A Fall from Grace (2020) – Graceless Melodrama

Released: 17th January
Seen: 21st January

Tyler Perry is a director whose work I’ve never watched before. I’ve heard about it, it’s reputation precedes it, but I’ve never seen anything he’s made. Most of his films came out before I did this reviewing thing so I would react like most people and look at the posters and say “That looks like shit” and then go see something else. The ones he’s released since I started reviewing never made it to the cinema near me so again, no reason for me to try and see them. I will say that I respect the man for what he’s done in the industry, there aren’t many black writer-directors who are getting consistent work and somehow Tyler Perry has made it so he is making a movie every year, often with a largely black cast. He recently opened the first black-owned movie studio which is absolutely incredible and he deserves a spot in cinematic history just for that alone. I respect him… but that doesn’t mean I have to like the movie he made, which I really don’t.

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Ghost Stories (2020) – Boo!

Released: 1st January
Seen: 4th January

The anthology film is a sad rarity nowadays, especially in Horror. Horror used to be a haven for great little films that told several short scary stories but we haven’t had a truly great one in a while, the last one I can remember being truly special was the V/H/S series (I’m aware Nightmare Cinema came out last year to decent notices but I haven’t been able to see that one yet). The big thing that makes these films particularly special is how they link together. That connection is what takes something from a series of short films to a cohesive anthology film. V/H/S did it with the gimmick of every story being done in a found-footage style, a simple little gimmick but an effective one that allowed each story to flow naturally between each other and made it feel more like a single film rather than a series of shorts. Netflix is now having a go at it by distributing the movie Ghost Stories and… oh boy.

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6 Underground (2019) – Bury it!

Released: 13th December
Seen: 24th December

During the promotional tour for this movie, the star Ryan Reynolds was happy to describe the film as “The most Michael Bay movie ever”. This kind of warning had me worried because I have a bit of a history with Michael Bay movies and the promise of the most Michael Bay movie ever sounds more like a threat than anything. See, I still contend that the last Transformers movie is so bad that it should basically bar Michael Bay from making a movie with a budget that’s above 5 million until he learns how to make a movie… and then Netflix in their infinite wisdom promised to release his latest film 6 Underground and my life is now actively worse because of it. Seriously Netflix, I understand that you need to have content that you own outright because everyone else is taking their content away to put on their own streaming platforms but how hard would it be for you to have just the tiniest bit of quality control. Not much, just enough to stop encouraging Michael Bay to keep making movies.

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Black Christmas (2019) – Coal In My Stocking

Released: 13th December
Seen: 14th December

When we look back at the history of the horror genre and specifically the modern American slasher film we end up having a few early films that could claim ownership of being the first of that subgenre. Black Christmas, a 1974 film by director Bob Clark, is regularly cited as one of the earliest slasher films and a major influence on everyone who followed. It was notable for having a cast of almost all women and for never showing the face of the killer, known only as ‘Billy’. While it was only a modest box office success at the time it’s gone on to get the accolades it deserves for its genuinely groundbreaking narrative and aesthetic… and then someone remade it in 2006, sucked out every bit of subtlety and intelligence from the film and made something that’s almost emblematic of what not to do with a slasher movie remake. So naturally, when another remake of Black Christmas was announced, people were sceptical… and then they announced it would include lots of feminism and the people on the internet who like to claim they know about horror movies but clearly never saw the original Black Christmas lost their freaking minds for all the wrong reasons when they should’ve waited to see the film and lose their minds because it’s just not that good.

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21 Bridges (2019) – Bridge Over Tepid Water

Released: 27th November
Seen: 4th December

So, fun story, I’ve had several opportunities now to go and see Terminator Dark Fate. I’ve had the time, the screenings have been local and I’ve even planned on it… I just can’t be bothered. A week ago when I saw Arctic Justice and Countdown on the same day, I planned on seeing Terminator that day too but ended up not bothering with it because it just didn’t seem like it was worth my time… but Arctic Justice and Countdown? Oh, those I had to go see. Same with Addams Family and Knives Out, I planned on the day I saw those to end with me seeing Terminator but after Knives Out, I just didn’t have the interest to stick around to see it because my day was already officially perfect and I didn’t want anything to ruin that (seriously, if you haven’t seen Knives Out then go see Knives Out and thank me later on). 

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Countdown (2019) – Please Be The Final

Released: 24th October
Seen: 27th November

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, Horror is a very silly genre. Almost by design, it’s a genre that will look at something in everyday life and say “What if we did that, but made it deadly”. Stephen King is the master of this, he took cars and cell phones and long grass and found a way to make them terrifying. Sometimes horror also takes something, makes it deadly, and then acknowledges how silly that is. Jack Frost, for example, is about a killer snowman… there is no way on earth to make that scary, so you lean into the comic absurdity of it. So naturally when you hear a plot idea like “It’s an app that kills you”, I kind of expected something a little tongue in cheek… I also expected something fun and I really need to stop doing that because it tends to not happen when I want it to.

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The Last Witness (2018) – Badgering The Witness

Released: 29th May (2018)
Seen: 21st November (Lift Off Film Festival)

Sometimes you can tell everything about a movie just by a basic description of its genre and the descriptive term “Your average”. For example, if I said to you that The Prowler was your average 80s Slasher then you would have a good idea of what to expect from that movie. You automatically picture certain visual style, acting choices and even setting and as long as the movie hits those notes it’s fine. It might not be great but it’s fine. Well, The Last Witness is your average post-WW2 movie set in Britain. It delivers what you expect, but that’s about it.

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Knives Out (2019) – It Murdered Me

Released: 28th November
Seen: 23rd November (Advance Screening)

One of my favourite films of all time is the immortal Clue, the camp murder mystery based on the board game of the same name… in the states, in Australia it was named Cluedo for reasons I don’t understand. Everything about it makes me so happy from its quotable dialogue to the crazy camp characters to the luscious set that just begs you to enjoy every element of it. The film is a cult classic but it contains one massive flaw… no way in hell could you actually solve that thing. It has three different endings and all of them rely on information the audience never gets until the moment Wadsworth starts running around and telling everyone who did it. For years I was waiting for a movie to come around with great dialogue, crazy fun characters and a murder mystery that actually feels solvable as the plot comes out… and Rian Johnson clearly heard my plea because he made that exact film and I love it so much.

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The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) – UGGGH

Released: 5th April
Seen: 6th November

When we look through history for the point when certain eras ended, we tend to look for major events that were turning points. It can be argued that the 60s, the era of free love, ended on August 9th 1969 when actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends were brutally murdered by the Manson Family (who I shall henceforth refer to as as “that pack of murdering assholes” because I’m the one typing this and I get to be as petty as I want!). The vile crime was historic in how shocking it was and the man who inspired it (now dead, YAY) was instantly recognized as the face of true evil. It’s a tragedy that people keep revisiting in film, to varied results. It’s usually incredibly tasteless, focusing on that pack of murdering assholes and they never have good acting. The one time I can think of when someone did something good with the entire horrific affair was earlier this year when Once Upon A Time In Hollywood did a “What If?” story where Sharon never even had to know who that pack of murdering assholes was… so, naturally, in the same year we get the best possible version of a retelling of the Sharon Tate murders we also have to get the absolute worst version because we live in a hellscape and everything is awful.

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47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019) – A Sinking Feeling

Released: 31st October
Seen: 5th November

In 2017 a low budget horror film called 47 Meters Down hit cinemas. With a budget of only $5 Million, it ended up bringing in over $60 million worldwide. It wasn’t exactly Jaws but it was a fun little horror film with a simple premise, a pair of main characters who were intelligent and likable and a simple set of stakes that made it easy to get sucked in and enjoy the mostly mindless fun. While not a classic, it was enjoyable and would easily do the job on any scary movie night if you needed something to add to a mini-marathon… and then someone decided to do a sequel, but with all the good ideas taken out and replaced with dumb ones, because that always works well.

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