In Review: The Night House

Look, between David Bruckner’s new supernatural thriller The Night House and Sean Durkin’s unsettling psychological character study Martha Marcy May Marlene, I think I’m all set on ever visiting the Catskills. But while Durkin used the environment to set a mood with just a dash of horror, Bruckner’s effort is much easier placed within the genre’s safe zones. And there are many other horror films that it will make you remember. Set in the idyllic lakeside of the New York woodlands, The Night House has terror lurking just beneath its beautiful surface, and delivers some spunky atmospherics that diminish the basicness of some of its genre conventions.

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In Review: Ma Belle, My Beauty

An ultramodern look at love and sex shuffles about onscreen in Marion Hill’s misty feature debut Ma Belle, My Beauty, projecting queer lust with a bountiful but chill sense of possibility. Most excitingly, the film presents the sexual-romantic entanglements of its characters outside of the cinema’s typical binaries. Here Hill serves us a drama closer to reality, where polyamory and bisexuality are presented with frank naturalism, unfetishized as more purile films might examine them as othered. But though unpretentious clearheadedness Hill provides regarding sex in the modern world creates a bounty of freshness to the experience of watching the film, that frankness doesn’t translate to characters we find all that interesting. Nor does the picturesque lifestyle of those characters feel recognizably relatable on a human level.

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In Review: Cryptozoo

Somewhere between René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet and the world of mumblecore lies Dash Shaw’s confounding and kooky Cryptozoo, a lush but somewhat impenetrable dose of animated science fiction. Another off-center animation for adults after his My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea, Shaw continues to establish himself as a one-of-a-kind storyteller standing far outside the lines of convention and normalcy. Here he pits a world of mythological beings at odds with human violence, resulting in a film that is by turns queer, audacious, bursting with originality, and finally somewhat tiring.

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In Review: Days

There is ecstasy and anguish to the world as Tsai Ming-liang captures it, observing the sonorific isolation of existing in the modern metropolis in such films as Stray Dogs, his debut Rebels of the Neon God, and the surreal The Wayward Cloud. His latest, the queer longing microepic Days, is perhaps his most narrowly ambitious yet acutely emotional film, as much a chamber piece as it might be possible for him to make. The filmmaker has defined himself as a master of accumulation, molding narratives of few words but instead with powerfully synchronized imagery and sound, building to something overwhelming. The result, whether he delivers realism or allegory, are films whose feelings are impossible to reduce to easy descriptors. Words are insufficient in his films and for them, so naturally Days doesn’t require them to produce something profoundly moving. Nor, as Tsai Ming-liang sees it, does it take words for a fleeting moment of connection.

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In Review: CODA

It is difficult to not view CODA, Sian Heder’s lighthearted sophomore feature, with a substantial amount of goodwill. Presenting a lovable cast in an uplifting coming-of-age narrative, the film shines by showcasing an underrepresented kind of family: a deaf household with one hearing child. But it doesn’t take long into the film to discover that despite its under-examined circumstances, CODA plays too firmly and safely within a particular formula, liberally ripping off two dozen or so movies whose heartwarming stature it wants to emulate.

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