A Doug Stanhope live performance, filmed in Las Vegas in 2019. Perhaps for fans only of the misanthropic comic, Dying is nevertheless breathtaking in places for Stanhope’s determination to mine meta-comedy about touring life – and by extension, identity and the limits of free speech – and from that to work to a serious point. Dangerously close to art.
Now an adult, the survivor of a family massacre investigates their past. Low-key drama with thriller elements that can’t work out if it’s a reflective or a genre piece; the result is a mixed bag. Good-looking and well-cast and acted, but patchy. Intercutting between then and now dilutes rather than heightens tension.
The story of an online sensation: a clown you can pay to scare your children. Solid documentary (which flirts with the extent to which it might be fictional, an art project, or something else) that explores memes, contemporary media folk devils, coulrophobia, parenting, “behavioural services”, and more.
A documentary about the new town of Basildon in Essex, focusing on its modernist post-war architecture, the utopian ideas underpinning new towns, and social issues generated via unintended consequences. Hopeful in the ways it seeks positives, finding value in art, expression, and subcultures; there’s lots to appreciate here.
A documentary about Leon Vitali, who turned from acting in Barry Lyndon – abandoning an established career – to become director Stanley Kubrick’s amanuensis from the mid-70s on. Fascinating case study of fan-worship and obsessions, of the tolls that they can take, and of the centrality of lived experience to cinematic legacy. Recommended.
An ex-con mechanic runs to clear himself of a cop’s murder by corrupt colleagues. Superior French action thriller, played straight and with some verve in the fight scenes and automotive carnage. Doublecrosses and so on as you might expect between the well-orchestrated mayhem. Doesn’t overstay its welcome, either.
A deaf teenager tries to summon her dead mother, but attracts other entities instead. Good-looking Italy-set horror flick that doesn’t hold back with creepy imagery taken from a hundred evil child/gothic scare/J-horror movies. Wobbles toward the climax, but some lovely touches throughout, even if the script is a collection of best bits from elsewhere.
A last-ditch effort to restart the Sun through deploying a nuclear device goes awry. Handsome though derivative SF that can’t decide if it’s an arthouse piece or a mainstream thriller. In trying to be both, and in quoting from Alien, 2001, 2010, Silent Running, Event Horizon, Dark Star and others along the way, it struggles for clarity and distinctiveness.
A man locked in a multi-level vertical prison has limited food and time before he randomly changes floors. Brilliantly sinister and satirical, this fantastic looking film is tightly scripted, well acted and amazingly well shot. A definite must see on Netflix.
The making and impact of George A Romero’s 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead. Genial documentary, focused on an interview with Romero himself plus genre stalwarts such as Larry Fessenden, making some straightforward though nevertheless valid points about the film’s counterculture origins and its social commentary, as well as on its genre status.