When Sarah (KarenGillan) finds out she has an incurable disease that will take her life, her next step, obviously – is to choose whether or not she wants to get a clone of herself made. Because, of course, in Dual‘s reality, that’s not only an option, but it is encouraged. It allows you to prepare your loved ones for your demise, and make it easier when you’re gone, because, well, a version of you will remain.
There isn’t a whole lot of consideration, but an hour later and we’ve got two Sarahs.
When she receives the good news that she is no longer dying, she is told her clone is set to be recommissioned. Unless, the double wants a life for herself, then she can request a duel to the death. For there can only be one Sarah.
Not only that, but after some time, the loves ones in her life seem to prefer the replacement. Overall, Dual‘s future and Sarah’s apathy towards existence is pretty damn bleak. By its close, I can’t say that aspect has changed much, but it’ll leave you thinking, and hopefully laughing along the way.
In one of her best performances, Karen Gillan nails the dry deadpan, bouncing between intentionally stoic and yet infallibly human. Before this happened she was in an unhappy relationship, brimming with loneliness and complacency for life. When she finds out she’s sick it strikes as more inconvenient than tragic, but by the film’s end, she displays a ferocity that makes her rootable.
This isn’t a film teaming with likable characters, and everything is given to us in a matter-of-fact way that’s both awkward and strange, yet delivered in a way that makes the audience feel like the odd ones. It pulls some inspiration from Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster.
That’s also part of the charm. Stearns’ subverts expectations throughout the movie, making it hard to know exactly where things will go next. It’s tragic, and it is cynical so it’s bound to be divisive among viewers. The purposely stiff performances and mashup of tones and genres may make some woozy.
I like my science fiction film to have an element of the strange with a clever bite. Dual most certainly has that and there is more to appreciate than snicker at. Its bold ideas kept me intrigued, and was not at all what I was expecting, proving that Riley Stearns has a signature style that can really entertain. Aaron Paul plays Trent her trainer for the dual, and he is also hilarious. Some of their scenes are my favorite within the film, including an unexpected dance lesson and a slow-motion fight training session. For the most part though, this is Gillan’s film, and she manages to hold it the whole way through.
I found myself consistently engaged, curious where things would end up. But we didn’t need a dog to die, (just saying) and preparing anyone who needs to know it prior to going in.
Little flourishes, especially when it comes to the comedy, really sold me on the film. The narrative leans on humor more than the intellectual, which doesn’t always pay off. Did it astound? No. But, it took its swings, and finished with a bold finale.
With absurdity in troves, Dual takes an introspective approach and consideration for the will to live and claim your life. The dark comedy sci-fi has a lot to appreciate, especially the deadpan delivery and quirky storytelling choices (love the dialogue). Karen Gillan & Aaron Paul are pitch-perfect.
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)
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)
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.
An appreciation review is for a film that I love that I feel hasn’t received its due!All in the spirit of giving films the spotlight they deserve! (According to me). Because film is subjective of course, but I hope to change your minds.
Disclaimer: Ironically, this also ties into Wonderfully Weird, because, let’s be honest, this isn’t a universally “got” film.
There are so many quotes from this film that I spew on a daily basis, so apologies (sorry- not sorry) if that happens often during this review. It’s just the ideal amalgamation of horror, comedy, and outright randomness that makes Planet Terror iconic.
A zombie (not really zombie, but zombie) government invented disease ravages local residents. Have we seen this before? Perhaps. In this delectably bizarre/hilarious way?
“That Boy’s Got the Devil in Him”
Thank you Robert Rodriguez for this, and for a few others I might throw into the mix, to be continued) even if there’s plenty of his that I’m not as sold on. This first shot in the grindhouse combo unleashed a mess of guts, a random testicle storing/obsession (by the wonderful Naveen Andrews) of his victims, to Freddy Rodriguez’s honed “notorious” ability to kick ass as “El Wray” it is a ride. Not to mention an assortment of other acting gems like Michael Beihn (his on-going rivalry with brother Jeff Fahey’s for the ultimate BBQ recipe) and Rose McGowan with a machine gun/rocket launcher leg. To name a few. All of this may seem chaotic, and potentially not real, but it all really happens. It fits like a perfectly attached wooden appendage during an apocalyptic event when you need a leg.
Yeah, that’s Planet Terror.
This movie transcended a lot of previously used (sometimes abused) themes and made it original. At a time when one might wonder: how is this possible? Well, through a sense of obscurity, originality, and also, a healthy dose of throwback. The grindhouse appeal is a selling point, but the movie excels beyond the aesthetic, nostalgic touch. In simplest terms, it’s campy horror fun, with an assortment forced to come together (some overcoming their sordid pasts) to prevail over the evil looming here.
“I’m Going to Eat Your Brains, and Gain Your Knowledge.”
One of my favorite aspects of Planet Terror, other than the humor that sneaks into every scene, some hilarious one-liners, is the style. If you’ve seen a lot of Rodriguez’s filmography, you know he’s got this in spades, but Planet Terror brings it to another level. It’s soaked in its grindhouse vibe, much like the other within the film duo, Death Proof. Another being The Machete movies, which came out of the wonderfully ridiculous trailers between the two films. Whether it be the gore or the sparks of the explosions, the effects and visuals pop. Also, props to the badass choreographed scene of Freddy Rodriguez‘s character fighting his way through a hospital ward and Josh Brolin’s creepy doctor. It’s exploitation, it’s throw-back horror, it is embracing the campiness with a wide-toothed, bloody grin.
Wonderfully Weird is a column that asks, how weird is it? Does it pay off? And sometimes- what the hell just happened? The wonder of film revolves around its ability to vary in perspective from one person to the next. This column is all about the asking- and by extension me, answering with my take. What’s yours?
Occasionally, I have random memories of a film I saw when I was younger. It was odd, obnoxious, had Bobcat Goldthwait as a sock puppet. (If you haven’t seen it, this is real.)
Of course, I’m talking about the 1993 bonkers, Freaked, directed by Alex Winter and Tom Stern, and written by Tim Burns, Tom Stern, Alex Winter.
Celebrity Ricky Coogin (Alex Winter) is hired as a spokesperson for an obviously seedy company. When he’s traveling to South America for said organization, his friend Ernie (Michael Stoyanov) and newly met Julie (Megan Ward) stumble upon what, some might say, is the worst kind of “Freakshow” roadside attraction you can imagine.
Headed by Randy Quaid, what they fall prey to is a place that tests this chemical on people, creating them into an assortment of body horror mixed with some interesting practical effects, which has an array of stars as different attractions. They are all prisoners in this fever dream of a film. There are a lot of cameos, including Keanu Reeves and Mr. T, all in their various characters.
There’s no easy way to describe Freaked. Part dark-comedy, part low-budget horror, part… *brain is having trouble with a word that can describe*- at times the film borders on so outrageous that it makes you wonder if it should have ever been made. Then, there are situations where the feature ventures on a level of incohesive-ness that’s actually fun, and you find yourself laughing out loud. Some of the makeup and practical effects are pretty impressive, and some of the humor (when it isn’t only odd for the sake of being so) is quite clever.
Is it amazing? No. Is it weird? Ah… hell yeah. Alex Winter as the arrogant actor who ends up quite actually getting a taste of his own medicine is just the jumping-off point for the narrative that unfolds. There’s a lot within the story that is nonsense, but it is entertaining and zany for a reason. If you can get past the intense tonal injection, and just let it roll over you- you might just have a good time.
Regardless of your final take, Freaked, (and this could be because of some nostalgia-glasses my child self is still wearing) is a movie that is most definitely hard to forget.