Category: Suspense/Thriller

“Death on the Nile”

7.9

At first, I honestly thought I had walked into and sat in the wrong movie theater. First, we start out in World War 1, then move on to Dirty Dancing… Heavy on the dirty. I mean, I know it’s Armie Hammer, but damn.

I’ll watch anything that has Gal Gadot in it, so of course, my butt was in a seat for this whodunnit. The gist of it is if you like “Murder on the Orient Express,” you’ll like this. There are many of the same tropes, but just enough differentiation to keep you intrigued as each new clue is uncovered and suspect eliminated, either figuratively or literally. We get the origin story of Poirot’s mustache that no one asked for but gives his character an incredible boost of depth and complexity that helps him become someone you actually root for by the end of the film. I called the ending as the movie was getting started, but I thoroughly enjoyed the wild ride to the climactic conclusion. Well done “Clue” spin-off in yet another exotic locale.

“Archive 81”

8.2

They had it… They freaking had it!!! Why does everything have to have franchise potential?!?!

The narrative momentum, the closure we all yearn for in conclusion, the goodwill we build as an audience interacting with these characters… all taken out back and shot. Can I hold a seance and time travel to a point in time where I forget how much I despise this ending?

Aside from the way they crash-landed the plane, this series was spectacular. The way it built tension, caused me to care about the characters, and kept me on the edge of my seat was everything I could have asked for in a Netflix series based on a podcast. Then it ended with me angrily yelling at my TV.

I filed this one alongside “Censor” and “Broadcast Signal Intrusion” as one of the best pieces of original horror/thriller material in the past two or three years. I’d take the “what the hell was that?!?” ending of “Censor” over this. They lost a full point based on the ending.

“Last Night in Soho”

8.7

Beauty fades, but terror lasts forever.

This is the film Edgar Wright was born to make. The soundtrack was pure ear candy, the setpieces breathtaking steps into an idyllic past long ago stained by the sins of those who survived it. The choreography of the action on the screen and the story’s pace combine in perfect concert with each other as this terrifying tale of the gore behind the glamour comes to fruition. Ana Taylor-Joy and Thomasin Mackenzie steal the spotlight and hold it for nearly every frame of this masterpiece.

This film is the antidote to the current Hollywood wave of nostalgia. As we clamor for a taste of “what it was like” to live in a bygone era or location whose darkness has been painted over in gold by each passing generation, this film reminds us that the shine often hides the sinister. The human cost is front and center in this story, as our protagonists wrestle with how much of their soul their willing to exchange for fame and success and how they choose to find redemption once they’ve gone past the point of no return.

There is a lot to unpack after leaving the theater for this one and a lot to ponder and rearrange on the floor of one’s mind. Luckily, the soundtrack is enough of an exquisitely curated collection of audio experience that you can lose yourself in that as you search your psyche for the ultimate meaning.

If you can’t tell, I loved this one. I may be a tad biased in my excitement that this lived up to and exceeded the hype.

“Broadcast Signal Intrusion”

8.1

The sister film to “Censor” from earlier this year.

From the first frame to the last, you will be on the edge of your seat with your head cocked, trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I’m going to be honest; you probably still won’t know when the credits roll. If you do happen to figure it out, let me know. I’m still processing what I just saw.

In a tale reminiscent of the “Max Headroom” broadcast signal intrusion in the ’80s, this film journeys down the rabbit hole to explore human nature, obsession, love, friendship, paranoia, and our need to make sense of the world around us. The reason I compare it to “Censor” is that it also analyzes what happens when one envelopes themselves in the darkness of the world for too long and the effects it has on them and their interactions with the world. Spoiler alert, it gets weird.

The most effective part of this film to me was the tie-in to an actual life event that haunted us as a society in real life. Something is unsettling about the still-unsolved crime. The way it fractured our peaceful plane of existence and was never fully resolved makes for a strong base for a horror movie. Silly as the prank may have been, there’s something rather sinister about it that makes it feel discomforting. That feeling of unease covers this entire film, bathing it in well-earned intrigue, waiting to see where the twists and turns will lead next.

“Fear of Rain”

7.9

Strong “Words on Bathroom Walls” vibes, in the best possible way.

The art of cinema can be a compelling force. Helping us, as a society, to look in the mirror and reflect on our treatment of those with mental health issues can be a great force for good. This film struck a delicate balance between ensuring the extremes were felt and not getting too silly and over the top. They paid homage to the original Wes Craven trick of “is this the real world or is this a dream?” highlighting the unease and tension that fills the world of someone stricken with one of these terrible ailments. Not in such a way that it causes one to recoil and wish upon them a lifetime of confinement, but important steps to opening our hearts and minds to making a good faith effort to better understand and empathize with each other and the unique struggles we each may have.

Technically speaking, I felt like everything was exceptionally well balanced and that the twists that filled the third act were well earned and impactful. A term I’ve used with other films, this one keeps you in a state of productive discomfort. The edge of your seat feeling leads to the points of the story being that much more impactful by the time the credits roll. A very emotional tale and definitely a thinker of a movie. A great deal of nuance and interwoven clues that collectively form a beautifully complex piece of cinema. Extremely well done.