The Ritual is an incredibly effective horror movie for its first seventy minutes, and an absolutely abominable one for its final twenty. I imagine there’s some alternate version of hell where the makers are forced to sit and watch the movie’s last act on an endless loop, their eyes peeled open like Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, and reflect upon how it all went so horribly wrong.Read More →

I’m going to give you a big fat spoiler right up front, and then we can be done with this whole thing. Are you ready? Ok, here it is: the vampire-like creature in From the Dark can be harmed by light. Any light, in fact, whether it be flashlight, lamplight, cell phone light, match light, or sunlight. If you can think of a source of light, this creature is afraid of it.Read More →

Anyone who has seen Call Me By Your Name will understand why Chalamet has been lavished with praise by critics and audiences alike. His instincts and choices are so sharp, so perceptive, and so thorough, as he navigates an astonishing range, from precocious to petty to lusty aggression, that you’re almost a little bitter that anyone so young should be gifted the sort of talent that most actors never achieve in their lifetime. Read More →

I have to admit I expected to hate Happy Death Day. Save the occasional Final Girls or Insidious, I’m not much of a fan of PG-13 horror. Case in point: the excruciating Wish Upon, which made me wish that all the characters had been killed in the first five minutes of the movie, thereby saving me ninety minutes of pure torture.Read More →

Well, what a clusterfuck this award season has become. The best movie of the year, Luca Guadagnino’s sensational Call Me By Your Name, is pretty much out of the game thanks to Sony Pictures Classics glacial theatrical rollout plan (174 theaters after seven weeks? Come on!). Not enough people have seen the movie, which isn’t so surprising for such a specific niche film. It’s only chance at Oscar glory at this point is if enough Academy members rank it first or second on their preferential ballot.Read More →

What a totally strange year for movies. By the time December rolls around, I invariably have a good two or three movies jockeying for the number one spot on my best-of list, and several others elbowing their way into second and third—movies that have somehow moved or inspired me. Visceral films, intense emotional reactions; that sort of thing.Read More →

“American Sniper” is political propaganda through and through, in the same way “Zero Dark Thirty” was and every Michael Moore documentary is. It’s essentially Neocon porn, with a vaguely seedy undercurrent of Islamaphobia in the massive box-office turnout (fueled, no doubt, by the tragedy in France) and conservative social media ecstasy, and director Clint Eastwood’s patriotic fingerprints all over every frame. Unfortunately, all of this political subterfuge is masking the fact that “American Sniper” is kind of a terrible movie.  What we have here is Bradley Cooper, as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, playing first-person shooter game for two hours with no motivation behind his obsessionRead More →

As I sat watching Mike Flanagan’s “Oculus,” I kept thinking back to Brotman’s Law of Film, which states that if nothing happens by the end of the first reel, nothing is going to happen.  That bit of wisdom, coined by Chicago movie exhibitor Oscar Brotman as a barometer to tell you when you’re in for a bomb of a flick, was first introduced to me through the writings of the late Roger Ebert many years ago.  Unfortunately, Ebert never told me what to expect when nothing happens by the end of the final reel.  Here we have what is essentially a film built on anRead More →

(Note: I was fortunate to catch the stunning 40th anniversary print of this horror classic, presented by Cinefamily in Los Angeles and Dark Sky Films.  This is the very best you will ever see this movie look.  If you have a chance to see the restoration in a theater, do not hesitate to go.)   I’ve seen “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”  Countless viewings over the past three decades have left me with a deep appreciation of its style and tone, its seamless blending of the Grand Guinol, unbridled horror, and a twisted sense of humor.  This is not a film with which I am unfamiliar,Read More →

“Have you ever wanted something so badly, you’d be willing to do anything for it?” That’s the central question posed by the aspiring actress, Patti, in Richard Ciupka’s 1983 slasher mystery, “Curtains.”  When the line comes early in the film, Patti is feeding clunky one-liners to drunks in the smoky nether regions of a local comedy club.  She tells her audience that she’s only ever wanted to be in the movies (“I was so desperate to be in pictures, I screwed a guy at a PhotoMat”), and now she may finally get her chance: she and five other actresses are about to duke it outRead More →