In the Tall Grass (2019) – Hey You Kids, Get Out Of My Lawn!

Released: 4th October
Seen: 5th October

Stephen King is a master of taking things that aren’t normally scary and making them terrifying. Puppies, classic cars, a cell phone, he’s taken them and twisted them into the stuff of nightmares. In 2012, Stephen collaborated with his son Joe Hill for a short story called In the Tall Grass, because now Stephen wants us to be scared of lawns. One of these days he’s going to make a film about a killer lamp and then someone will make a movie about it and I’ll end up enjoying that almost as much as I enjoyed this film.

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Joker (2019) – I Started A Joke

Released: 3rd October
Seen: 3rd October

There’s an old Looney Tunes episode called Show Biz Bugs where Daffy and Bugs are going head to head on a stage doing various acts and Daffy finally has enough and pulls out “The act I’ve been saving for a special occasion”. The act consists of Daffy wearing a devils outfit and walking on stage and drinking a bottle of nitro-glycerine, then a goodly amount of gunpowder and some uranium-238. He then shakes it all up inside him, throws a lit match down his throat and explodes. The crowd goes wild and Bugs yells “Daffy, that’s terrific. They want more!” and Daffy’s ghost says “I know, but I can only do it once”. That’s kind of how I feel about this movie, it’s a fantastic trick to pull off but they can only do it once.

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Rambo: Last Blood (2019) – Last Dud

Released: 19th September
Seen: 2nd October

Rambo is probably the series that will go down as having the worst naming system of them all. It’s almost laughably bad how this franchise is ordered. We have First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo and now Rambo: Last Blood. In 50 years when historians are trying to order these things, it’s going to be almost goddamn impossible because this series was named stupidly. The films themselves are a mixed bag in terms of quality. I think the first two are the best, certainly the ones that have the most to say about the aftermath of the Vietnam war, but the latter two have their moments of just being plain old fun and over the top. This most recent one… well, I didn’t outright hate it, so let’s start from there.

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The Lodge (2019) – Checking Out

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Some horror films are fast-paced thrill rides that don’t go more than 10 minutes without doing something to make the audience jump in their seats. Some horror films are slower, building tension gradually for a few hours until it explodes with a dramatic climax that is made exponentially scarier thanks to the hour of buildup. Then there are horror films that try to be slow, occasionally throw in a scare to remind the audience that there’s a film going and builds to a climax that answers nothing, justifies no one and makes the people watching sit with their jaws hanging open whispering “What the hell did I just sit through?”. This is that third kind of film.

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Use Me (2019) – Take My Money!

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

Go see this movie. Find it, see it, thank me when you’re done. Normally I would try and give some elaborate bit of information here that would set things up or maybe even explore how I found the film but here? No, go see this movie wherever it is. Do you have to climb a mountain to see it? Get your Sherpa, start climbing. Do you need to walk on hot coals? Burn your feet, it’s worth it. Do you have to sell your firstborn? You can have another one, kids are cheap now so throw Timmy in the ticket booth and go see this film. I don’t want you to look up details or anything like that, just trust me… or keep reading this and then go see it, but go see this goddamn movie.

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Them That Follow (2019) – Snakes and Stones May Break My Bones

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

In 2014 a story circulated about a pastor in Kentucky, the leader of a church called the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name and he was giving his sermon when suddenly he died… oh, his sermon would involve carrying a large poisonous snake around and the reason he died was that the poisonous snake bit him on the hand and injected him with a large amount of venom. This is actually a thing that’s more widespread than you might think, one article I found suggested that over 125 churches use poisonous snakes as part of the service. Several pastors and churchgoers have died from snake bites in these services, to the point where local authorities have had to intervene just to try and keep them from harming the community. Basically, this stuff was almost destined to be used as the foundation for a religious thriller and they got a pretty good one.

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Tone-Deaf (2019) – Make Allegory Great Again

Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival

This year I had the distinct pleasure of going to the Sydney Underground Film Festival, not as press but purely for fun because I genuinely love a film festival that’s dedicated to the weirder side of cinema. This is the stuff that probably would never see a mainstream theatrical release unless we were having a particularly slow period of releases and cinemas got desperate. During this festival I saw 11 films over 3 days and so, between mainstream movie reviews, I’ll be dropping these for a while to share my views on films you might want to track down if you can find them… because dammit, I watched all of them, you’re damn right I’m getting the most that I possibly can out of the experience. Let’s start with the first film I saw at the festival, Tone-Deaf.

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Serial Mom (1994) – Mommy Dearest

We live in a time where crime re-enactment shows are back and bigger than ever. With hit TV series like American Crime Story, films like Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile or even hit podcasts like Serial, we can’t get enough of stories about murderers and the crimes they committed. This obsession has been around for years but it really hit the big time in the 90s when the O.J. Simpson murder trial became must-see-TV and effectively took the True Crime genre into the stratosphere. Of course, whenever there’s a genre this popular it will inevitably get a few people parodying it. We’ve all seen a thousand various parodies of Making a Murderer, Netflix ended up just making an official parody of their own hit series with American Vandal. It’s an easy genre to make fun of but there was one movie that beat them all to the punch, possibly one of the earliest to parody this genre right before its big O.J. related explosion… the cult comedy Serial Mom

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The Banana Splits Movie (2019) – Five Nights At Fleegle’s

Released: 4th September
Seen: 6th September

One of the great things about the horror genre is its ability to take something innocent and, with minimal alterations, turn it into an icon of terror. Santa Claus was never a scary creation but put an axe in his hand and you have the poster for Silent Night, Deadly Night. No one used to associate hockey masks with horror until one unlucky day when a boy named Jason put one on before heading out to Camp Crystal Lake. That’s the power of horror; innocent images can be given malevolent meaning just by a change in context. So, if this idea works for well-known images like Santa or the hockey mask, the question is if it can work for a bunch of iconic animal costumes from a 60s variety show. The answer is yes, but only as a novelty.

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Angel Has Fallen (2019) – And He Can’t Get Up

Released: 23rd August
Seen: 30th August

The ‘Fallen’ film series is one of the strangest film series that I’ve seen lately because it’s a series that somehow keeps making money and keeps getting sequels and yet I have never heard a single person talk about the original two. Be honest, do you even remember that Olympus Has Fallen happened? Because the only interesting thing about that movie was that it came out in the same year as White House Down and they both shared the idea of terrorists attacking the White House to get to the president and a random secret service guy steps up to stop them. The first movie in the Fallen series was… OK? I mean, it had an interesting location and some good explosions but other than that nothing was interesting about it. Then the sequel… well, let’s just say they replaced the interesting location with racism and that was it. So what about this film? Did they do anything different or interesting to make this series finally be interesting or memorable?

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