Yes, I know, it's been a while, so please excuse me if I just dive into this process head-first, without much in the way of explication or lubrication first. Suffice it to say that I've been having RIDICULOUS problems with blogger's AdSense functionality (haven't made a penny in two months, despite my blogs being over-run with an obnoxious amount of ads) and so my motivation hasn't been what it could be. Then I figured, I mostly use this blog as a way to keep track of what I've watched, read, and seen, so why not just keep blogging until the situation sorts itself out? So I guess that's what I'm going to try to do. Cheers! - Jerky
THE DEATH OF STALIN (2017) ~ Speaking of pitch-black satire, the latest film by Armando Iannucci—one of the key figures in the Britcom Renaissance and frequent partner of bona fide geniuses Chris Morris and Steve Coogan—The Death of Stalin presents a highly fictionalized account of the panic, turmoil and terror that gripped the Central Committee and other important elements of the Soviet government in the wake of Joseph Stalin's sudden death in 1953. Uniformly fantastic performances (Michael Palin, Steve Buscemi, Simon Beale, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor are all perfect) and help to elevate this film from high minded farce into something approaching (but not quite attaining) the level of a Dr Strangelove. Based on a French graphic novel, The Death of Stalin was banned in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
APOSTLE (2018) ~ An excellent addition to the Folk Horror canon, of which the prime exemplar is the (original) Wicker Man, which also happens to be a heavy influence on this film. It's been a good couple years for this genre-within-a-genre, starting with The Witch and hitting definite peaks with The Ritual, A Dark Song, and now Apostle. Although not as rooted in actual philosophies, beliefs and ritual practices as some of the best in occult cinema, Apostle does a good job of presenting what life must have been life in some of those far flung turn of the century religious communes, some of which you can still find in the darker parts of both North America and the Old World. As a horror film in the Western tradition, I consider it one of the best of the year so far... richly envisioned, convincingly acted, beautifully designed, and both thrilling and intriguing. Some might find it a bit long, somewhat confusing, and more gruesome than necessary. Horror fans should definitely see it and, if they like it, help to spread the word, because one takes from a work of art only that which one is capable of taking, and a lot of dummies are putting up bad reviews that sound a whole lot like the cracking of piggish teeth on the pearls cast before them.
POSSUM (2028) ~ Brilliant debut feature from Matt Holness, creator of the cult horror comedy TV satire Garth Merenghi's Darkplace. This film puts Sean Harris' uniquely disturbing and expressive looks to maximum use, kind of in the same way that David Cronenberg did with Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone. Possum features an ambiance redolent with dread and anxiety, and you can feel the pressure of sanity at its breaking point throughout, like the internal pressure inside a bottle forever pushing away at the cork stopping it up. Another Cronenberg film this reminded me of is the under-rated, underseen Spider. And also The Babadook, only with a far creepier imaginary baddie in the form of Possum. Just excellent.
HAGAZUSSA (2017) ~ The disturbing story of Albrun, a lonely goat-herding girl who lives with her mother in a secluded shack in the German Alps in the 15th century. People in the nearby village are cruel to Albrun and her mother both, apparently believing them to be witches. When Albrun’s mother falls ill—leading to some disturbing scenes in which you’ll start to think that maybe the villagers have the right idea—sexually assaults her, then dies. Cut to 15 years later. Albrun, still living in the shack and tending her goats, has a baby boy. A town priest gives her the gift of her mother’s polished skull, which Albrun takes home and uses as part of a memorial shrine. Another villager, Swinda, befriends Albrun, but we soon find out that her intentions are anything but good. Deception leads to Albrun once again being raped. She takes revenge on the village in a particularly gruesome way, then eats a magic mushroom that causes her to indulge in some strange cruelties and engaging in a number of taboos, ultimately leading to her apparently supernatural demise. A truly great folk horror film.
THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019) ~ A fantastic performance by Willem Dafoe and a decent one by Robert Patinson anchor director Robert Eggers’ black-and-white, Lovecraft-tinged follow-up to his magnificent The VVitch (2015), but for me, The Lighthouse ends up feeling like something less than the sum of its (admittedly superlative) parts. For instance, the conversations, though thoughtfully articulated and grandly performed, don’t ever really seem to go anywhere. And the hallucinatory elements, featuring mermaids and tentacles and angry sea-birds, felt detached from the narrative. I did like the way it ended, however. I’ll probably have to give this one another watch before I make up my mind about it.
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018) ~ I didn’t like it. Cliché-ridden, sappy, boring and drawn-out… a real snooze-fest, especially considering it was about one of the most ostentatious and overtly “dramatic” rock bands of all time. So many of these musical bios seem to miss the point that the music created often has very little to do with the musicians who create it. They miss the point that music, at its best is, in a very real sense, a kind of magic (no pun intended). A whole that is greater than the sum of its parts… a kind of egregore, or collective yet independent consciousness, to the point where “Which one’s Pink?” is less like a joke and more like a Zen Koan that might put a streak of grey through your hair if you meditate too intently upon it.