Friday, October 13, 2017

The Halloween List: Raw and The Void

Raw (2017) (AKA Grave)

Julia Ducournau’s gift to us from French-Belgian cinema, a riveting and intimate portrait of a vegetarian who has her first bite of meat and suddenly can’t stop craving more. It’s an abrupt addiction, not a satire mocking vegetarians, but a pathological Horror story about her descent.

Justine is just starting at a veterinary school with harsh hazing rituals. Her bed is tossed out her window, and she has to crawl on her knees through the courtyard, and her seniors force her to swallow a rabbit kidney. Ever afterward she finds herself ravenous, and biting into meat on a shish kabob makes her forget the rest of the world exists. Those cravings quickly darken as she watches boys around campus. As a vegetarian, she argued human life wasn’t any more sacred than that of animals. If anything, she’s consistent.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Halloween List: It Comes at Night and The Autopsy of Jane Doe

It Comes at Night (2017)

No movie in 2017 more understands what film doesn’t have to do than It Comes at Night. It opens on a family putting down their terminally ill grandfather and burning his body in the wilderness. We don’t know what his disease is, but he is in awful shape and they are terrified of touching him.

Then we follow the family back to their boarded up house in the woods, seemingly with no one else around. They only go outside in pairs. They have strict protocols for locking and unlocking their doors. When a stranger shows up at their house in the middle of the night, they treat it with a terrified coolness, both clearly rattled that someone is out there, and forcing themselves to focus.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Halloween List: A Trip to the 70s with Duel, Frenzy, and Picnic at Hanging Rock

Duel (1971)

That Steven Spielberg sure earned his career. This was the movie that earned him Jaws, but rather than the tale of a shark, it’s one long car chase that’s truly harrowing. A salesman is out trying to make a meeting in another state when he tries to pass a slow moving truck; the truck responds by pulling ahead of him, then slowing down again. It’s a moment of impatience and tension a lot of us have driven through, but it begins a game of cat and mouse, out in the middle of nowhere, where no one can help him.

Especially for a 1970s made-for-TV movie, Duel is masterful. How do you keep such a simple film from getting visually boring? He films the cars from all angles, and ___ gives a riveting performance as a man falling behind the wheel. The use of music is sparing, often subtle, elevate the rumble of engines and the wind of the wilderness. The movie always knows when to take you in closer to our driver, or when to focus on the enigma of the truck. We never see the man that’s chasing us. There’s only his titanic vehicle.
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