Film

Halloween Movie Picks 2017

I love Halloween. One of my favorite things to do is to load up on the horror and thriller films. Below are my 2017 recommendations currently available on various streaming services. Let me know if you have seen any of these. Let me know if see any based on my recommendations. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Netflix

Train to Busan: If you only see one film for Halloween, this should be it. Train to Busan shines in the Zombie genre. Superbly acted, directed and produced, the film tells the story of a father and daughter’s harrowing train journey to reach the only city that has not been affected by a massive zombie outbreak. A real nail biter.

Korean with English subtitles.

What Happened to Monday: This is my second must-see after Train to Busan. What Happened to Monday is a dystopian thriller where overpopulation and famine have forced governments to undertake a draconian one child policy. The film follows the story of seven identical sisters living a hide-and-seek existence. Brilliantly directed and produced, Noomi Rapace is superb playing the part of seven distinct sisters. I feel this film is a severely overlooked gem.

Hush: If you loved Wait Until Dark, then you are going to love this one. Hush tells the story of a deaf woman who lives a near solitary life in the woods and fights for her life when a masked killer suddenly appears. Supremely suspenseful.

The Void: If you loved John Carpenter’s The Thing, then this one is for you. After a police officer rushes an injured man to an understaffed hospital, mysterious figures surround the building’s exterior as strange things begin to happen inside. The plot can be confusing at times, but this film made my list for its texture, visuals and throwback feel.

Death Note: Many did not like this American, live-action remake of the popular Japanese manga series because it deviated from the original. I liked it for that very reason. Why re-enact the original? I think this version has excellent texture and tone. Death Note follows Light, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook from a demon named Ryuk (played brilliantly by Willem Dafoe) that grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name and face he knows. Both the American live-action remake and the animated original are available on Netflix.

The Windmill: A young woman on the run attempts to evade authorities by joining a tour of Holland’s windmills. When the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she and the other tourists, who, like her, have a dark secret, are forced to seek shelter in a windmill where a legendary Devil-worshiping miller once grounded the bones of locals. They start dropping one by one in rather gruesome ways. Definitely the goriest film on this list.

Notable classics on Netflix: Children of the Corn, The Legend of Hell House, Hellraiser, Sleepy Hollow and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

 

Amazon Prime

Sleep Tight: A concierge who believes he was born without the ability to be happy decides to make everyone in his building miserable. While most of his tenants are easy to upset, one young and very cheerful woman proves herself to be a challenge in his quest to spread misery. He goes to the extremes to make this woman lose it.

Spanish with English subtitles.

Pan’s Labyrinth: Set a few years after the end of the Spanish Civil War and during World War II, Pan’s Labyrinth tells the story of young girl named Ophelia and her mother who arrive at the post of her mother’s new husband, a merciless military captain (played by Sergi López, who brilliantly embodies Franco’s fascism) who is working to suppress a revolt in the area. In the middle of this, Ophelia explores an ancient maze where she encounters a faun named Pan (based on the ancient Greek deity of shepherds and flocks) who tells her that she must complete three tasks in order to become immortal. This film is beautiful, dark and seems apposite to what is currently going on in Spain and Catalan.

Spanish with English subtitles.

Notable classics on Amazon Prime: The Oblong Box, The Blob and Pumpkinhead.

 

Hulu

The Babadook: A child’s recurrent tantrums become ominous when a creepy children’s book mysteriously appears in his room and he asks his widowed mother, “Do you want to die?” The Babadook is a snaggletoothed, black-hatted monster with the ability to inflict harm and just scare the hell out of you!

Room 237: Okay, this is technically not a horror film, but a documentary about the horror classic, The Shining (a favorite film of mine). It is so good that I had to include it on this list. Interestingly, Hulu has placed it in the “Stephen King” category, which is kind of funny because the film notes how much Stephen King disliked the film version of his novel.

Click here to read last year’s picks.

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The cast of Julieta.

Film Review: Almodóvar’s “Julieta”

Julieta is Pedro Almodóvar’s twentieth film and joins the pantheon of his best works. It was inspired by three short stories from the book by Alice Munro, Runaway, as well as the female-centric films of the 1940’s with hints of Hitchcock as well as Almodóvar’s own earlier works, most notably, his masterpiece, All About My Mother. One might even consider Julieta to be the 21st century All About My Mother.

The film traces three decades of the title character’s life. It starts with a middle-aged Julieta living in Madrid, with her boyfriend Lorenzo, and they are planning to move to Portugal. One day she runs into Bea, former best friend of her daughter Antia, who reveals that Antia, whom Julieta has not seen or spoken with in twelve years, is living in Switzerland and is married with three children. Julieta abruptly cancels the move, breaks up with Lorenzo, and moves to her former building, hoping that Antia someday communicates with her. Julieta, alone with her thoughts, starts to write her memories and her story is told in a series of flashbacks.

One of the most interesting things about Julieta is the double casting: Julieta in her twenties and early thirties is played by Adriana Ugarte, while in middle age is played by Emma Suárez. We witness what heartache and time can do to a person through Emma Suárez. Both actresses did amazing work, but I don’t think they were able to fully realize a powerhouse performance—they shared one. Had either actress solely portrayed the title character, the performance would have likely emerged as comparable to Cecilia Roth’s in All About My Mother. Speaking of performances, I want to note Rossy de Palma’s performance in this film: she amazingly “frumped” it up!

Clothes, wallpaper and furniture continue to play an integral part in Almodóvar’s films. Starting with Live Flesh, architecture has also played a major part in Almodóvar’s storytelling and is most evident in Julieta. The contrasts between urban and rural, wealthy and lower middle class are greatly explored though architecture.

Most notably, the film explored several thought-provoking questions:

  • Are we doomed to make the same mistakes our parents made?
  • Can we break the cycle of mistakes?
  • When is it okay to move on from a relationship that has ended because of a death or illness?
  • Does the physical proximity of family contribute to your mental health in a positive or negative way?

The final moments of Julieta actually address many of these questions in terms of the title character, but you may find yourself asking these of your own life. I think this is what makes the film great: it forces introspection and that is what stays with you.