In Review: “47 Meters Down”

47 Meters Down is an oceanic disaster film so morose and shoddy that it begs for some levity. With only a handful of cliched jump scares and general lack of visual tension, there’s a lot of room for your mind to wander to lighten the mood over its lethargic 89 minutes. For example, which Mandy Moore track do sharks prefer: “In My Pocket” or “Candy”? What would the film be like with a commentary by Brian Fellows? “Does that shark have arms?”

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In Review!: “Raw”

Crashing in on a giant red wave of French extremity, Raw is one nastily daring debut from Julia Ducournau. Hazing rituals of a veterinary college make for a morbid playground of sexuality, feminism, and subversion in this body horror wonder, as smart as it is profane. As freshman Justine (Garance Marillier) struggles to assimilate to the indoctrination, she feels a growing urge for human flesh – but is this born of stress or a dormant natural instinct? Is it a coping mechanism or an exercise of self-actualization?

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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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In Review!: “Krampus”

Framed by everything you hate about the holiday and everything you love about the genre, Michael Dougherty’s Krampus is a Christmas delight of monster mayhem and creepy holiday spirit. After this and his Halloween-set Trick ‘r Treat, he could be given an Easter Bunny horror film and likely deliver on the giggles and haunts in equal measure. That humor and horror go so confidently hand-in-hand is partly why Krampus is the unexpected treat that it is: a new alternative holiday classic for those of us bored by the marathon of A Christmas Story and crave something a little more attuned to the frustrations of the season.

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Because what is the Christmas season with its share of familial unease and resentments? Krampus‘s family is archly drawn and diametrically opposed with the bluntest depiction of the current American divide, which while it doesn’t allow for much nuance (is that what you showed up for, really?), it does thrust the majority of the film’s effective humor. Driven by his disappointments with his parents and his disdain for his bullying extended family, protagonist Max (Emjay Anthony, previously charming in Jon Favreau’s Chef) rejects the spirit of Christmas and summons the demonic Krampus – and his doting German-immigrant grandmother Omi (Krista Stadler) just may be a little familiar.

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For Your Consideration: Best Original Score – “It Follows”

Playing the long game at the global film festival circuit a full year prior to nationwide American release, David Robert Mitchell’s Argento/Carpenter horror hybrid It Follows was a minor hit this past spring – enough so to cancel its original VOD release plan due to strong box office – and was the strongest entry in a poor year for the genre. An auspicious breakthrough for Mitchell (who scored a Best Director nomination last week from the Independent Spirit Awards), the film excels through harmonious design elements that serve an open metaphor that dynamically allows various interpretations – and also rattle even the toughest of nerves.

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From the lushly terrifying cinematography to the deliberate and confident editing, all crafts on display in Follows form a complex whole that recalls slasher genre origins where the Big Ideas frightened us more than than a hyperactive construction. But the single most effective contribution on display is the diverse and unsettling score by Disasterpeace. In sync with Mitchell’s throwback intentions, but avoiding cliches or copycatting, the film’s scares both subtle and overt are owed greatly to Disasterpeace’s work .

Check out the terrifying music selection from the film’s startling opening sequence after the jump. Best Original Score Oscar Predictions

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