The SAVAGE BEAST micro-reviews 2

February 19th, 2021

In case you’re not following The Savage Beast on twitter (@SavBeastPod”), we write film micro-reviews there. Here’s a repository of them so far for your convenience…

  • We watched Predestination (Spierig Bros, 2015) a fantastically knotty time-travel paradox thriller, that luxuriates in pulp texture but is powered by a hefty emotional engine. Sarah Snook is incendiary, Ethan Hawke provides reliable genre stalwart support. Deftly absorbing
  • We watched King Rocker (Michael Cumming, 2020) a paen to principles, bloody-mindedness, self-destruction and the importance of art for art’s sake, centred on the hugely charismatic anti-rock star Robert Lloyd of The Nightingales. Stewart Lee is a great sparring partner / fanboy.
  • We watched Kuruneko (Kaneto Shindo, 1968) a genuinely bewitching folk horror fusing lyrical romanticism with a superbly creepy atmosphere. Beautifully composed black & white cinematography, bold editing, cat-vampire revenge and early wire-work in the bamboo fields. Beguiling.
  • We watched St Elmo’s Fire (Joel Schumacher, 1985) which retains a strange potency and meta-resonance in its portrait of spoiled 20-somethings whose lives are on the point of curdling. Utterly obnoxious but always watchable, Schumacher’s straight-faced relationship to camp helps.
  • We watched The Day The Earth Caught Fire (Val Guest, 1961) a chillingly prescient british sci-fi, positively Ballardian in it’s depiction of a Very British Apocalypse. It’s also one of the best newspaper films ever made, with Leo McKern delivering a magnetic performance. Bleak.
  • We watched The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2016) a shark-attack film mixing real tension scenes with pop-promo aesthetics and ample shots of Blake Lively’s body. A better film could be made out of its simple set up, but as a candy-coated exploitation flick it slips down fine.
  • We watched ‘71 (Yann Demange, 2014) a stripped-down, claustrophobic Troubles-set thriller. It’s experiential rather than political, but morally murky and complex and contains one brilliantly sustained sequence of heart-stopping tension that’s among the best in action cinema.
  • We watched Why Don’t You Just Die? (Kirill Sokolov, 2018) a pumped up domestic black comedy with dizzyingly kinetic camera work and gallons of grue. A superb first 15 mins leads to a film of decreasing returns but this is made by someone firmly grasping the live wires of film.
  • We watched Bad Boys For Life (Bilall Fallah, Adil El Arb, 2020) which rings a surprising amount of juice out of the aging of the boys. It lacks the histrionic fetishism of Bay, but has some fun, kinetic action scenes. Add in an odd Freudian melodramatic climax and stir. A curio.
  • We watched The Long Dumb Road (Hannah Fidell, 2018), an odd-couple road movie resisting toxic masculine cliches, cruising on the immense charm of the co-leads. Tony Revolori’s a cuddly naif, honing his edges, Jason Mantzoukis likeably unhinged and vital. Terrifically watchable.
  • We watched Spinster (Andrea Dorfman, 2019) whose low-key style becomes almost ambient film-making. If you can lock into that, it’s pleasures and gentle subversions reveal themselves. Chelsea Peretti’s persuasive in the central role and the film gathers confidence as it unfolds.
  • We watched Alone (John Hyams, 2020) confirming John Hayes as the best genre filmmaker working. A lean, mean stalk and pursuit flick, we feel every painful step towards survival, breath held tight from frame one. Jules Wilcox is steel, Mark Menchaca is slime. Not a second wasted.
  • We watched Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois, 2002) which is a joyfully reprehensible, funny, weird and desperately moving film about family and loss. A complete curveball for Disney at the time, with a super likeable POC anti-princess as lead. Massively underrated fun.
  • We watched Feels Good Man (Arthur Jones, 2020) which tells a harrowing tale of Pepe the Frog, a 2-dimensional creation’s journey through debasement and corruption in the 3rd dimension. White apathy does not come off well here.
  • We watched Calm With Horses (Nick Rowland, 2019) about a reluctant enforcer for a rural Irish crime family and his wrecked life. Cosmo Jarvis is a beaten sentient steak, Niamh Algar is stunning as the frustrated, resilient mother of his child trying to move on. Grim, sweet & sad.
  • We watched Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, 2019) a grindhouse magical realist marvel; punk rock via rural Brazil with a refreshingly opaque structure and a whole cast of weirdo characters to spend time with. Unique and compellingly bizarro. Udo Kier of course.
  • We watched Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (Matt Wolf, 2008) a fasincating spin on the Superman myth, about an alien who crash lands in Iowa in the 50s and spends his life sharing his crazily beautiful alien music with a world that isn’t quite ready for it.
  • We watched Sweetheart (JD Dillard, 2019), a low budget monster survival film with lots going for it – resourceful heroine, minimal exposition and a great, simple set-up. An impressive virtually silent first half gives way to a less satisfying second, but there’s a lot to like.
  • We watched New Town Utopia (Christopher Ian Smith, 2017) a portrait of the socialist futurism behind Basildon new town, the subsequent capitalist selling out of that dream and the renegade artists bursting through the pavement. Beautifully shot throughout; pure concrete humanity.
  • We watched Flatliners (Joel Schumacher, 1990) which slathers camp gothic trappings over an imaginative hook. But It’s a missed opportunity with scares neutered by pop-promo stylings and philosophic intrigue junked for psychobabble. Schumacher is king of straight faced silliness.
  • We re-watched Rogue One (Gareth Edwards, 2016) and still love it’s pop-gritty ‘Dirty Dozen in space’ vibe, a breezily diverse cast, deftly defined characters, genuine emotional heft and even a glimpse of political commentary. Plus grimy, ground-level street battles to die for.
  • We watched Tales From The Lodge (Abigail Blackmore, 2019) which starts as a mildly interesting twist on the portmanteau horror, by way of ‘The Big Chill’, before swan diving into a hideously offensive and dated second half. Talent is wasted; car-crash status is achieved.
  • We watched Fatal Attraction (Adrian Lyne, 1987) which aside from it’s tacked-on unpleasant ending, is a nuanced picture of the arrogant irresponsibility of a spoiled man, who realises too late that actions have consequences and that women have agency. Douglas sweats, Close rages.
  • We watched The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014) which features countless incendiary action scenes that would be the high point of any normal film. All that plus an entire turbo-pulp world being built. Pure, uncut cinematic drugs.
  • We watched Blood Simple (Joel Coen, 1984) AGAIN and were struck by it’s heavy horror tropes and brutal, hard-hearted worldview. There’s mischief here and a sense of excitement of young film-makers flexing their already considerable powers. M Emmet Walsh is deliciously corrupt.
  • We watched Rebecca (Ben Wheatley, 2020) which is pacy, deft and anchored by a strong turn by Lily James, as well as a suitably icy Kristen Scott-Thomas. It’s also a bit toothless, lacking the psycho-sexual richness and gothic depth that the text invites. Wheatley seems muted.
  • We watched The Mortuary Collection (Ryan Spindell, 2019) a fun, gloopy, throwback horror anthology. Despite the familiar dressings it kept us guessing and made some surprising choices. Strong drizzly atmosphere from its Pacific Northwest locale and a fun turn from Clancy Brown.
  • We watched Valeriyan (Luc Besson, 2017) a sprawling, messy, hyper-imaginative sci-fi candyfloss spectacular that feels like a 3-d version of an issue of Metal Hurlant. Cara DeLavigne looks like a Milo Manara drawing come to life and brings much good energy. Transporting.
  • We watched The Clovehitch Killer (Duncan Skiles, 2018) a suburban serial killer story, rooted in christian ennui with a flinty aesthetic to contrast its undercurrents of monstrous perversity. More savagery might have brought its point home, but it’s a troubling, melancholic gem.

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