Malignant (2021): What the…What?

It isn’t news that James Wan is a notably formidable presence in the horror world. While I generally enjoy (most of) his work, I can’t say that I predicted what Malignant would end up being.

If you’re reading this than you must know me or have at least have an indication (from my site name alone) that I’m someone who enjoys being surprised in horror and in the weird. Well, I’m happy to say that all three of these words would come up in a thought bubble when referring to this film. This is a very weird, surprising, horror film.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

After a horribly traumatic event Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins seeing strange hallucinations, as if she is there, with people being murdered. The who and what of these visions is eventually explained, but it has her digging into her own past, and questioning reality.

Told in a narrative design that upends as much as it does stall for answers, Malignant takes its time with clarity and then explodes into what I can only describe as the right kind of outrageousness.

It’s a film that isn’t afraid to take risks and doesn’t mind getting encompassed by the strange. The third act is really where it comes to life in absurd wild fashion providing a twist that is really unexpected.

I found myself actually laughing at the first scene where the twist is revealed, both out of surprise and also entertainment. It’s wild in its delivery, but it’s honestly what saved the movie for me. I often wondered after if I wished I could have known early on, but it wouldn’t have been as shocking if I had.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Malignant takes on an often dream-like, nearly trippy quality, and plays out some pretty impressive visuals that cascade over even the least flattering parts of the script. Some of the dialogue and by extension, acting, seems a bit off, but one wonders if that was part of Wan‘s decision with the film, which feels at once retro and also new. Often times the film seems to be self-aware and making a remark on itself as much as horror movies in general. As you watch you feel like it’s formulaic, but then comes a heavy swing that has you seeing past the tropes first pitched to you.

Sometimes the pieces don’t completely fit. In fact, they’re tossed at you like discarded notes throughout, but once you tape it all together it -well- still looks whacky, but it at least makes you feel less confused, and giddily intrigued.

It’s memorable, it’s bonkers, it’s Wan but more unhinged than he’s been. And yes, he made Saw. There’s camp, there’s creepy, and there’s most certainly a dose of wait…what? The final act is frenzied, bloodied and unrelenting.

Undoubtedly, Malignant will be a film that doesn’t hit all audiences in the same way. As a movie that embraces its outrageousness with open arms, there’s a admirable quality that may often get looked at as too far reaching, but I dug it.

Malignant is current in theaters and on HBO Max until October 10th

TIFF21: MIDNIGHT MADNESS: You’re Not My Mother & Saloum

For the last week or so I’ve been lucky enough to watch a lot of impressive films virtually at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (for the rest of my coverage go here filminquiry.com). But for the most part, surprisingly, I haven’t seen a lot genre, specifically, horror films.

Toronto Film Festival’s Midnight Madness, much like other festival that have midnight showings, is for the horrors: the strange and unusual (HELLO!). This year there were two I was able to catch that seemed especially born from a strange and eerie, and different… place: You’re Not my Mother & Saloum. Be on the lookout for both of these directors who are sure to continue to do imaginative work.

source: Toronto International Film Festival

You’re Not my Mother (Kate Dolan)

This folktale inspired story intertwines the youthful uncertainty of being a teenage girl, dealing with a loved one who a mental illness, as well as the supernatural/superstitions that come out of small towns and family secrets.

Char (Hazel Doupe) lives with her grandmother and mother, Angela (Carolyn Bracken), who suffers from depression, and seems on the precipice of something bad. At school she has to deal with consistent bullying, that often goes dangerously too far. When her mother goes missing, and then returns, Char can tell something is wrong right away. Like the title suggests, this isn’t the woman -her mother- who left.

Her mother’s behavior continues to grow more unexpected and volatile. There are a few sequences where her actions are more odd than supernatural, and you aren’t sure if it’s mythical or just medical. Most of the film takes places inside the home, really spotlighting domestic discomforts and how any place can really become terrifying given the circumstances.

Kate Dolan‘s directorial feature debut dances a bit between psychological thriller and horror, effectively being terrifying at times, but often choosing a slow build, more tense, reveal. Using the changeling folklore and making it new, there’s an interesting idea at the center of You’re Not My Mother.

Occasionally the film moves too slow, with lulls that would threaten your attention if there wasn’t already an underlying sense of dread that keeps you invested. I think the story takes on a bold idea, but doesn’t entirely commit. I would have loved it if the film went weirder and darker, but still found a lot to appreciate. All of the performances are great, especially Hazel Doupe.

By blending folklore with horror, psychological with the supernatural, and relying on a quiet terror rather than a flashy reveal, You Are Not My Mother builds a creepy base for which the talent to stand on. I always love a good twist of folklore, and there are some scenes that are definitely unforgettable.

While it’s a simple story, it’s still an effective one. You Are Not My Mother utilizes talented performances, a creepy atmosphere, and an unescapable dread. Look out for Kate Dolan, horror-world!

Saloum (Jean Luc Herbulot)

source: Toronto International Film Festival

Crime? Horror? Western? Fantasy? Saloum mashes all of these genres up, spins them around, and produces something truly unique. As one of the biggest surprises for me at TIFF this year, this unexpected watch proved to be quite the spectacle.

Saloum is a confident directorial vision that manages to be both bizarre and absorbing. Over the course of its lean run time it manages to reinvent itself time and time again.

It starts with the three mercenaries, the “Bangui Hyenas” Chaka (Yann Gael), Rafa (Roger Sallah) and Minuit (Mentor Ba) along with a drug trafficker. A badass opening scene gives us a quick intro to each of these different personalities. When they escape with millions in gold in tow, they soon realize they have to land their plane unplanned, in Saloum, Senegal. The group then heads to a local camp that is run by Omar (Bruno Henry). What starts off as an unexpected stop, soon switches to a purposeful destination. They aren’t alone here, with a few guests and staff residing, and some buried, dark, secrets.

There’s a lot of inspiration pulled from a variety of film styles and genres while also manufacturing something inventive. Saloum keeps the suspense alive while also making time for humor. The lively scores ensures that the pulse is kept high.

“Revenge is like a River.”

From the very beginning the ominous whisper of revenge lingers in the story, and when it finally comes to a screaming head, the events to follow include a supernatural fight for survival. You remember this is midnight madness, right?! Friend and foe have to team up if they are going to make it out alive. This unexpected group carries terrific chemistry, including Awa (Evelyn Ily Juhen) a mute guest, who proves she has just as much bravura as the rest.

Bursting with energy, Saloum doesn’t shy on being consistently entertaining. It’s not a perfect film by any means, at times feeling rushed, but it manages to create a lively mash up that is easily guaranteed to be something you haven’t seen before. While the film is brimming with talent, Yann Gael and Evelyn Ily Juhen were stand outs to me, though the chemistry of the entire cast, especially within the initial group is notable.

There’s really no waste with this fast-tempo’d thrill ride. Halfway through the film, once the curtain is down and the Wizard is – as you will- at colorful play, the film moves even faster, over-relying on horror and style and less on story. I would have appreciated a little bit more time with it, especially if it meant giving extended insight on certain elements. Yet, the movie still manages to sweep you up, and even if I feel like I’m dropped into a story that’s already got quite a past (something I’d love to see, Hyenas prequel anyone?) I enjoyed the ride.

I won’t give away some of what makes this constitute as a horror because it’s best going in knowing less, but once the movie goes into hyperdrive it is reeling with an pulpy almost video game aesthetic. I really loved the costumes, cinematography and the eye catching detail to color. It’s a bold, intriguing narrative that really soars with the help of the visual flair. It’s atmosphere and location are also both striking and unsettling.

Saloum spins a vibrant combination of genres and tones that makes for a blast of a viewing experience.

Were you able to see either of these? Let me know your thoughts!

Weekly Watch Recs, (5/3-5/9) The Moms of Horror Edition

There is so much content out there! Any ideas?

For Mother’s Day (and because there isn’t a whole lot of new content I can chime in on) I figured why not make this all about appreciating some of the best Moms in horror!

Let’s face it, there are a lot of amazing mothers in horror’s cinematic inventory. Here’s a just a sampling! I tried to spread it out with different kinds of horror/portrayals (not necessarily favorites) but know- there are so many more!

Disclaimer: A good horror mommy, doesn’t a good “mother” make. Food for thought.

Mother knows best. 😏

source: A24

Hereditary (2018)

Can Toni Collette do wrong? (Said everyone, always, because she’s just so talented, and the answer is no). In Hereditary, she again proves this thought. It’s not an easy endeavor to protect your family from possession, but she gives it the old college try. She goes… full unraveled. Watch for consecutive disturbing reveals.

Available to stream on Showtime or Fubo tv.

source: Universal Pictures

Us (2019)

Lupita Nyong’o, Lupita Nyong’o, Lupita Nyong’o. Isn’t that enough? 😍 If you’ve somehow missed this terrific sophomore directorial effort from Jordan Peele with another spectacular performance from Lupita I would recommend rectifying that ASAP. Also, Lupita Nyong’o, just sayin.

source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Cujo (1983)

Okay, no secret- I love Stephen King. While Cujo might not be the best adaptation of his work (certainly far from the worst) this protective mama is as badass as they come. The always amazing Dee Wallace (here’s your reminder, just in case, watch E.T too) will do anything to protect her child. Give it a watch, and just remember: the dog isn’t real, because they would never do such a horrendous thing. 🙂

Available to stream on AMC+

source: Universal Pictures

People Under the Stairs (1991)

This might seem unexpected, but Wes Craven’s film, which seems to be divisive among most, has one mommy you wouldn’t want to run into (let alone rob from and then get stuck in their twisted house of horror). Wendy Robie plays “Woman” and she’s adequately terrifying throughout this horror/comedy/ outright absurd, film.

Unfortunately, this isn’t currently streaming. Want to borrow my Blu ray? 🙂

source: Entertainment One, Umbrella Entertainment

The Babadook (2015)

Essie Davis plays Amelia, another protective mother, hoping to keep her son away from Mister Babadook. It’s a wonderful, inventive horror with a terrific cast. Creepy? Yes. Awesome? Also yes! Bonus Points. Watch if you dare (just watch it).

Available to stream on AMC+ and DirectV

source: Warner Bros

The Exorcist (1973)

It’s tough to deal with life when your daughter has her head spinning and crawls on the ceiling, but you can say, Ellen Burstyn did her best. Burstyn is incredible, as she grounds this horror in reality, making her performance as a mother concerned, really hit home. Also… Classic!

Available to stream on showtime and Fubo tv.

Also see Mama, Serial Mom, Get Out, Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, Goodnight Mommy, Friday the 13th, Mommie Dearest, House of 1000 Corpses, Okay, there are a lot! Not to mention— Psycho 😉, Dead Alive, Scream 2, The Others, The Conjuring.

While it’s not exactly a horror, I’d also like to give Terminator 2 a shoutout. And the Queen in Aliens- that bitch is protective. (I have a hard time stopping).

source: 20th Century Fox

Have fun watching! Happy Mother’s Day!

What are some of your favorites? Let me know!

Call for stories!

With my newest…what I’m calling my “return to my normalcy” episode of the Go, On, Scare, Me Podcast, I’ve decided to expand from the initial plan.

I had intended to make this a Spider 🕷 filled episode, but I’m disappointed there isn’t more to dive into! That isn’t to say I won’t, because I definitely will, but why limit it to one creepy crawly when there are so many to choose from? So, I’m casting a bigger web 😏.

Are you afraid of spiders? Bugs? Insects? A specific little beastie? Please drop me a line below, with whatever your comfortable with, to include on my recording. Tell us your fear, experiences, if that translates to films/tv, and anything you else you would like to include! If you’d like to leave a voice message to be included click here.

It’s been some time, but I’m excited to return to my level of weird normalcy. 🙂 I’m also going to include some of an interview I did (last year 🥺) with a professor of Psychology. Hopefully you’ll enjoy!

Coming soon! 🕷 🐜🐝🕸

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)

There is so much content out there! Any ideas?

Well, naturally we all have different tastes, but I figure I’ll throw out a few suggestions each week, just in case one strikes your fancy. 🙂

This week consisted of some 2020 catch ups, and some Apple TV+ ones, all, very worthy. This time…two shows and a movie.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)
source: AppleTV+

Servant

This a series that should have any horror fan basically begging for it (yes, that was me.) I was glad, in this instance, that I waited, because it allotted me the opportunity to just consume nearly two seasons of content. And, I can’t tell you enough, that this is definitely a wonderfully weird, creepy, spectacularly performed and conceived series. Keep an eye on this one, 👀.  Streaming on Apple TV+.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)
source: AppleTV+

Ted Lasso 

Anyone who knows me, knows I love good, silly, humor. I also tend to love some good heart-warming entertainment. Ted Lasso is like the Friday Night Lights of now, and it’s delightful. With a spectacularly funny and quirky performance from Jason Sudeikis and cast, it’s a show that unexpectedly wraps you up in a big hug. The first season is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

Weekly Watch Recs (3/7- 3/14)
source: Paramount Pictures

Love and Monsters

It has been a process, but I’m finally catching up to some of the 2020 film content. Part of it was a resistance to paying a ridiculous price to watch at home, and another was time. Well, this is rentable, and YOU SHOULD.

This a fun, hilarious, and yet endearing fantasy of a film. Dylan O’Brien leads as the narrator and protagonist of this story, taking us 7 years into a future where the world is run by various kinds of monsters. He’s looking to reconnect with the woman he loves and brave the dangerous lands to do so.

This was an unexpected treat, and I’d say go for it. Plus, bonus points for having a canine companion. That’s so rare, and I love it. This film is available to rent VOD.

Happy Watching! If you do, tell me your thoughts!

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror (2007)

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.

Appreciation Review: Planet Terror
source: Dimension Films

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?

Helllll no.

“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. 

What do you think? Let me know!

Weekly Watch Recs

There is so much content out there! Any ideas?

Well, naturally we all have different tastes, but I figure I’ll throw out a few suggestions each week, just in case one strikes your fancy. 🙂

Nomadland (Chloé Zhao) Uniquely beautiful, incredibly moving; Nomadland is a film that needs to be seen or rather, experienced, to understand its power. Frances McDormand is just as wonderful as she always is, giving one of her best in a powerful, yet quiet, performance. This is easily one of the best films of 2020 and, hey, it was released on Hulu last month! I’m not going to stop hyping this one.

Wandavision Yeah, I am an MCU fan, and this limited series just wrapped. Best time to binge! It’s really one of the most interesting things to come out of Marvel recently, and a great place to start Phase 4. There’s a weirdness that’s lovely, and Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are both incredible, enriching these characters and their relationship, that hadn’t previously gotten their due on screen. It also packs some surprising emotional punches, especially with Olsen as a woman grieving. On Disney+ (of course).

The Stylist (Jill Gevargizian) I reviewed this one over on Film Inquiry and I absolutely adored it. It’s a horror/thriller about a young hair stylist who is also a blossoming serial killer, and who craves connection. It features terrific performances and a lead (Najarra Townsend) who you can really sympathize with. It’s on Shudder!

Happy watching! And if you do- tell me your thoughts!

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Recently, during our #BlindspotPodcast for Film Inquiry, Jake Tropila recommended a movie I had been meaning to watch for a long time: Only Lovers Left Alive. Why had I missed this? Who knows…life, time…all of the things considered in this newfound cinematic love.

This was a movie even referred to by my co-host as a “Kristy” film, which is exactly why I am taking the time to talk about how amazing it indeed is.

A vampire film, an existential contemplation on meaning and immortality, a funny, yet intellectual foray into the minds of humans (and our supernatural counterparts)= lovely cinema. There’s a lot to adore with Jim Jarmusch’s film, in a way you may not expect. I left the film satisfied and imbued with emotion, deep in thought, and self-reflection.

How’s that for a genre piece?

Tom Hiddleston (Adam) and Tilda Swinton (Eve) are amazing as the two leads. There’s a chemistry and yet a disconnect (in the most beautiful of ways) and I mean that in the sense that these two have been apart, and yet can be reunited with instant fire; it’s magnetic. A love story for many, many, ages. When Eve discovers that Adam is having a difficult time she immediately goes to his side. They’re forever entwined.

Appreciation Review: Only Lovers Left Alive
source: Soda Pictures, Pandora Film Verleih

There are other terrific supporting roles from the likes of the tragically lost talent of Anton Yelchin to the amazing versatile Mia Wasikowska, to the incredible John Hurt. But, the real passion of this film comes from our leads and an imaginative almost lyrically profound story that is unlike anything that has come before. There’s a real appreciation for cinema, while also emphasizing on the admiration of the human experience.

Anytime someone can introduce a new facet to the “vampire“ sub-genre, I’m thrilled. It’s moody, it’s prolific, with the usual deadpan humor one can expect from this director’s cache, and Jim Jarmusch truly excels here, crafting an interesting character study that is also a blast to enjoy. While there’s a richness here within the narrative, there’s also an overall sweetness that prevails.

Jim Jarmusch weaves a lovely story here that mixes humor and sadness, highlighting intricacies while examining the simple moments of our daily existence. This is complete with music (some from Jarmusch’s band: SQURL) that truly sweep you off your feet. In fact, there are many times I felt like I was floating through this film, elevated by how artfully in tune it is. I believe this to be his best work, and it’s atmospherically encompassing. An intellectually inviting, endearing, and wonderful movie. And yes, there are vampires too.

Bonus!

What is your take? Let me know!

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

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.

In the last decade of filmmaking few films have hit me as high (picture a carnival hammer hitting the top bell) on the horror scale as much as It Follows. I have suggested this movie to more people than I can count and the reasoning is simple: it’s one of the best, most original, and long-lasting cinematic encounters of the genre. Especially in recent history.

Appreciation Review: It Follows (2014)

Some might classify this in its barest form (undeservingly so) as a thriller about youngsters spreading a curse through sex. Yes, if you want it to be defined in the most generic way, perhaps, but that’s part of the excellency here, it exceeds this notion, and while it may be a metaphor for unprotected sex and transmitted diseases, its nature is a much more prolific and terrifying one.

After Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with her new boyfriend, a haunting reality is passed onto her. Her only way out is to continue the process, further spreading the “virus.”

Apart from some of the creepiest imagery in recent movies, David Robert Mitchell‘s It Follows enlivens multiple horrific elements: being stalked (obviously), feeling alone and unbelieved, as well as internally deeply attacked, and the inevitable suffering. Though in this tale, our main protagonist has a support system, and while the others can’t always see the ghoulish followers, they sense (and sometimes see) the effect. What’s seen is truly chilling. Some of my favorite displays on-screen of fear incarnate.

It’s a gut-punch of a horror, of course, in a great way. Whenever I have shown this to someone I get giddy in their reactions. That’s because it is visceral and completely overwhelming. Exactly what you strive for in a film like this. It’s also shot with beautiful cinematography coupled with a score and feel that echoes more classic, retro horror. Monroe’s terror is thoroughly perceptible, a bona fide horror queen (soon to come another love of mine The Guest) where she’s also sensational.

For any fan of this particular genre: this is a must-see. One of the best, stylish, more recent horrors you’ll discover. It will creep up on you, and won’t let go.

What are your thoughts? Let me know!