sky (2022) - 3/5 - Following up the excellent Broadcast Signal Intrusion, director Jacob Gentry delivers a well-performed two-hander between A.J. Bowen's on-the-run rogue and Brea Grant's alien. The journey sees them seeking redemption and rediscovering the beauty of life, while drawing on 80s sci-fi classics for inspiration. It unfortunately left me cold and with more questions by the end, particularly regarding the assassin chasing them both.

Eating Miss Campbell (2022) - 0.5/5 - Taboo cinema can approach tough subjects in shocking ways, and spark a conversation with topics cinema tends to avoid through unexpected ways. What's been delivered here feels like a Family Guy fan wishing to push how much of an edgelord they could be, resulting in a distasteful film which approaches school-shootings, paedophilia, and suicide with as much care as Mr Bean performing a vasectomy.

Something In The Dirt (2022) - 3.5/5 - The brand-new film from Benson and Moorhead is another fascinating piece of engrossing sci-fi, as a pairing in a toxic friendship go down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. While I think it could've been tightened up a bit, particularly when some elements I found less effective, this plays with interesting ideas to engrossing effect.

Biggest Surprise: The Visitor From The Future

The Leech (2022) - 5/5 - When a priest decides to practice what he preaches and lets a couple stay with him, the religious man finds his patience severely tested. A film which alternated between hilarious and intense, feeling like a mix between Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and First Reformed. Eric Pennycoff's latest feature delivers excellent messages and superb performances, particularly from Graham Skipper. A stand-out of Frightfest 2022.

Lola (2022) - 3.5/5 - Presented as unearthed film reels from the 1940s, this film sees two sisters creating a machine they name LOLA which receives transmissions from the future. As the sisters use the future knowledge to alter the outcome of WWII, an alternate history bleeds through. This imaginative idea is a fascinating watch, although the idea feels stretched across the already slim runtime.

Walking Against The Rain (2022) - 3/5 - The feature debut of director Scott Lyus, this is an interesting post-apocalyptic road movie anchored by two terrific performances. The central relationship holds the film together, resonating as this pair bond while no longer being alone. I wish I could've seen more of this post-apocalyptic setting, particularly the monsters, but that's understandable considering the budgetary issues. A promising start to Lyus' film career, and it has the perfect final line.

Deadstream (2022) - 4.5/5 - If Ghostwatch had a baby with Death of a Vlogger which was adopted by Evil Dead II, this would be the batshit concoction. A terrifying, hilarious, and grisly mix which gives legitimate reasons for the lead doing stupid stuff, and never asks you to overlook how awful he is. Seeing this at Frightfest has given me the best cinema experience of the year, and I cannot wait to watch it again.

Mastemah (2022) - 1.5/5 - Director Didier D. Daarwin opens his film in an interesting way, as a mysterious inciting incident unfolds before the visually impressive credits. What follows is a slow-burn about grief and mental illness which burned a bit too slowly for me, reaching an ending which I liked by taking a journey which didn't engage me. There's also an epilogue which felt largely unnecessary.

Wolfkin (2022) - 3/5 - Director Jacques Molitor gives a lupine twist to an "Eat the Rich" tale, as a mother visits her ex-partner's parents for help on managing her son's werewolf tendencies. This is a fascinating tale about privilege which is engaging for the first two-thirds, before the finale rushes through plot-points and revelations in ways which dashes much of the previous goodwill. Shame.

H4Z4RD (2022) - 3/5 - In an effort to make some money for his family, a man agrees to drive his flash car for a seemingly-simple job set-up by his cousin. Things get out of hand across this one crazy day, leading to a race against time as the car gets increasingly damaged. For a premise which sounds like a vehicular version of Crank, it feels as though things could've gone further in the vehicular carnage. For a story which involves a wolf exploding in a shower of blood and semen in an exhaust pipe, the film feels more restrained than it should be. At least the soundtrack was pretty banging.

Worst film of the month: Eating Miss Campbell

Torn Hearts (2022) - 4.5/5 - A pair of up-and-coming country singers are looking for their big break, so seek out their living idol for advice and help. What unfolds is a tense tale where an exceptional Katey Segal enacts her own twisted games, manipulating the duo for her own desires. Brea Grant has directed another stunner, balancing humour and horror across this gripping tale which sees the excellent pairing of Abby Quinn and Alexxis Lemire capturing the various directions their characters take.

The Price We Pay (2022) - 2.5/5 - After a robbery, a group of criminals take a hostage and make their escape. When their escape vehicle breaks down, they take refuge at a remote farmhouse only to find something more menacing than they could've imagined. What occurs feels attempting to be in the vein of From Dusk Till Dawn, as the crime thriller transitions into something with a much wackier tone. Despite the grisly kills, one feels it could've gone much further. Decent performances, at least.

Living With Chucky (2022) - 4.5/5 - With special effects master Tony Gardner as a father, it's an understatement to say the Child's Play films have been a big part of Kyra Elise Gardner's life. She directs a fascinating dive into this horror franchise, interviewing the people connected to it by looking at the series film-by-film, the fandom who have embraced it so much, and the family formed by this series created by Don Mancini. There's interesting parallels between Kyra and Fiona Dourif, to show how this series has become such a massive part in the lives of the next generation of creatives who built this series firstly.

Terrifier 2 (2022) - 2/5 - If there's one consistency with the Terrifier films, it's how excellent David Howard Thornton is as Art the Clown. Such horror is visible in his silent performance, and he depicts the character so very well that has rightfully contributed to its popularity. The character returns in a 140-minute sequel that feels its length, as hints at Art's mythology feels particularly unneeded when it goes nowhere. There's interesting stuff with the lead characters as they grapple with a family tragedy, although characterisation feels particularly off as the struggling mother feels cranked up in how unlikeable she's depicted as. Many of the kills feel like elongated ways of watching women suffer until the end expects the audience to clap, with one kill being one of the most gleefully sadistic things I've seen in a while. There could be a better 90-minute film in here, but we're left with an extravagantly lengthy killer clown film instead.

Barbarian (2022) - 4/5 - Go into this knowing nothing and spend the aftermath wondering what just happened.

Fall (2022) - 4/5 - As it turns out, the closing Frightfest 2022 film was the most terrifying one of the lot. Watching this on an IMAX screen was a horrific experience as, despite some noticeable instances of visual effects, the terror was absolutely heightened by the massive screen which left me and audience members visibly expressing our discomfort for what was on-screen. Outside of that, I was surprised by how emotionally engaging and superbly executed this film was, executing a possibly silly premise in a very effective way. Yes, some character drama and one twist feel unnecessary, but this film was a triumph which left me engaged throughout.

Universal Soldier (1992) - 2.5/5 - This isn't a film I expected much from, and yet I found myself rather surprised with how it unfolded. The premise sees Vietnam war veterans resurrected to serve as high-tech soldiers in the future, and plays out as a rather different take on PTSD. Let's be honest though, it's a film sold on the Jean-Claude Van Damme vs Dolph Lundgren promise and the pair deliver on that front. They have their moments, particularly JCVD in his innocent puppy-dog moments and Dolph as the villain enjoying wearing a necklace of ears, but they're both wooden throughout. A bit of forgettable fluff with decent action.

Best film of the month: Next Exit
Best film seen in cinemas: Next Exit
Best film watched for the first time: Next Exit
Best film rewatched: Orphan
Biggest Disappointment: Terrifier 2
Biggest Surprise: The Visitor From The Future
Worst film of the month: Eating Miss Campbell

Number of films watched: 43