Malignant (2021)

WB

Over the years, James Wan has grown to become a household name associated with a string of highly successful and sustainable genre properties. Interestingly, since his auspicious debut Saw, whose success was in no small part helped by Wan’s collaborator Leigh Whannell, the audiences have come to recognize his works as original brands, even though they were heavily steeped in nostalgic winks and nods to movies Wan likely grew up with or held up as inspirational to his development as a filmmaker. Franchises like SawInsidious and The Conjuring have quickly become self-identifiable.  

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: Summer of Fear (1978)

Not everyone knows that apart from writing and directing theatrical features that greatly influenced the development of genre filmmaking, Wes Craven ventured outside this bubble in search for other opportunities. In fact, right after making The Last House on the Left he ventured into hardcore pornography (allegedly because indie filmmaking wasn’t exactly lucrative) and those skilled in the art will be able to find some of his work online without much ado. Though, a fair warning to anyone brave enough to do so that to call some of these movies unwatchable would be a compliment. In addition, Craven ended up branching out to make TV movies as well (of the non-adult variety) and over the course of his entire career he would come back periodically to direct something explicitly designed for the small screen.  

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Minari (2020)

A24

Every year there’s at least one movie that will touch me personally and force me to reflect upon my own life experiences: films like The FarewellMid90sSoul, or The Big Sick. Although they often don’t act like a full-blown mirror I can see myself in, I do end up latching onto very specific aspects of their stories, some characters, themes, ideas or elements of tone. And consequently, these movies linger in my head. They linger. And linger.  

Minari is one of those movies that linger.  

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Candyman (2021)

MGM

If I remember correctly, and you will have to forgive me if I don’t because when I last read Clive Barker’s The Forbidden people were obsessing over tamagotchi and the Y2K bug, the character of Candyman wasn’t originally tied to any race, nor did it have an origin story of any kind. Only after Barker’s novella was adapted for the screen by Bernard Rose, who moved the setting to America and turned what essentially was a shapeless ghoul into a symbolic manifestation of America’s history coming back to haunt it, complete with a hook for a hand, bees and Tony Todd’s deep voice coming at you from all directions, it became a cultural phenomenon.  

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The Night House (2020)

Searchlight Pictures

Warning! There is absolutely no way I could write anything I’d be remotely happy with without ruining the experience of watching this film. Proceed at your own risk. 

On its surface, the David Bruckner-directed The Night House presents itself as a conventional play on a ghost story with a compelling mystery propelling the story along. However, there’s quite a bit more to it than meets the eye.  

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Censor (2021)

Film4/Vertigo

Enid is a censor. She works at the BBFC where she watches crappy movies for a living and dispenses judgment as to what’s excessive and what is not. She is in control. She’s trying to do what’s right; not only because this is what her job demands, but because she is subconsciously compensating for letting her little sister go missing when they were kids. One day, Enid receives a movie for certification that strikes a familiar tone. It is as though someone turned the memory of her past into a work of cinematic exploitation. This sends her down a path of intrigue into the seedy underbelly of clandestine arthouse film production where she thinks she will find some answers, but little does she know that she might lose her grip on reality in the process.  

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Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)

Sony Pictures

It’s hard to argue with the fact that the Fede Alvarez-directed home invasion horror Don’t Breathe was a massive success in 2016. On a budget of just shy of ten million dollars it raked in nearly sixteen times this amount in box office revenue. Therefore, the age-old Hollywood logic dictated that the filmmakers would seriously consider making a sequel without perhaps sitting down to consider the ramifications of what they were about to do.  

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Another Round (2020)

Thomas Vinterberg’s films, at least the ones I have seen, have a unique quality that I can only effectively define as an ability to champion multiple seemingly contradictory perspectives simultaneously, thus splitting their audiences down the middle on potentially controversial and charged subjects. I guess what I am trying to say is that Vinterberg is a skilled button-pusher who takes after his most influential early collaborator, Lars Von Trier. However, his modus operandi does not rest squarely on shocking the audience into reflection, but rather on coaxing them gently into a trap of veritable cognitive dissonance.  

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Gamera, The Giant Monster (1965)

Daiei Film

It is widely accepted that Gamera films have originated as a competition to the Godzilla series and aimed to replicate its success and cultural footprint. In fact, from among all Godzilla knock-offs, the series about a giant fire-breathing (and fire-eating) flying turtle ended up the most sustainable, as it spawned twelve entries spread across four decades.  

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: Paths of Glory (1957)

The 1956 answer to Jules Dassin’s RififiThe Killing, is remembered as Stanley Kubrick’s first mature film. Although it failed at the box office, its artistic qualities didn’t go unnoticed by the critical community and inadvertently put Kubrick on the map; the film became his Hollywood CV of sorts. This is perhaps why he was able to convince Kirk Douglas to star in his next feature, Paths Of Glory, which is now widely referred to as his first masterpiece. And for a good reason. 

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