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Showing posts from February, 2021

"Sator" Is Unsettling Folk Horror with Otherworldly Secrets

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Described by director Jordan Graham as a “filmmaker’s film,” Sator doesn’t offer an easy narrative, jumping around a timeline at an unhurried pace. The nonlinear structure will test the patience of most horror audiences, and yet the artfully composed cinematography and undercurrent of malevolence draws you in. The lead performance is almost wordless, and the scattering of random characters are introduced without any clear connection and the least possible dialogue. Sator is folk horror, conjuring up those dark things that infest the backwoods at night. Within lies an entity fixated on a family for generations – or perhaps it's all undiagnosed mental illness, since there’s some allusion to breakdowns and trauma. The film’s tone is bleak, bewildering, creepy, and deeply unsettling. The sound design takes on a life of its own, with a constant droning mix of whispers, distant screeching, birds, growls and wails. Sator is defiantly enigmatic, but just one repeated viewing helps unrave

10 Observations About Netflix’s Cecil Hotel Documentary

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  Netflix’s oddly-titled Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel premiered last week and we now have some resolution to the tragic story of Elisa Lam. Or do we? Conspiracy theories emerged because of the bizarre elevator video (below) at the center of this case, the even stranger outcome, and the inconsistent answers provided by the LAPD, an agency fraught with historical corruption and cover-ups. Also, we should question the merits of all media, especially documentaries that are purported to present facts. In many cases, facts are just conjecture in a fancy package. This is Elisa’s story and her name isn’t even in the title. The documentary feels very unbalanced tipping towards sensationalism at best, or at worst, perhaps having ulterior motives. Here are my observations and thoughts: The series is book-ended with Elisa’s carefully curated words, directly as she wrote them on her blog, intoned with a glib optimism, and yet her story is the most muted in this series. I didn’t get a

The Rise of Horror Romance Movies

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Love is in the air and it’s tainting my horror movie experience. I admit that I generally loathe romance movies and their bodice-ripping tropes. Horror tropes, though, are cool. But it’s 2021, and genre mash-up is practically a requirement at this point.  At a cursory glance, it seems that romance has always been a part of the horror genre. Frankenstein’s monster loved his bride. Norman Bates loved his mother. The Blob loved everything in sight (no shame). These are definitive horror movies with some romance elements. The curious hybrid of horror + romance  stands on its own, and it's on the rise. Perhaps a younger generation of emerging directors, with a greater sense of self-awareness and identity, feel less constrained about exploring feelings as a topic. Also, the horror genre historically has been more avant-garde, experimental, and welcoming of eccentricity. The horror romance sits pleasantly at the table alongside the horror comedy, horror musical, horror melodrama, horror f

Poe's Tell Tale Short Gets Madness Right

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  In the last few moments of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Norman Bates sits quietly still, utterly insane, engaged in a deep inner monologue. He looks slyly at the camera and thinks to himself that he wouldn’t even harm a fly. Then a menacing, evil grin sprouts across his face. This deranged energy is where actor Sonny Grimsley starts his journey as the protagonist in the entertaining horror short film The Tell Tale Heart . He tears into this role like a man whose just been served a porterhouse steak, his teeth sinking into the meat of Edgar Allen Poe's madness. Based on Poe's short story of the same name, the flowery prose depicts an arrogant narrator recounting his presumably clever cover up of a brutal murder. The film creates a dreamlike aesthetic with a disorienting timeline, swooping camera work, and a slurry of blood, guts and madness. It’s highly theatrical and chaotic, never letting the viewer gain a sense of equilibrium, much like Poe’s evocative story. I would have pr