Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Shudder Files

I took advantage of Shudder's thirty-day trial during the quarantine. Here's the best of what I watched on the service that I hadn't already talked about in April's "best of" post:

Tigers Are Not Afraid
When orphans created by the violence of the cartels in Mexico find themselves in possession of a cell phone containing incriminating evidence against a local politician/gang captain, they're hunted by human traffickers trying to get it back. But one of them might possess three magic wishes and is visited by the ghost of her mother, adding the otherworldly to what would otherwise be a standard tale of crime and degradation.

Knife+Heart was a Tenebrous Kate recommendation. (You can hear her talk about it on this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.) It is very much a self-conscious modern giallo; someone is murdering the cast of a gay porn film, and director must delve into the heart of homophobia to unmask the killer...and maybe consider her own place in the appropriation of an orientation not exactly her own.

A woman's unborn child goads her to kill the people responsible for its father's death one-by-one. Part horror, part black comedy, this one works surprisingly well. I usually have a hard time getting into horror comedies, but Prevenge went dark enough with both the laughs and the murders to keep me invested.

Society lives up to its reputation as being unlike anything else you've ever seen. Tonally, it's a bit like David Lynch started making a movie and David Cronenberg finished it. There are a lot of "the wealthy feed off the underclass" horror movies out there, but this one sticks out because of how absolutely insane it is. The end bit will either freak you out or make you groan audibly. Maybe both.

Horror Noire
Horror Noire is a documentary about black involvement and representation in horror films. Although the documentary covers some films I'm familiar with, such as Night of the Living Dead, Blackula, and Candyman, it also delves into territory that was absolutely new and eye-opening to me. It also showcases the perspectives of a wide range of black writers, actors, directors, etc. Absolutely a must-see.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance
I've seen Oldboy a few times, though the last time I watched it was a number of years ago, so it was nice to finally see the rest of the "Vengeance Trilogy." Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the most straightforward of the films--though it does pose some questions about which of the characters is "Mr. Vengeance" and if our sympathies lie with him. Lady Vengeance was fantastic; everything about it worked for me.

Ganja & Hess
Ganja & Hess is a film I had not heard of until I watched Horror Noire. It is a black vampire movie, but instead of exploring blaxploitation territory the way Blackula does, it instead pursues art film aesthetics. Although I found it a bit slow in places, the way it handles vampirism as a metaphor for addiction, race relations, and the problematic role of faith in black communities was really interesting. 
Season of the Witch
Season of the Witch has a poor reputation among the films in George A. Romero's ouvre. My gut instinct is that this is because it is a movie that deals with women's experiences and isn't really shot in a way that encourages a male perspective on what unfolds in the movie. This is the "unfulfilled housewife" version of something like Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife.

Cursed Films
This documentary series on "cursed films" that covers The Exorcist, The Omen, Poltergeist, The Crow, and Twilight Zone: The Movie. I like that it shows the people who are really invested in the idea of "cursed movies" to be kooks. (The "exorcist" guy being named "Vincent Bauhaus" felt a little on the nose.) It was also surprisingly emotionally affecting when they interviewed crew members who had to deal with some of the tragedies that happened on those sets.

One Cut of the Dead
For the first half hour of One Cut of the Dead I thought I was watching an example of how derivative the "found footage zombie" genre can be, but after that the movie takes a hard left turn and became something I definitely didn't see coming. Good job, movie, you got me! One Cut of the Dead turns out to be a surprisingly sweet romp; I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil it for you so you can have the same experience I did with it.