In Review: Thoroughbreds

Playwright Cory Finley has a mild writing/directing film debut in Thoroughbreds, a teen anti-romp in upper class psychopathy. Two former friends, Amanda and Lily, are thrust together in awkward circumstances and the tension quickly devolves into a codependent antisocial bond. There’s an only fleeting sharpness to to the film’s edge, an obviousness to sly shrug it greets its punishments. You know, like murder and stuff.

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In Review!: “Split”

Twist meister M. Night Shyamalan is back in popular favor after a long string of disasters (and the modest success of The Visit) with multiple personality thriller Split. But the return to form is a somewhat measured success – miles from the gobsmacking stupidity of his greatest follies but still a far cry from his strongest, most beloved works. M. Night still just doesn’t understand how people think and sound, or how that basis in reality enhances his chilling moments. The more outlandish elements of Split are more believable than the necessary, the simplest dialogue or minor details archly silly. He’d do better to just listen to everyday conversations for his next film instead of thinking up new shockeroos – remember how understated and real the final car scene in The Sixth Sense was?

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In Review!: “The Witch”

Winner of Best Director at last year’s Sundance Film Festival for former production designer and debut wunderkind Robert Eggers, The Witch is a jaw-dropper about a pre-revolutionary colonial family’s implosion after banishment from their settlement for unspecified contrarian religious practices. The family quickly unravels once hunger, lack of resources, and claustrophobic isolation settles in. Oh and also those satanic forces lurking in the surrounding woods. A nightmare-inducing formalist stunner, Egger’s debut is robust with context and deep with emotion before the scares even take their ruthless hold.

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These sentiments are not to discount the chills generated by the film, for they are varied and relentless. The initial tone is like an apparition following you up a flight of stairs or entering an illogically frigid room; something unnatural is making its presence known before fully revealing itself. Once that presence does (and far sooner than expected), the scares run the gamut from moodily vicious to spiritually paralyzing, with a decent peppering of jump scares. The Witch terrifies so deeply by shocking you differently at each turn. Never have barn animals been so demonically unsettling.

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