The Devil all the Time (2020): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Dark, interweaving stories about faith, chance, innocence, and corruption that spring from the most corrupted part of the human soul.

West Virginia… WWII is over, the soldiers are back, and the Willards, not from West Virginia, have trouble adapting. As if the war hadn’t done enough damage, the understanding of Lord’s mysterious ways led people to be… set in their own ways. A result that brings irony and nemesis, a rhetorical device and a goddess respectively, from ancient Greece, that civilisations have been stumbling upon, in numerous shapes and forms, for millennia.

Almost an hour into the film, the new generation takes over the torch and builds on that wretched foundation, paving the path for and giving birth to menace and hypocrisy, two human “qualities” that the ancient Greeks “saw”chewing up man’s soul like locus. And there is only one offspring that can come out of such a sorrowful family tree… Tragedy!

Writer/director Antonio Campos, co-writer Paulo Campos, and editor and wife of the former Sofía Subercaseaux put their heart and soul into the film. The Devil all the Time has two strong suits. One, is the narrative. The exchange between the omniscient narrator who speaks people’s minds and connects interweaving stories, and the interchangeable restricted narration between the heroes and villains, and the audience.

The second one is the phenomenal casting: Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Sebastian Stan, Haley Bennet, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Harry Melling, and Robert Pattinson. And guess what, most of them are not even Americans. Excellent chemistry between the actors and amazing work with the dialect coaching. Most of the cast and crew have worked together in other films before, with the most notable collaboration being Holland, Stan, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s wearing the producer’s hat – MCU. Donald Ray Pollock, the author of the homonymous novel, gets a special reference for voicing his first ever narration in the film.

I guess, in life, what goes around comes around. And The Devil all the Time is no short of literature on screen, believing, and strongly indicating it in the denouement, that we are trapped in an indissoluble delusion that we can run away from ourselves.

Stay safe!

A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

Having recently lost her husband, a young mother is trying to protect her children from poverty and her little town’s underworld.

Goddamn poverty! Goddamn misery! Goddamn drugs! Regardless which triggers which and in what order, the defining opening shot somehow is immediately understood by the shots that follow it. Or is it?

Writer/director of Road Games (2015), Abner Pastoll, directs a gritty Irish thriller with a realistic plague, a surrealist villain, and a down to Earth heroine that has to put up with both while protecting her children. And what a heroine’s journey that is…

Pastoll creates a dark for the audience yet healthy for the actors environment to showcase their chemistry and shine in front of the camera. Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, and Andrew Simpson lead the way but the rest of the cast follows and supports them as they should to create this thrilling crime/drama. Much respect for the whole crew that managed to bring this low budget, indie film to life.

Now… I cannot not comment on the dildo… probably the weirdest use(s) I’ve seen outside comedy. One is, unintentionally funny. Or dramatically funny – is there such a thing? Stealing your kids’ batteries from their toys to put them in your vibrator because you are a recently widowed young mum with urges isn’t funny… just funnily portrayed. Come on, I mean, I am sure they knew the mixed reactions the scene would stimulate. On the other hand, stabbing someone’s eye with the same vibrator you satisfy yourself to save yourself from rape is nothing but ironic (but relieving nonetheless).

Despite your feelings towards it, at least, you’ll witness a security system that uses VHS, and you’ll learn what a metaphor is…

Stay safe!

Midnight FM (2010): Action / Crime / Thriller

During a radio producer’s last show, a serial killer invades her home threatening to kill her family.

The overwhelming suspense! Three thrilling acts that will keep you glued to your seats until the very end. There is not one dull moment throughout the film. Korean suspenseful narrative that, as usual, it does not hold back and does not disappoint. This is a story-driven thriller where all utterances and actions are held accountable for is going to happen next.

Excellent directing that the fast-paced editing unfolds the fabula and syuzhet exactly when the information is needed to be disclosed. Soo Ae and Ji-Tae Yoo shine on camera, creating a stimulating chemistry. Extra round of applause goes to the little girls for their equally brilliant performances.

Midnight FM is a must-watch and no matter what I say will not make it more appealing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Stay safe!

Antebellum (2020): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

Slaves at a confederate quarter during the American civil war experience a horrendous reality, but nothing is what it looks like.

One of the most meticulous and intriguing opening shots I’ve seen in a while. Music, photography, and powerful acting set the tone for what is about to come. Unfortunately though, as we go through despicable times, for more than one reason, it is hard to focus purely on the artistic part and neglect the atrocious side of the human soul.

Leaving momentarily the politics and the comparisons with today’s depressing reality aside, I’ll go on with a disclaimer: I had no idea what I was signing up for. So, almost 40′ into the film, I started scratching my beard… I really wanted to see where the story was heading. And this is when my excitement disappeared. The story dragged and became so political that characters lost their interest. Janelle Monàe’s character became snobbish and everyone else indifferent. Nothing like the acting or story development of the first forty minutes. Politics were so forced into the film that became unwatchable. Whatever was not political, it was pure boredom. I’m particularly fond of both Jena Malone and Gabourey Sidibe and here their characters were, again, as snobbish and indifferent as Monàe’s – or worse. The reason I cannot relate to such characters is because I could never and I have never hanged around with so self-righteous and pompous people that like themselves that much and think of themselves so high, like they are Derek Zoolander. I am sure the people who value their ticket’s money feel the same way.

Half an hour after that, and having watched a particular film in 2004 (no spoilers), I kind of saw where the story was heading. But directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz just made it too obvious with the only difference that they over-politicised it. And that’s how the second part of the second act was doomed to fail. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever and undermined the audience’s intelligence. And the filmmakers should always keep in mind that the horror fans are extremely savvy. Ι can see how appealing it is to make a 12 Years a Slave (2013) meets Get Out (2017) but Steve McQueen and Jordan Peele have their own distinctive and unique style that it would be best to be left to them and not copied. Speaking of copying, did I mention the irrelevant reference to The Shining (1980) and the inexplicably identical poster with The Silence of the Lambs (1991)?

Stay safe.

The Town (2010): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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A band of thieves terrorise the banks of Boston but when personal feelings and the FBI get in the way, everyone’s loyalty is at stake.

10 years old and not outdated a bit. Thrilling action and suspenseful drama to keep you pinned to your seats for two hours. Since the beginning of his career, Ben Affleck has been proving time and time again his undeniable talent both in front and behind the camera. Think of The Town as Heat (1995) meets Good Will Hunting (1997). An exceptional mid-90s action film, fifteen years later. Next to Affleck, Jeremy Renner will make you wonder, “is he actually such an asshole?” He is meant to be one and he nails it as he nails the accent. One of his best performances to date. Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, and Blake Lively couldn’t have been a better choice, and Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper, and the late Pete Postlethwaite are as hateable as they were meant to be. A-list form head to toe!

I know that you probably have watched it. If you have, watch it again. It is most definitely worth it. If somehow you’ve missed it, make it your next film!

Stay safe!

The Rental (2020): Horror / Thriller

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A relaxing weekend’s getaway is ruined by dishonesty, lies, and secrets and turns into a living nightmare by… someone watching.

Excellent directorial debut by Dave Franco who seems to have put his heart and soul into the film’s writing and production as well. Perfect opening shot, red-flagged suspicion from the second shot, straight to the point right after, excellent pace and rhythm, believable dialogues and reasonably stupid decisions, no Hollywood heroism or character development, and last but not least, raw and unexpected violence. Furthermore, Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, and Toby Huss create incredible chemistry, increasing the film’s realism.

As a huge fan of one-location horrors/thrillers, I can guarantee you that this is a must-watch! As mentioned in the beginning, Franco really does an excellent job and it’s good to see people who “grew up” in Hollywood, to avoid certain Hollywood conventions that, unavoidably, lead to decadent clichés.

Stay safe!

The Villainess (2017): Action / Thriller

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A female assassin accepts a mission that turns her world upside down.

One of the most impressive and bloody opening action sequences you have ever seen! Nikita (1990), meets Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), meets Doom (2005). And then, they all meet a tad cliché and unnecessarily convoluted storyline.

A young girl who witnesses her father getting murdered (1), gets saved and recruited by some people (2), who help her avenge her father’s vicious murder (3), but then gets caught by a government organisation (4), which offers to train her (again?) (5), and ten years later, she starts a normal life (6), but goes back to doing missions (7). That’s the story’s development. And then there is the character’s (un)development. Finishing the second training, she comes out with fewer skills than the first.

The editing is somewhat confusing too. Ten years fly by like months. And time flies by after that too until the last mission where it decelerates to real-time. The rhythm and pace of this film is a case study. As for the directing… Honestly, it feels like the opening sequence’s director quit or got sacked during act two, and came back just for the final confrontation.

Please watch it if you haven’t already, and feel free to share your opinion. Maybe it’s me.

Stay safe!

The Initiation (1984): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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A college student who suffers from a recurring nightmare and her sorority sisters decide to break into a mall one night while a serial killer is out for blood.

One of the best mediocre 80s, slasher, nonsensical, American horrors made back then. Brilliant for American millennials to get educated on how their parents acted – and what they were wearing – during their college/Uni years. Well, up until blood starts splattering everywhere.

The acting is almost as funny as the haircuts; almost. The storyline is the perfect motive to stick popcorn in the microwave and put your feet up, the music and sound effects will make you laugh out loud, choking on that popcorn, and the editing will finish you off.

Have a friend around or a couple of good ones. Share your problems, concerns, and thoughts, and when you’re done, hit play, forget our horrible reality, and enjoy just over an hour and a half of unintentional fun. I know I did.

Stay safe!

The Unknown Woman (2006): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

The Unknown Woman

A woman’s promiscuous past becomes a constant reminder in the present and a motive for every obscure step she takes.

Giuseppe Tornatore proves time and time again over the decades that his diversity knows no limits. I remember watching Cinema Paradiso (1988) in the theatres as a kid and even though there was a lot I missed back then (I caught up the second and third time I watched in the years that followed), I believe it solidified the foundation of my love about cinema. The Unknown Woman, one of the three films he made in the noughties – with Malena (2000) and Baarìa (2009) being the other two – is a suspenseful, dramatic, physically but also thought-provoking mystery/thriller about the search of hope. About a woman driven by her past sufferings, in the hopes that life will smile at her for once. Tornatore though doesn’t believe that the past should be left in the past. He believes it will always be part of us no matter how hard we try to run away from it.

Kseniya Rappoport and Clara Dossena steal the show on screen. Ennio Morricone (over the last 60 years!) fills the atmosphere with doubt with his tachycardic music, amplifying and constantly prolonging the suspense until the film’s denouement. But here’s the thing:

“It’s not a film until it’s edited” – Michael Kahn

Massimo Quaglia, Tornatore’s loyal editor, is the one who “stitches” the film together with artistry. The flashback’s metric montage invisibly permeates the present with extremely meticulous match cuts. Outstanding chemistry!

Most of the time, we think we’ve had it bad in life. Guess what? While sometimes life gives us the shortest straw, to others she gives nothing but pain. Why? Because she can. The pandemic but also the unfathomable, bottomless human buffoonery have proved, once more, that life is not to be taken for granted. Make the most of it and…

Stay safe!