We’re living through some weird times right now, with weekly chaotic developments that can be easy to miss. You’d be forgiven for not hearing the news that Uwe Boll is making a directing comeback. During the 2000’s, Boll was the internet’s love to hate director for his involvement in various video game adaptations during the new millennium. About a third of IMDB users had a pot shot to take at him. But unlike many filmmakers who make flops and are rarely heard from, Boll has directed thirty films to this point, along with his name on others. He’s covered an impressive range of genres during that time: boxing dramas, war films, slashers, prison films, and slapstick comedies. But it’s the ten video game adaptations that put him on the map with critical revile, while he pressed on, proving he could make a film fast and cheap, almost rivaling Corman in his prime. Unlike other directors who want to fight their critics, Boll actually did, in the boxing ring. He has a unique personality to say the least, and the way he feeds into the hate attitude has earned him a fanbase, both passionate and ironic. After angrily announcing his retirement in 2016, some audiences moved on while others waited patiently. The wisest of us know, you can’t keep a good villain down. And his return is perfectly timed, as we are reaching the 20-year anniversary of House of the Dead, the film that started it all. With the remaster of the original game launching as well, this low hanging fruit is too ripe to pass up. Maybe this movie is better than we gave it credit for. Yeah, SPOILER ALERT, and APRIL FOOLS!
Let’s be real, everyone loves a good mystery. Thankfully, the world is in no shortage of them for people looking to fill that void. You know, the ones who once had a dream of becoming the next Sherlock Holmes. Many on the internet like to think that dream has become a reality, with how quickly a crime story or bizarre piece of media can spread online, flooding message boards and social media with discussion. We’re naturally drawn to try and peel back the layers of what we find frightening from the safety of our own home, searching for clues to debunk the creepy video or photo of the week. Broadcast Signal Intrusion is a film that uses that concept and takes it back to a simpler time, the “wild west” days of the internet where not everything was just a click away and the true crime community was in its chatroom infancy.
I recently was asked why we would need another Batman movie right now. The last live-action iteration wasn’t long ago and there are plenty of cartoons and comic versions that we could watch for years (Lego Batman may still be my favorite) but alas a new caped crusader has come to the big screen and despite scrutiny and months of belittling by those hung up for one reason or another, The Batman is a glorious theatrical experience that slaps aside the negative energy to give us what will undoubtedly be one of the best films of 2022. I suppose, like many plays and songs, a fresh take can make all the difference in the world.
It’s been three years since the documentary Horror Noire appeared on our screens. Directed by Xavier Burgin, written by Ashlee Blackwell and Danielle Burrows, produced by Blackwell and Burrows as well as Phil Nobile, Jr. and Kelly Ryan and Tananarive Due, the film was a translation of a monumental work of scholarship by Dr. Robin R. Means Coleman, the book Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from 1890's to Present.
Green Room, the third film by Jeremy Saulnier, finds the director in an exciting place as both a technical craftsman and an engaging storyteller. Yes, it is as intense, if not arguably more so, than his previous effort Blue Ruin (2014); and in places, it can be as darkly comical as his first feature Murder Party (2007), yet it remains unquestionably its own film. It is bleak, claustrophobic, uncomfortable, and bordering on nihilistic. Still, beneath the impressive technical chops that make up the movie’s most easy-to-appreciate points, it is flexing its thematic and intellectual muscle. Like Blue Ruin, Green Room is a film with a straightforward narrative that complements a more significant theme; Green Room critiques the rise of white nationalism in fringe art scenes and cautions against its rise in mainstream politics.
Immigration has always been a rich, dramatic subject for cinema, especially with continual debates about borders and undocumented immigrants, mixed with reactionary paranoia of population displacement and "white genocide." African diaspora cinema, in particular, has seen the release of several critically acclaimed and fascinating films along these lines, from classics such as Ousmane Sembene's Black Girl (1966) and Djibril Diop Mambety's Touki-Bouki (1973) to contemporary films like Mati Diop's Atalntics (2019) to Ekwa Msangi Farewell Amor (2020). One film, in particular, stands out from the rest for its impressive style and utilization of horror to comment on the immigration experience. That film, the exquisite Remi Weekes' debut feature His House, stands as one of the best films, horror or otherwise, from 2020.
Animation as a medium is uniquely situated for experimentation. However, at times, the medium can feel as though it is a microcosm of cinema as a whole: tightly controlled in form and mode into hegemony by media corporations only interested in acquiring endless capital. Even Disney, a company that pioneered various animation techniques and technologies, has been limited in what kind of experiences they can create. Thus, despite the limitless potential of the medium, one in which creation is only limited by imagination, we are inundated with increasingly familiar and formulaic animation. So, when a film comes along and upends this hegemony, it is a cause for celebration. La Casa Lobo, an undeniably idiosyncratic work from Chilean artist-filmmakers Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña, is such a film.
Although based on a true story, 892 makes use of the fact that many viewers will be unfamiliar with the original story. We open with a broken down man in Atlanta walking through the more dreary parts of town, which doesn’t really narrow it down but I have no doubt many will recognize a few places like I did having grown up just thirty minutes away (an hour with traffic). The man is Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega) who is trying to finish a conversation with his daughter on the phone before it ends suddenly. He’s low on money but promises more is coming soon. The next day he walks into a Wells Fargo bank and hands the teller a note. He has a bomb and will use it if he doesn’t get what he wants.
Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives in a house in the woods with her mom (Toby Poser). Her mom has told her that she has an immune disorder, and exposure to other people could hurt her or maybe hurt the others. She’s homeschooled and the only person she ever sees is her mom. Since Izzy is an older teen, you might expect that Izzy’s personality would be exceptionally odd or off-putting, but actually she’s very easy-going, just mildly shy. That probably has something to do with her mom relating to her in a pretty relaxed way.