Things are heating up! The fifth issue of Grim magazine, Living Dead Girls, has been released. Patio season has officially begun. And air conditioning season is fast approaching. We heartily encourage you to go outside and enjoy the sunshine before the humidity rises beyond tolerable levels, but for the nights when you just don’t want to leave your couch, we suggest pairing these films with some homemade margaritas and your favourite movie snacks (doughnuts and candy for us, please!)
Elizabeth Harvest (2018)
Dir. Sebastian Gutierrez. Starring: Abbey Lee, Carla Gugino, Ciarán Hinds.
Synopsis: A young bride has difficulty acclimating herself to her new life and discovers that her new home harbours some shocking secrets.
When you’re in the mood for: Sci-fi; female-led; folktale; atmospheric; slow burn; glossy.
A post-modern re-imagining of Bluebeard with a savvy science-fiction twist, Elizabeth Harvest offers a compelling mystery, a sinister secret, and a somber meditation on the workings of abusive relationships. Young bride Elizabeth (an unexpectedly great performance from Abbey Lee) struggles to find her footing in her relationship with her much older husband (Ciarán Hinds). She is granted full access to his large and luxurious estate, apart from one room which she is forbidden to enter (you can imagine how effective that injunction is). imdb user batmanbatka has laid out an interesting theory that the film is an exploration of the power dynamics between a narcissist and an empath—worth a read if you enjoy the film and want some food for thought.
Pacing may be an issue for some—the story drags a little bit during certain parts, and viewers who don’t appreciate a slow burn may find themselves frustrated. Elizabeth Harvest’s biggest selling point may be its visual splendour; the film embodies the phrase “Every frame a painting.” Gorgeously shot, costumed, and staged, it has the feel of a fairytale or languid (yet unsettling) daydream.
My rating: Loved it.
I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore (2017)
Dir. Macon Blair. Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, Lee Eddy.
Synopsis: A depressed woman reaches her breaking point after her home is robbed and is determined to seek out her own brand of justice.
When you’re in the mood for: Dark comedy; female-led; crime; quirky; indie.
I Don’t Feel At Home in this World Anymore isn’t a full-on horror film, but rather a very dark dramedy with some pretty effective horrific sequences. Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) is a nursing assistant with a penchant for pessimism and a recently robbed home. When the police refuse to help her recover her stolen goods, she teams up with a socially maladjusted neighbour, Tony (Elijah Wood), to track down the thieves. Unfortunately for the two of them, their attempts at vigilante justice attract the attention of a trio of merciless criminals, and things take a hard and shockingly violent turn.
Writer and director Macon Blair has a history of starring in smartly-written horror (including Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, Blue Ruin, and Murder Party) and comedy (Logan Lucky) and his directorial debut is imbued with offbeat energy and strangely wholesome charm, despite its often grim subject matter. Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood shine as endearingly off-kilter weirdos who share believable chemistry. I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore is a refreshingly original and genuinely funny film, with an absurd sense of humour that calls to mind both the Coen Brother and the faintest hint of Napoleon Dynamite.
My rating: Loved it.
Murder Party (2007)
Dir. Jeremy Saulnier. Starring: Chris Sharp, Stacy Rock, Macon Blair.
Synopsis: A shy loner receives an invitation to a “murder party” and makes a terrible decision.
When you’re in the mood for: Horror-comedy; quirky; absurd; thriller; indie; low budget.
If you received an invitation to a murder party, would you attend? Socially awkward and lonely Christopher (Chris Sharp) would, and the result is a bonkers horror-comedy involving a collective of narcissistic artists vying for a sizeable grant—even (or especially) if it takes a murder to get it. Murder Party is writer-director Jeremy Saulnier’s debut feature, and he makes the most of his ensemble cast. The performances are exaggerated in a way that feels natural for self-indulgent characters, the script is whip-smart and hilarious, and the criticism of the art world is deliciously sly.
My rating: Really liked it.
The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Dir. Mark Pellington. Starring: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton.
Synopsis: After the tragic loss of his wife, a reporter is inexplicably drawn into a paranormal mystery that seems to be enveloping an entire town.
When you’re in the mood for: Paranormal; psychological horror; atmospheric; mystery; suspense; slow burn; drama.
Based on allegedly true events, The Mothman Prophecies is a masterclass in building tension. Washington Post reporter John Klein (Richard Gere) loses his wife, Mary (Debra Messing) under mysterious circumstances after she has a bizarre and unexplained vision. While on a road trip years later, he loses time and inexplicably winds up in the small town of Point Pleasant, where he soon learns that its citizens have been experiencing similar visions and mysterious encounters with strange beings. When predictions relayed to townsfolk by these beings begin to come true (with deadly consequences), John’s obsessive quest to uncover an explanation for the phenomena takes on a frightening urgency.
The Mothman Prophecies delivers restrained yet highly effective psychological horror and character study, deftly exploring the paranormal mystery at its heart in a way that is never gratuitous. Of particular note is the memorable and incredibly spooky hotel room phone call scene, which masterfully uses light, sound cues, and dialogue to evoke genuine terror without spilling a drop of blood or making an overt threat.
My rating: Really liked it.