[EXPRESSO] Smile (2022) | Shaped Like A Friend

Not related to that one you’re probably thinking off. Or the sequel.

No, it’s just a new horror movie with a very simple and explicative-but-not-really title.

What did Doflaming Doquixote do this time?

Surprisingly not so much, as the plot involves a psychiatric doctor, Rose Cotton, seeing one of her patients committ suicide in front of her eyes, sporting a horrific grin before committing the deed.

Aside from the understandable shock and trauma, Rose starts having horrific visions and getting involved in strange phenomenons. What’s worse is that the entity that seems to haunt her is acting exactly as her patient told her in the moments preceding her unpumpkin face carving, and as Rose tries to make any sense of the situation, she discovers that similar incidents occured before…

It’s that kind of supernatural horror movie reminescent of early 2000s (and It Follows came to mind too) as we have this evil entity spread itself by using people, acting as a parasite of sorts to the hosts, which he fucks over by playing with their minds, shapeshifting into the victim’s fears, forcing Rose to confront a trauma from her past…

In a way, it’s a pretty simple concept that picks various elements from other movies, but dang it, the execution, characters and pretty much everything in Smile it’s more than “good enough”, it’s honestly very good. The characters are smart, react in believable ways to the increasing sinister events that come their way, the gore it’s quite grisly but not overused, and the reveal of the entity it’s definitely some good stuff.

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good, features a very nice atmospheric soundtrack, and it has been a while since i’ve seen some good jumpscares like these.

We eating good horror this year, indeed!

Original horror, to boot!

[EXPRESSO] Don’t Worry Darling (2022) | Sure It’s The 50s

Leaving aside the absurd controversy that surrounded the movie pre-release and pretty much – as it usually does- dominated the discussion instead of the movie itself, the trailer itself immediatly shot most of the interest i had in Don’t Worry Darling, because it basically gave away the whole thing.

It’s one of those trailers.

Then i went to see the movie in theathers… and yep, my fears were correct. Mostly.

I wasn’t expecting the specific kind of the twist the movie pulls, which i won’t comment on since it’s pretty spoilers and any direct comparison will give it away, but if you think you know where this movie it’s going from the trailer, you’re right.

The premise sees Alice live with her husband Jack, living in the experimental 50s community of Victory, an utopic gated paradise where the men go to work on “innovative material developments” and the wives tend to the house and prepare to welcome them back.

Obviously the facade starts to crack as Alice starts asking questions about’s Jack actual work, and notices some odd things that do not match their perfect lives…

It’s a shame the visuals are great, as there are some good ideas here, but the script it’s really flawed, like, even the actual reveal of the twist and its implications are undermined by how the writing it’s overreliant on pure narrative commodities (characters are mostly infodumps for the audience), some notable repetition, notable holes and “horror allucinatory sequences” that deliver some solid visuals but are also just.. kinda randomly there.

While flawed, Don’t Worry Darling it’s entertaining and pulled through by the performances (Florence Pugh alone carries the whole thing), the excellent cinematography and some remarkable directorial ambition, so overall i’d say it’s ok, i liked it more than i expected to, honestly.

[EXPRESSO] Beast (2022) | Lion Puncher Idris Elba

I know what some of you thought when this one was announced.

“Isn’t this basically a remake of the movie “Prey” from 2007, but with Idris Elba?”

And indeed i thought the same, but luckily i forgot pretty much anything in detail about that movie, despite watching it in theathers when it came out, i only remember it being either quite shit or not good.

But yep, the premise it’s the pretty much identical, with a family going on a safari only to be forced into confronting a killer lion on a revenge mission against humans, after it survived an attack from some poachers. Don’t worry though, this potentially interesting facet it just mentioned and never explored, because it would cut into the cliched interactions between the family members.

Just some minor differences as it’s just the dad and the two daughters, since the wife died and this safari was meant as an experience to elaborate grief together, this type of mild tripe layered on top, but it’s kinda different as it’s a modern killer animal movie, so it not a full-on horror-thriller affair, it has horror elements but – curiously enough – it’s more about very old school adventure style scenes, despite the big antagonist being a lion acting pretty much like a slasher villain.

Keeping in mind it’s not really a horror (or horror-thriller) film, Beast it’s fairly entertaining, the acting is solid, good production values, and its hard to dislike a movie where Idris Elba punches a lion in the face multiple times, but the script is too cliched, generic and uninterested in actually explore any of the potential themes the premise provides, the characters don’t fare much better, so it ends up being a pleasing enough, fast moving experience but also quite a throwaway one.

Prey (2016) [REVIEW] | La-la-lion Goes To Amsterdam

Since that new movie about the killer lion with Idris Elba (simply called Beast) is coming out soon here too, let’s pick one of the currently available ones on Amazon Prime Video that fit into the subniche of killer lions flick, at least at the time of writing.

As in, i wanted to review Prey… the 2006 one, but since it’s not streaming there, the other killer lion flick from 2016 will do, and because originality it’s an ephemeral phantom, both movie are simply called “Prey”.

Not be confused with the new Predator movie.

Or the Netflix german horror thriller of the same name.

Or the two similar-yet-unrelated Prey games.

This is 2016’s Prey (since “Prooi” translates to that, also known as Violent Fierce Lion, so whatever, you can call your movie “Prey”, whatever), and it’s by dutch director Dick Maas, better known for Amsterdamned, the Flodder comedy series, but also behind the horror christmas movie Saint/Sint, and the often forgotten entry in the “killer elevator” subgenre with 1983’s The Lift, his debut film, which he actually remade with american actors in 2001 as Down/The Shaft.

Continua a leggere “Prey (2016) [REVIEW] | La-la-lion Goes To Amsterdam”

[EXPRESSO] MEN (2022) | Manstalking 101

AH, yes, that sequel to The Woman we were waiting for, and by Alex Garland nonetheless, um!

One hell of a title that goes straight to the point, does tell you what it’s actually about, and it’s not ashamed to be beyond blunt in the handling of its themes of misoginy and female abuse.

The movie tells of a woman renting out a house in a small countryside english village for two weeks, in order for her to recover from seeing her husband commit suicide (by jumping off from a balcony in the apartment above theirs) after she decided to finally divorce him.

But instead of some quiet solace to process events, she’s stalked by a naked man from the woods, and confronted by a variety of other men that are either condescending, hostile, weird or abusive, most of which seem to share the same face.

To be honest, considering the director involved, MEN it’s kinda disappointing, and not necessarily because it’s so decisively non-subtle about its themes (after all, social media showed us how subtlety is less and less effective), but more because the script lacks the usual sophistication and quality, so we have this really good cast and direction, some incredible (and incredibly disgusting) scenes in the latter half that in themselves make the movie worth seeing, good atmosphere..

…. but also a very slow moving first act, and the script trying to make up for its excessively straightforward nature by overdosing on the “A24”-isms to the point it’s kinda silly, since it mostly stylistic filler that should have been dialed back, since it doesn’t add any real substance and hammer over the already obvious motifs.

Again, it’s just disappointing, but overall a decent horror thriller still worth watching, as the final act definitely delivers “the goods”.

[EXPRESSO] X (2022) | Fornicators!

Kinda “surprise release” of this one in theathers here, didn’t really expect it!

I wasn’t familiar with Ti West’s work before i saw this, FIY, but i’m glad i did.

Set in 1970’s rural america, X tells of a crew that rents a farm house in Houstin, Texas, from an elderly couple, to whom they obviously didn’t told their real purpose: shooting a porno film in order to make it big thanks to the promises of “home video entertaiment” as an upcoming industry.

The problem is the couple happens decrepit and crazy, as they both are driven homicidal by the lethal combination of old age, puritanical christian values (fueled by fearmongering televangelists) that clash with the newfound sexual revolution in the younger generations, and envy.

It’s a tribute to the early 70s gruesome slashers and similar films depicting – at the time – unseen levels of violence, set in the remote depths of Texas, but it’s not just style and homages, as it balances out comedy, fairly violent gore with creepy, unsettling sequences, great acting and good characters, even the villains have a relatable side.

Also, incredibly it juggles the line very well in terms of the exploitation factor, as it’s fairly graphic, the kills are satisfying, there’s plenty of nudity, so it definitely doesn’t pull punches, but also doesn’t feel it’s being too excessive or tacky, showing some class and being able to touch upon some meaningful topics, of having some moments of earnest tenderness amongst the carnage.

And even a bit of Lake Placid action, between the porno shoots and the creepy elders deciding its time yet again to vent the frustration of old age on the youngins.

It’s also very damn satisfying in terms of kills, to boot, so i’d say X it’s pretty good stuff.

Recommended!

[EXPRESSO] Black Phone (2021) | The Basement Dead

Time for some fresh meat, as this one will drop in theathers here in a week’s time, but i manage to see this earlier preview screening, and boy i’m glad i did, as i’ve heard of this movie before but kinda forgot when or if it was gonna come out in theathers here.

Based on the short story of the same name by Joe Hill, Black Phone is the new feature from Sinister ‘s (and the 2016’s Doctor Strange, as marketing makes abundantly clear) director Scott Derrickson, telling the story of a serial killer – dubbed “The Grabber” by the community – that in 1978 terrorizes a suburban town in Colorado by kidnapping children, with the sixth being the 13 yo Finny Shaw. While being imprisoned, Finny realizes that the black phone in the basement, despite having the line physically severed, acts a conduit for the Grabber’ previous victims to talk with the boy and hopefully help him escape. At the same time, Finny’s sister begins to have weird dreams, or visions..

You know when the trailer and most of the marking material makes the movie look good and “proper”, you go see it and then it’s actually quite good? Yeah, Black Phone it’s one of those.

Not only the setting it’s good, the presentation excellent at using “low budget tricks” like scenes filmed or edited to feel like era archive footage (which is not surprising given the director), all contributing to avoid the common modern mistake of “overly produced/shiny horror movies”, it’s a pretty creepy slice of that late 70s’ suburban America, with a really good atmosphere, a little bit of well integrated comedy and great characters all around, with the villain being as creepy as he looks.

Pretty good, fairly intense and quite satisfying to boot. Recommended.

[EXPRESSO] Black Parthenope (2022) | ♫ Goin’ Naples Underground ♫

Bringing you more new italian horror movies coverage, the new ones that just kinda “sprout” out of nowhere into the programming schedule of my local cinemas, with no fanfare and almost no national marketing budget to speak of.

And i guess this is the year of smaller italian horror movies like this that frustrate me, as they make good use of distinctive regional italian locations and have some potential, but kinda squander it or are afflicted by fairly big flaws.

Black Parthenope is a horror thriller set in the incredibly extensive set of underground catacombs and tunnels of Naples, the so called “Naples Underground”, where some business people met in order to sell the entire “underground city” to a company that’ll make parking lots out of it, but they get lost and haunted by the neopolitean folklore legend of the “Monaciello” (meaning “small monk”), a wronged soul that was shunned and then killed in the underground tunnels, forever seeking revenge on anyone that walks his haunting grounds.

The Neapolis Underground setting it’s great, some of the scenes manage to create a decent atmosphere, the cast it’s decent and it’s a well produced movie… but it’s almost brought down entirely by how shallow, grating and obnoxious the characters are, to say nothing of the aggressively awful dialogue, and how uneven and often middlesome direction can be, falling back to cliches in a way telling of this being a feature debut for the director in question.

While the final part partially redeems the movie from “proper bad” territory, the first act almost makes you wanna give up on it entirely, but at least you can tell that this movie was always meant to be a thriller-horror movie, unlike the previosly reviewed The Bunker Game.

Even so, it’s definitely not a bad effort!

Resurrection (1999) [REVIEW] | In Lambert We Trust

You might or might not celebrate the upcoming festivity, be indifferent, but in the spirit of the holiday, let’s take a break of sorts and on this today go away from the non-budgets or the endless parade of director-actor-producer-writer one-man homegrown created film featuring either a giant or man-sized rabbity thing (NOT of Purcellian’s descent) going around killing people.

We already “did” Beaster Day/ The Beaster Bunny, and i will have that as a representative of the “ rabbit horror movies” subgenre, with 90 % of these belonging to the “no budget” category and often more than not just being more about rabbits than Easter, see for example the previously covered Bunnyman trilogy, which at least doesn’t pretend to be themed around the holiday (as it isn’t).

So instead we’ll talk about the 1999 crime thriller Resurrection, about a detective (played by Christopher Lambert) and his partner (Leland Orser) hunting down a serial killer emerging in the weeks preceding Easter, with the blasphemous plan of creating a new Jesus Christ by sawing together body parts taken from his victims, carefully selected by following the canon, literally.

I’m honestly surprised how – aside from the tired zombie jokes – there’s barely anything in terms of actual horror movies using a similar or the same macabre idea of “my very own flesh boy, JC”, or the theme of resurrection that’s the main point and what this holiday celebrates/it’s about.

And for a nice festive surprise, it’s actually a pretty decent detective thriller, and a solid film overall, the horror element is strong, the idea of the “DIY messiah” is quite grisly and unsettling, with some good gore effects, and yes, you get to see the final frankensteined flesh conscruct, quite the thing.

Sure, it ain’t too original in terms of characters (and the flashback of the incident involving the main detective’s son it’s so trite that becomes unintentionally kinda funny, given how cheesy it is), but it’s well acted, it has a recognizable cast with great actors, even David Cronenberg acting as the red herring creepish pastor, and Russell Mulcahy’s direction (with this movie marking his continuining collaboration with Lambert after the first two Highlander movies) it’s fairly gripping, hitting all the expected beats of the detective thriller flick, with the fake outs, the religiously obsessive serial killer leaving fittingly themed Bible references on the victims, supported by the great cinematography of Jonathan Freeman and decent dialogues with a few memorable quotes.

It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a really robust offering, definitely in the decent-to-good tier of detective thrillers, it has a very young looking Christopher Lambert in it, and to seal the deal, it’s most likely streaming on Amazon Prime Video in your neck of the woods too, so if you like the premise and-or don’t want to bother with crappy Easter themed horror movies, this is an easy recommendation.

I don’t have much to say about this, in all honesty, but in this case i’d say it’s a good sign, and i’m not gonna inflate this review for the sake of it.

[EXPRESSO] Occhiali Neri/Dark Glasses (2022) | A Knife For The (Blind) Ladies

You know, this movie just existing should be reason enough to celebrate for many invested in horror movies and adiacent cinema grounds, i mean, a new movie from Dario Argento, and one that sounds like a throwback to old giallo thriller-horrors…. sounds promising, doesn’t it?

At least it does if you’re thinking of Suspiria’s Dario Argento, not the one who cursed us with the abysmal shlockfest of Dracula 3D back in 2012, i remember distinctly that one and will always bring it up as a testament that sometimes, yes, you can lose the “touch” (or the “power”) in a dramatically disastrous and disheartening fashion that shits on your entire legacy.

So yeah, i didn’t set myself for unwarranted expectations of competency… and sadly i was right.

Set in a solar eclipsed Rome, the plot of Dark Glasses see a young escort named Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) being stalked by a serial killer, leading to a tragic car crash which makes her blind and with vague memories of the incident, and also makes orphan a young chinese boy called Chin (Xinyu Zhang). Diana receives help, a guide dog, and tries to make amends to Chin, but the serial killer comes back to finish the job….

I’ll say this: where Dracula 3D was the depressing kind of bad, Dark Glasses is so bad it’s actually laughable, with the trifecta of main characters where the best acting is actually provided by the seeing-eye dog (i’m not kidding, some unbelievably bad acting, especially from the lead actress), a formulaic and ridiculous script filled with embarassing dialogues, questionable editing, and a fuckton of not giving a shit.

Also the old-school practical gore effects by Argento’s regular Sergio Stivaletti are fun, it’s short and the soundtrack genuinely slaps.

Still crap, but better than Dracula 3D, at least.