To date, director Mike Flanagan has helmed two successful horror films. The first is Absentia, a poignant and absorbing yarn in the style of a creepy urban myth. The second is Oculus, a blistering fable about family dysfunction (and haunted mirrors) told in parallel timelines. For his latest film Hush, Flanagan steps off the supernatural plane, applying his visual storytelling prowess to a more straightforward suspense thriller. Straightforward it would seem anyway, but the script by Flanagan and lead actress Kate Siegel (also seen in Oculus) has just as many sneaky tricks without conjuring ghosts or other forces from beyond. Brace for old-fashioned hometown horror with some keen new ideas.
Maddie (Siegel) is a novelist caught in the chasm between publishing a successful first book and the nebulous, looming horror of penning an equally brilliant follow-up. Her main stumbling block is the ending. Early in the film she agonizes over a suitably powerful and satisfying denouement for her new story. Are you getting a prickly feeling about where this narrative might be headed? Continue reading →
Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers has seen four high-profile adaptations to film, but only the first two share the essential link between film and remake. Abel Ferrara’s noteworthy Body Snatchers, and Oliver Hirschbiegel’s less noteworthy The Invasion, riff on different themes than the two versions fully titled Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Though their styles diverge sharply with the decades in which each was produced, these movies mine contemporary social anxiety to the same terrifying effect, thanks to skillful directing and acting in both cases. Given the number of disappointing remakes to be covered in the coming weeks, it seems like a good idea to begin the series with an unqualified success.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
directed by Don Siegel
Some day in the future, scientists will conclude that the signs of aquatic life recorded on Jupiter’s sixth moon, Europa, are sufficiently promising to risk a manned mission of something like two years (one way) to take environmental samples. This is the plain and simple premise of Sebastián Cordero’s Europa Report.
Europa One is a high-tech exploration vessel funded by nebulous sponsors presumably more benign than the Weyland-Yutani Corporation of the Alien franchise. Framed as a declassified account of the mission, the movie begins with strong hints that while the astronauts outdid themselves in a high-risk situation, things did not turn out as planned. In fragments of onboard footage and explanatory asides from mission control experts, a harrowing account of tribulation among the stars unfolds. Continue reading →
Transsiberian has gathered good press since its Sundance premiere, and the praise is well-earned. This new project by Brad Anderson is a large-scale, high-impact story about how chance encounters can reveal the dark and secret sides of the human heart. This hard lesson revolves around Jessie (Emily Mortimer), a young wife and would-be photographer who finds that settling down has not banished the inner demons left over from her wilder days. Woody Harrelson puts in a superior performance as her amiable and unworldly husband. Known for his more eccentric characters, it is nice to see Harrelson flex some different muscles as a decent, guileless, and honest middle-American Joe. The two of them are traveling from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Siberian Railway, following a church trip to China. As we later learn, husband wishes to prove to wife he is game for an adventure, and also to indulge his passion for trainspotting.
Another notable appearance is by Ben Kingsley, as an eerily collected Russian federal agent. As we know, given good material he seldom disappoints, and though Anderson’s film does not allow him the dynamic range of, say, his hair-raising work in Sexy Beast, he makes the most of limited screen time.