Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley is director Guillermo del Toro’s follow-up to his Academy Award winning film The Shape of Water.  That movie, a love letter to the monster movies of the fifties (particularly 1954’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon) was infused with modern themes of inclusion and acceptance, took home the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.  Del Toro’s latest is a remake of the 1947 film directed by Edmung Goulding and starring Tyrone Power.  If you’re seen it before, this version will feel very familiar.  (If you haven’t, I recommend watching it either before or after you see the current version as a fun film study exercise. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did!)

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Halloween Kills

Halloween Kills is the second entry in a trilogy of Halloween that takes the 1978 movie as their starting point and pretends that all previous sequels don’t exist.  That bit of artistic amnesia is certainly warranted, as pretty much every sequel that followed the original movie only served to cheapen what is generally considered a horror classic.  Halloween (2018), the first movie in the trilogy, was definitely guilty of raided the closest of the original.  There’s a tense opening credit sequence featuring a pumpkin, John Carpenter’s iconic film score, copious throwback scenes and a convincing performance by Jamie Lee Curtis.  Most importantly, that movie had an interesting story to tell.  Specifically, what impact did Michael have on Laurie Strode’s life from that point on, and how did Laurie’s reaction to that trauma affect her family?

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Midnight Mass

Mike Flanagan, the creative force behind The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor, returns with Midnight Mass, a new limited series on Netflix.  Similar to his two previous series, Midnight Mass is a combination of earnest performances, thoughtful, introspective dialog and stealth horror elements.  This time around, Flanagan has decided to de-emphasize the scary stuff, and the result is incredibly underwhelming, to the point where the series should have been titled Tedium.

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Malignant (long take)

Malignant is a combination of horror movie references, James Wan’s usual bag of tricks and other things that he likes thrown into a blender and pureed together.  The resulting mixture is slick and very entertaining, but not as engrossing as Wan’s previous horror movies.  The movie is a creepy funhouse, relying on paper-thin characters to drive the plot.  The movie works, and horror movie nerds will find it’s fanboy signalling endlessly entertaining, but the movie lacks the emotional connection that elevated The Conjuring to more than your average horror movie.  Recommended.

A detailed summary and analysis follow.  Spoilers abound.  You have been warned.

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Candyman (2021)

Candyman ignores the inferior sequels that preceded it and instead acts as a direct sequel to the 1992 movie of the same name.  As in the original, Candyman features a hook-wielding ghost who is brought to life by saying his name five times in a mirror. Director Nia DaCosta and producer Jordan Peele have upgraded the Candyman legend deftly for modern times, contextualizing his gruesome origin story as the starting point of decades of systemic racism and violence.  And instead of having the requisite white woman be the audience surrogate, two African American men take center stage.  The first is a young artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) seeking inspiration from the notorious history of the now-gentrified Cabrini-Green projects.  The second is a middle-aged man (Colman Domingo) who never left, still seething from an unjust killing he witnessed as a child.  The end result is riveting, scary, insightful and moving.  The (white) victims are written a bit thinly, but turnabout is fair play, as they say.  Candyman is a horror movie by definition, but it has much more up its sleeve than shocks and gore.  Mind that ending–it’s not the triumph it appears to be.  Highly recommended.

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