Titane & Lamb: Did I Just Fall in Love?

Short answer: Yes, why yes I did.

When it comes to 2021 and “horror” (yes the quotations are on purpose) there’s a couple of films that had, until the last two days, popped in my mind, but hadn’t yet quite arrived before my eyes. Now that I’ve been able to rectify that and was able to see each, I can happily say they’ve made it into my heart as well. This hasn’t exactly been the year for horror, but if it means highlighting these, I am all for it. Always.

To rewind, the reason I put that in quotations is that I’m not entirely sure either should be considered predominantly horror, at least not as a defining element, even if there are sequences that definitely relish the description. I found them both to be unexpectedly poignant, and touching at times, flooring me in different (and, similar) ways too. Days later, as I reflect back on Lamb and Titane, I’m reminded of that beautiful staying power of movies, even when they are -technically- by some definition’s bonkers as F. These are two of my favorites of 2021, and I’m absolutely full of bliss to try to explain why.

Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson)

source: A24

Mourning. This movie begins and ends with the feeling. There’s the undeniable sting of loss that permeates throughout the story, even when things get odd, or cute, or even horrific, there’s still the underlying sensation of being “without.” This is a powerful thing.

Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason) and Maria (Noomi Rapace) appear to maintain a content existence on their sheep farm in Iceland. One day, when delivering a lamb, they make an unexpected discovery, and it brings back old wounds, while giving them new -if not a strange kind of- hope.

While not overly gratifying, it aspires greatly, and that makes Lamb standout. Even more so, it’s imaginative, which is always a reason for a hearty, enthusiastic clap. I recognize what it’s attempting, even when it isn’t completely coherent in execution, and it kept me fully engaged. In large part, it was the characters, and by extension, their performances, which really captured their affection.

This weird tale is one that may ask a lot of its viewers, especially that of patience, but it never seems small or fleeting in its presence. If anything Lamb is potent. There’s a supernatural element, that isn’t ever truly ignored, but a more intimate and personal one ends up feeling most prominent, which is that of loss. The unyielding, unmatchable feeling of being without someone you love.

There’s a tender element of Lamb, that invokes the warmth and joy of family, making even the oddest moments. I found it to be beautiful; heartbreaking and warming in equal measure. Sometimes, all we can ask for is the briefest of the lot, and Lamb seems to relish in its joy, even if it wonders if it “should” be doing so at all. Who are we to judge joy?

The cinematography by Eli Arenson is gorgeous, making me want to relinquish myself to the beauty (and sometimes terror) of the great expanse of nature. Peculiar to the umpteenth degree, Lamb finds its sweet spot in the unnatural, yet, natural places that horror can often find home.

I’d say this: don’t expect to be terrified, but be welcomed to finding a film that delves deeper and still manages to be sweet. I really relished it, and found myself unpacking elements, still, even now. This is definitely one of those films that will hit or miss, making some frustrated by the end and others pondering it for days. Lamb doesn’t take the time to explain everything, nor should it really have to. I think that this is a film that benefits from the intangible. Either way, I felt it was a sincere look at human emotions through the guise of a fantastical lens.

titane (Julia Ducournau)

source: Neon
source: Neon

Very few movies lately have struck me as much as Titane has. Despite almost seeing it at TIFF this year (it wasn’t available in my area) and hearing so much discussion on the film, I still remained in the dark about what I was going to see when I entered into this one. I’m so very glad that I did because it manages to cohesively tie together feelings that all remain on its raw (not a ref to her previous work 😏) surface. And it was wonderful. I’ve had a few conversations since with those who have seen it, but I can say, while we all didn’t have my response, we all had a visceral one. I feel like everytime I want to just explode with emotion and love, even if I can’t always wrangle the words to do so. Words are so lovely, and sometimes they just don’t do justice. Let’s see if I can now…

Either way, one of my favorite and one of the best of 2021.

After an accident as a child leaves her with a piece of titanium in her head, Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) seems to now be disconnected from the world, except for when it comes to cars, and her sexual expression. Unhappy at home, and seemingly in any sort of relationship, Alexia finds purpose in other passions. Which, eventually, get her into trouble and on the run from the law. [Being purposely obtuse].

For the first half hour of the film, I was wondering if Titane would go too far, too fast. The thing is, there are some quite dazzling sequences in this time, but my favorite is really when the exclamation point is over and the film gives into its ellipsis. What happens after someone goes, truly, over the edge?

As a big fan of Raw I was excited to see where Julia Ducournau took us next. The writer/director has truly honed her craft here, creating a layered, extravaganza of emotion and style.

In some ways I consider the film split into two, (even if there’s intersecting elements and themes) with the “before” and “after” of Alexia and Adrien, as you will. There are some truly spectacularly choreographed moments of psychosis in part one (Ducournau is so good with musical choices/sequences) and in part two, there’s the real tender, heart-rending part. The one that makes you wonder deeper about the person you had been watching previously, committing heinous acts, and who has you considering the humanity in us all. Especially, the sensation of heartache and connection. Our stories mold us.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but even when it gets truly meaningful there is always this tenuous thread of oddity, sown into the fabric of Titane is the most wonderful of ways. This isn’t everyone’s film, but for us, weirdo’s out there, I can’t imagine a more satisfying dive.

So, let it take a hold of you, because it will push you- prod at you, and pull you into some far reaches of your psyche and body you don’t expect.

Part body horror, part emotional rollercoaster and part stylistic thriller, Titane is powerful because of its ability to weild multiple weapons at once.

The relationship between Alexia/ and Vincent (Vincent Lindon) is one of true wonder, moving and earnest, because -while- its birth is out of a place of distrust- its settlement is within a place of necessity and mutual healing. Both of these individuals need the other, they just didn’t know it until now. We’re all broken in ways, and sometimes we don’t know or expect who/what will be our healing grace.

There’s so much to absorb, I don’t know if I can express my love verbally enough. This is a film that moved me, shook me, shocked me, but ultimately made me yearn to be as meaningful as this medium can be.

It is one of the extraordinary reasons that I continue to keep film as my savior, my confidante, and most importantly: my joy. That unexpected twinge.

Titane is absolutely exactly as it has been sold. If by that you mean amazing, yes, it is one of the best of the year. Wholly original, I would suggest any who expects their cinema to inspire and upend to see.

I was really swept up by both of these movies, and I would suggest any cinephile experience them before 2021’s end.

Spooktober Day 31: Halloween (1978)

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Well, here it is, the last day of Spooktober. Because of a vacation that swept me up, and off my feet, I didn’t get to finish these by the end of last month, but- isn’t Spookytime, kind of every day?

It seemed fitting to finish with the film named after the last day of the month (and of course) the original, John Carpenter one. I’ve got some thoughts about the sequels, Rob Zombie’s takes, and the newest by David Gordon- Green, but I’m just going to spend the last of Spooktober 21′ talking about the O.G. Not only was this the first of its namesake, but it was really the defining slasher that would spawn many others, each hoping to capture its atmosphere and thrills.

source: Compass International Pictures

I first saw this at a young age (of course) and I remember loving it immediately, struck by the quaint neighborhood and the day to day lives that seemed so innocent and bland, as they suddenly became haunted. Even just Michael Myers watching from behind shrubbery seemed ominous.

It’s Halloween night in Haddonfield, Illinois, and a group of teenagers are being stalked by a killer who has escaped a local Sanitarium 15 years after murdering his sister. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is known by most even slightly aware of pop culture for good reason: she’s a memorable, tough and a relatable female protagonist. Curtis, who is the daughter of Janet Leigh (known for the iconic Psycho- you may have heard of it) really gave us the iconic scream queen we wanted, and needed.

The movie is also surprising, for its subgenre, in a way, because of its disciplined use of gore and blood. When you think of Halloween, it is the dread that’s coming for the characters, in the face of (Well, William Shatner) but, ultimately, evil.

Halloween is generous with its pacing, and by the time Michael Myers makes his first kill, it’s built up with a unique amount of suspense. There’s no reason a film like this needs a fast-paced murder fest. Rack up the tension, and when they come, the audience will feel them significantly more.

source: Compass International Pictures

John Carpenter has mastered how to do horror (and movies in general) and knows how to capture a mood that embodies a film. This is meticulously made, with every decision working to craft the stylistic, iconic film many of us hold so dear.

The simple (not to be confused with bad) and enduring score by Carpenter is like the icing on this diced up cake. It’s like the inner dialogue for our killer, never letting up and making the entire film musically endowed with a spooky cadence. As he never speaks, and doesn’t give us any reason for his actions, so much of Myer’s is unexplained and unsettling. He’s a seemingly soulless, villain, and from the unforgettable prologue of the film, the frame of mind for the film is set.

Halloween resounds due to its expert work of direction and carefully built tension with a reminder that darkness exists in even the most peaceful of places. It’s still scary today, and a staple of the holiday-watching season.

Happy Halloween beasties! With so much more horror to talk about, this won’t be the end.

Spooktober Day 30: The Descent

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Disclaimer: I got caught up in an epic vacation, so these are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

2005 was the year of the “movies about people stuck in caves with weird creatures” and while The Cave is entertaining and funny (in ways it shouldn’t be) The Descent is much better and legitimately creepy. I remember watching it for the first time and it made me realize how discomforting itty bitty spaces can be, and also, how even watching someone else on screen deal with this, can prove to be nauseatingly effective.

Neil Marshall‘s film plays on fears that many of us have: enclosed spaces deep into the ground, darkness, and not to mention, the blood-thirsty things that dwell in the unseen recesses of a cave. Well, if that wasn’t one before, it may very well be now.

source: Pathé Distribution

When a group of friends, who often go on risky excursions, decide to go cave-diving in the Appalachians, things go horribly wrong. Forced to find another way out to survive, they’ll also have to battle off the creatures that rule these caves, and they…are hungry. Among the women is Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), whose recent loss of her husband and child, weighs heavily on her, and while these thrill-seekers think they know what they are getting themselves into it, they are proven wrong, frequently.

With production design that’s truly genius, there are also some interesting camera tricks to make this space somehow feel even smaller, danker and more terrifying. The use of light (and lack there of) as well as the blood soaked crevasses, is also expertly done, making the limited locale feel never ending. The creature design remains great, even now. See the picture below for their beauteous look.

The writing (also by Marshall) gives us a cast of female characters that feel real, fully realized, with their own histories and relationships between them. There’s a lot here to incur unpleasant reactions, and it’s one that may have you anxious to run out into the sunlight and open space soon after, as The Descent delivers on suspense. It’s a grim tale that provides a 99 minute rush of blood to the head.

source: Pathé Distribution

Add in some strong performances and chilling score, and The Descent becomes quite the intelligent, scary little film. Who knew claustrophobia could be fun? This is horror done right.

Also, check out Marshall‘s Dog Soldiers if you’re looking for a werewolf fix!

Spooktober Day 29: The Horrors of Christmas

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Disclaimer: I got caught up in an epic vacation, so these are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

Somehow, we are already at the end of the year which means… yes, holiday season! This, of course, also requires us to take a look at some of the best/most memorable horrors that tackle this comfy, cheerful, time.

With the exception of Black Christmas, which I was confident I’d love going into my watch, Krampus and Better Watch Out were more of the wildcard variety. This meant that both could potentially be disasters, but instead, were unexpectedly fun. While the reasons differ, each had a creative twist on a portion of the genre that, overall, manages to be pretty weak and one that invites a lot of lower quality takes. Luckily, I can say, these three are not “coal.”

Let’s hear it for the horrifying yuletide. The most wonderful time, of the year:

Black Christmas (1974)- source: Warner Bros.

Black Christmas (Bob Clark)

It’s winter break, and a group of sorority sisters start receiving some discomforting phone calls. Who is making them? What do they want? When someone goes missing and another is found dead, the realization sets in that they might just not be safe.

Ya think?

At this point, (I think) there have been 2 additional remakes of this film, yet, nothing has come close to the original and the fear it instilled when considering the question… who is inside the house? Lurking? Watching? That’s a terrifying notion, especially when you start thinking about the “unbeknownst to you factor.”

Is it a little thin on plot? Perhaps. Is the editing a bit sloppy? Mmm, yeah. But, Black Christmas successfully builds suspense to a point that eats at you as a viewer, and now, so many years later, it’s still effective for a reason. Also, this is from the director of “A Christmas Story”….that cheeky bugger.

Unnerving and a product of its time, Black Christmas is an iconic slasher that is a must-see for any horror fan.

Better Watch Out (2016)- source: Well Go USA

Better Watch out (Chris Peckover)

This is one of the newer films I’ve discussed for Spooktober, and I have to admit that this film about “a teenager and his babysitter fighting off intruders” did not go in a direction I was expecting. In a lot of ways, this works because of the good casting, and the skillful balance of creepy and clever.

Luke (Levi Miller) has a thing for his babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), who’s going to be watching him one last time before she heads out into the world, and out of town. When someone starts terrorizing the two, they are thrown into a situation they’d never expect: fighting for their lives.

Don’t ask me to reveal the twist, because I won’t, I’m a firm believer in less is more and that includes your knowledge of a film prior to seeing it. Better Watch Out manages to surprise and disturb, for multiple reasons, making this a Christmas you won’t soon forget.

Krampus (2015)- source: Universal Pictures

Krampus (Michael Dougherty)

Eccentric, dysfunctional family? Check. A sudden lack of Holiday cheer? Check. A giant, forboding horned figure that enlists the help of other weird entities, and makes the family pay for this? DING, DING DING.

Krampus is honestly a lot of fun. I saw it in theaters, and I remember leaving quite giddy. It’s one that I’ve watched in my December Xmas movie-time since its release, and now that I’m reflecting, may just have to do it again in 2021.

Even though the characters in this film have their annoyances (purposely of course) and are often making poor decisions, we still want to see them make it out alive. And, what brings people together faster than potential death?

I have no illusions that Krampus is perfect, but when it comes to a horror Christmas-themed movie, this has a lot of the necessary ingredients, and it undoubtedly has flair. It’s fairly bleak, so that may be difficult for some to overcome, but if you can, and you relinquish yourself to its grasp, you might be entertained. If not, at least, you’ll be questioning your own exclamation of joy during the Holiday season, and wondering who might just show up to punish you.

Happy Holidays 🙂

What are some of your favorites? Do you like these? Let me know!

Spooktober Day 28: Young Frankenstein

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Disclaimer: I got caught up in an epic vacation, so these are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

Young Frankenstein by no means is an absolute favorite, nor is it even on the upper tier of horrors or comedies, but, is it influential? Is it part of little Kristy’s history, therefore it’s important to include in this personal tie-in to my spooktober? Hell yes.

Mel Brooks can be hit or miss, like so many directors, but with Young Frankenstein I could really feel his adoration for the genre, and for the films of the past, the Hollywood monsters that molded this into what it is today. This may very well be his best, and while I have an appreciation (or at least a nostalgia) for many of his, Young Frankenstein, to this day, still feels witty and well-intentioned, and that, matters.

source: 20th Century Fox

In a lot of ways, as silly as the conceit may initially seem, Young Frankenstein, isn’t inherently over the top. Not in the way that many of his others are. The film works, even when it maybe shouldn’t, often exceling at times in a natural fashion despite its unnatural premise. I mean, it’s still a spoof- after all.

Speaking of its premise:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is very uncomfortable with the history of his name, trying hard to make his own from his grandfather’s infamous experiments. When he ventures to his family castle, he recreates some of his work with the help of Igor (Marty Feldman) and Inga (Teri Garr). What comes of it, is…well, Young Frankenstein.

When you’re trying to be a parody of something beloved, it isn’t always easy to accomplish in a way that can be experienced without the potential, occasional cringe, but this is one of the more successful of takes. With an abundance of slapstick, never limiting on the absurd, there’s plenty of comedy to appreciate.

Gene Wilder can be such a gem, let’s be honest here- the film wouldn’t be what it is without him. He’s enigmatic, known for being a screen presence for a reason, and regardless of how much the entire cast sells it, he’s the glue. Even just his speech patterns, facial expressions, make Young Frankenstein. The excellence of casting doesn’t just end with him though, everyone, is spot on.

source: 20th Century Fox

I’ve often thought the film could benefit from being trimmed, and some aspects just don’t work, but for the most part, there’s a reason this movie can still be enjoyed. Call it nostalgia, call it a connection to a simpler time (wait, aren’t those basically the same?) either way, its got wit, its got silliness, and it’s chock full of one-liners, all made with love from Brooks.

Young Frankenstein feels like a worthy homage, and I think, in many ways, this is why the film remains full of life, so many years after its release.

Spooktober Day 27: The Haunting of Bly Manor

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

Disclaimer: I got caught up in an epic vacation, so these are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

When I first saw Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House I immediately fell in love. In my rewatches, including a lovely recent one, that affinity has remained.

While it is tempting to draw comparisons, The Haunting of Bly Manor shouldn’t be. If you are watching this with expectations in mind, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. I’d give the advice that this should be consumed, as much as you can, without Hill House on the brain. If you are able to do so, you will find that this is more of a gothic love story than it is a horror, that’s more heart over scares, with plenty to appreciate in the details.

source: Netflix

This 9 episode series follows Dani (Victoria Pedretti)- yes, many familiar faces- becoming au pair to young orphaned Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith). With quite the nefarious history, and the kids acting a bit off… it doesn’t take long for Dani to feel like something might be odd at Bly Manor, even as she seeks to escape her past, herself. There’s a lot of supporting characters, each with their own backgrounds and intertwining relationships. In many ways, this series is about the dynamics between people. The very human, flawed, and sometimes- unexpectedly lovely- matchings in life.

I can definitely see this being not everyone’s cup of “tea.” For more than one reason. Especially if you go into this thinking you’ll be delighted by the likes of ghosts galore. This is a much subtler take, and there’s more purpose in the “hauntings” than in the predecessor. It takes its time, languishes in making you wonder what’s happening. Plus creepy and cute kids! These child actors do such a terrific job, it reminds you how important it is to cast well in a genre like this, if they didn’t sell it- we’d be lost.

Perfectly Splendid

Are there issues? Absolutely. Some narrative areas are delved into that aren’t necessary, as well as some poor British accents, but for the most part, I can shrug those off. What’s more important to me was what it imparted, and how I felt as I let it slowly, leave me. The finale was quite beautiful, and it had me choked up. Even now, when I hear the Sheryl Crow song at the end, it makes my heart and stomach do a somber dance. There’s a lot to love in Bly Manor, and I think the most important takeaway is exactly that, the moments to appreciate, (much like life). I’d like to think as we leave existence, we don’t linger on the sadness.

Wow, I’m waning poetic. What’s happening? This is spooktober!

source: Netflix

There’s nothing conventional about this ghost story. It’s a haunting, of another type, of the sort that lingers on forever, the most potent of sources: love. As someone in the series so poignantly says, this “isn’t a ghost story, but a love story.” Indeed. The two very well may shake hands. This isn’t a frightening series, not in the usual sense, but there’s still the seed of loss, much like the first series, but experienced in a very different way. While it has its problems, I admire the choice. I feel like it breathed purpose into a dusty corner of horror, that very rarely sees the light of day. In some ways, it reminds me of why I love this genre. Some of it might be dirty, it may not be flawless (what is?) but there’s so much to explore.

I went through phases of uncertainty, rode waves of emotions and disappointments with this series, but ultimately, by its end, I felt haunted, in a way I didn’t expect. A unique, imperfect look at life, death and love, The Haunting of Bly Manor is another strong entry from Mike Flanagan.

Spooktober Day 26: Don’t Breathe

Disclaimer: I got caught up in an epic vacation, so these are late, but still necessary, because it’s important to highlight horror:

For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.

It isn’t an easy thing to sustain tension over the course of a feature, and one of the most recent films that unexpectedly did this exceptionally well was Don’t Breathe. As a new-and unnecessary sequel IMO, though I’ll probably still watch it- was recently released, it makes sense to touch on this particular thriller that stood out at a time when it wasn’t easy to do.

I can comfortably admit that when I first saw this movie I didn’t expect much. While not loaded with the exact same premise, I had seen enough of “similar” genre fare to know this had the potential to disappoint. Well, there are two sides to the coin, and this landed positively, up. Even now, as I show this to new audiences, I’m excited to see reactions, because, while not perfect, Don’t Breathe, is a worthy inclusion in this Spooktober because it works to do exactly what it aims to do. With so many floundering titles, that’s, truly, something.

source: Sony Pictures Releasing

The film starts from an interesting angle. Our main cast is a trio of young thieves, some more likable than others- Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) decide to rob a blind military vet (Stephen Lang) who is supposedly sitting on a lot of cash. Horrible right? It could mean a new start for Rocky, and like any movie of the like, the last “score” they’ll need. From the very beginning, there’s an obvious bad feeling that only increases with each new scene. This isn’t going to be good. Who do you even root for here? That conundrum makes for a fascinating dichotomy that continues for… a good while. Until, eventually, with a dose of just an absurd disturbed decision, forces our audience to choose sides.

Directed by Fede Alvarez, it’s clear that he has an affinity for the genre, and I can appreciate what he infuses by building and sustaining the thrills through the course of the narrative. In many ways, the characters are constructs, not really filled out, and that’s okay. You don’t have to really be rooting for them, to still feel invested in what is happening. Don’t Breathe is often a teeter-totter, between characters, moments, and often- even rooms. What will this new scenery bring? Can they survive? Can they navigate in the dark, and avoid being heard? There’s enough there to prolong our attention and curiosity and that alone is imperative when making a film such as this.

are you Afraid of the Dark?

Don’t Breathe also goes for the creepy factor, full force at times. There’s a taut pin-drop route, that always seems to keep you hooked. The unpredictable nature of the film helps to steer you around unsuspecting, darkened corners that will have you peering between your fingers.

source: Sony Pictures Releasing

Is this the best of the genre? Hardly. However, Don’t Breathe does manage to steer the audience at its will, making it difficult to not watch until the credits, wondering what will come of our cast, friend/foe/both, and ultimately enthralled regardless.

I’d say that’s a pretty successful horror/thriller, right?

Let me know what you think!