Horror is arguably the film genre you should take the least notice of when it comes to general opinion, because there are so many hidden gems beneath the overwhelming negativity towards something like FearDotCom. In a way it’s understandable why this wasn’t liked too much as there’s such a messy angle to everything Malone does here, but it’s done in the most creative and explosive way that the chaotic evolution of the narrative leaves a lot to be appreciated. It flickers regularly between glaring similarities to German Expressionism and the more contemporary torture porn sub-genre with even narrative connections to the Nightmare on Elm Street series in how it utilises the visceral dream sequences to its advantage. Add in some expressive camera work which skews the viewer to the point of distortion and that ever-present grimy, almost neon, photography and you’ve got a work of genre which doesn’t always feel as realised and substantial as it could’ve been, but one which never tires of showing a creative flare that helps overshadow its flaws.
This is as emphatic, brutal and uncompromising as they come. The Tin Drum chronicles the life of Oskar from before his birth, his actual birth itself as he peers out of the wombs and right up until he’s 21 years old. There’s something startling about Schlondorff uses the symbolism of the tin drum to express little Oskar’s emotions and the commentary on Germany’s suffocation of politics through war. He manages to craft a tale which works equally as a tale of adolescence, but also a study of its war torn era. Schlondorff, throughout, is quite clearly not afraid of really going for it with many sequences portraying a perverse and understandably controversial edge, but the deeper The Tin Drum goes and the worse the stakes get, the poignancy really shows.
As far as comparisons go, I couldn’t get the narrative similarities with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Sante Sangre out of my mind. Much of that is owed to how both films document a tale of a young boy’s maturity in quite extraordinary circumstances, but while the locale is different and the consequences of both tales pans out different, there’s a real connection to be recognised between the two. I don’t say that lightly as Sante Sangre is one of my favourite movies of all-time. Saying that, I wouldn’t ever recommend anyone do back to back viewings of both as there is far too much pain, brutality and exhaustion to be witnessed throughout the two.
Rich, uncompromising and absolutely fascinating. Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats evokes photography similar to that seen in Claire Denis’ Beau Travail, while working the dirty personality of its narrative with connections to the films of Larry Clark and Gregg Araki, if I’m really stretching it. That’s the beauty of this movie. It reminds of other works of independent cinema in the purest way possible, but still creates an identity for itself as we witness its aimless protagonist on his journey to nowhere. He’s trapped in a mind that doesn’t know what he wants, but engaged by his exploits along this journey. There’s something very dark about how Hittman analyses this turmoil, while still portraying it with a tender edge that helps drastically. As it draws to a close and Frankie is no closer to knowing where his head is, we feel that uncertainty and it strikes like a bomb. It’s emphatic, complicated and quite extraordinary. I’d go so far as to not only claim it as one of my favourite movies of last year, but as a masterpiece deserving of a wide, open-minded audience. A staggering, confident work of cinema.
I’d say this is one of the richest and most precisely orchestrated dramas I can recall seeing in many years. There’s such a thunderous atmosphere flooded throughout Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth as he crafts a film which manages to find an admirable balance between the power of silence and the outspoken nature of its titular protagonist. What appears as just another 19th century period drama soon morphs into a chilling tale of murder, lust and betrayal. This is helped by a screenplay which accurately represents the film’s wide range of emotions and dark themes, but without Florence Pugh’s controlling performance all these compliments would be meaningless. It’s an integral part of the film, Pugh portraying this figure with the most assured confidence that should see her go far as an actress. If anything, it’s one of the best performances of the year from any actor, male or female and Lady Macbeth stands tall alongside the best films released in the year. A phenomenal work of tension and accuracy.
Simply put, this is one of the most enthralling works of mystique I can recall seeing in years. Everything Joachim Trier places within Thelma is flooded with the most precise atmosphere that its power is hard to fully realise until the camera finally pans out one final time. As he did with the equally impressive Oslo, August 31, Trier succeeds by connecting ideas of psychological trauma with the most relevant issue of social interaction. It’s something we’re seeing more and more in recent years, but rarely has the balance been as refined as intelligent as we witness here. The lead performance from Elli Harboe is sensational. She manages to strike the film with a performance which feels nuanced yet emotionally visible, refined yet expansive. It’s representative of the film’s pure ambitious identity. Absolute stunning and one of the favourites of last year without a doubt.
As they did with Heaven Knows What, the Safdie brothers take a relatively familiar narrative and put their own unforgettable spin on it. There’s such an impressive atmosphere laced through every shot of Good Time as we follow this story all the way into nightmare mode, evoking similarities to a lot of things I love. It has the visual energy of Noe’s Enter the Void, exhausts the insomnia of Gallo’s Buffalo 66, and works the heist formula as effortless as any Lumet or Mann. Yet it feels beautiful and inseparable to anything made in years. There’s a freshness in how raw and brutal Good Time is and the frenetic style of certain sequences really amplifies all these above comparisons and helps to transition them into the film’s very own attributes. The way this is bookended by two of the film’s most emotionally charged sequences even further drives home its brilliance. Pattinson is sensational and I already need to experience this again.
Often criticised as simply a rip-off the more famous slashers of its time, Sleepaway Camp is far away from this and instead evolves into one of the most energetic and inventive horrors slasher has ever given us. There’s a raw, savage quality to Hiltzik’s film which is impossible to tear away from. He’s well aware of the film’s narrative relations in how the premise mimics the setting of Friday the 13th and how one of the death’s draws memory back to Psycho, but Hiltzik uses these influences intelligently, instead turning in a film which pushes on a lot more issues and human emotions than you’d anticipate.
Sleepaway Camp challenges conceptions of gender, the naivety of youth and the bullying ever present in films like these which really separates it from other slashers. It’s dark and misleading at times in where the narrative will culminate, but Hiltzik is directly focused on addressing all those above issues with an explosiveness rarely seen elsewhere. It just feels even more emphatic once the ending rolls around, but when all this is considered, it’s not all that shocking at all.
Much of this power is owed to how Hiltzik directs his camera. There’s the familar sinister movement of an unknown killer and the choice of cuts in the film’s most memorable moments. Some call for a range of quick cuts, others call for Sleepaway Camp to simply hover over the locale and engage the audience through atmosphere and suspense. That’s powerful to me.
It may seem obvious, but that’s one of the reasons Sleepaway Camp works as well as it does. Hiltzik is aware of every simplistic or inventive decision he makes, always adapting his ideas to what the sequence demands. When the credits have rolled and the horror of its ending has engulfed the viewer, you realise the sheer brilliance of Hiltzik’s action. It’s one of the finest works of slasher cinema about.