Fright Club: Best Witch Movies

Can’t imagine what it was that inspired us to run through the best witch movies. Oh wait, it was the spellbinding and unsettling The Witch, that’s what it was. So, celebrate that film and many a Black Mass with us as we count down the best films about witches, and invite Junior Emmy-Winning Corresponding Mike McGraner to hash out the pros and cons of The Witch. Listen to the full brawl…er…podcast HERE.

5. Starry Eyes (2014)

Sarah (Alex Essoe) is an aspiring actress in LA and a bit of a delicate flower. She lives in a complex full of other aspiring actors, but she doesn’t hang out with them or participate in their low budget indie circle – they believe she thinks she’s too good for them. Then she auditions for a part, does some things on camera for the audition she regrets, behaves weirdly in the bathroom, and is invited to meet The Producer.

On the one hand, Starry Eyes offers an obvious plot about selling your soul for success, dressed in a cautionary tale about Hollywood. But the writing/directing team of Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer are much more sly than that. Yes, the insights they provide about the backbiting lowest rungs of the Hollywood ladder abound, but they are far more compassionate than what you routinely see.

Also fascinating is the clever use of the protagonist Sarah – she begins as our empathetic heroine, our vehicle through the daily degradation of trying to “make it.” But the filmmakers have more in store for her than this, and Essoe uncomfortably peels layer after layer of a character that is never fully what we expect.

Look for outstanding, witchy appearances by genre veteran Maria Olsen, as well as a spot-on Louis Dezseran. They will make you uncomfortable.

4. Suspiria (1977)

Italian director Dario Argenta is in the business of colorfully dispatching nubile young women. In Suspiria, his strongest film, American ballerina Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) moves to Germany to join a dance academy, but the other dancers are catty and the school staff are freaks. Plus, women keep disappearing and dying.

As Suzy undertakes an investigation of sorts, she discovers that the school is a front for a coven of witches. But Argenta’s best film isn’t known for its plot, it’s become famous because of the visually disturbing and weirdly gorgeous imagery. Suspiria is a twisted fairy tale of sorts, saturating every image with detail and deep colors, oversized arches and doorways that dwarf the actors. Even the bizarre dubbing Argento favored in his earlier films works beautifully to feed the film’s effectively surreal quality.

It’s a gorgeous nightmare, bloody and grotesque but disturbingly appealing both visually and aurally (thanks to Argento’s go-to soundtrack collaborator, Goblin).

3. The Witches (1990)

Roald Dahl can spin the most wondrously dark tales for children, and the tale that fits that description best is The Witches. Directed by Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, The Man who Fell to Earth, Performance) from a screenplay adapted by Allan Scott, the film may pull a punch here or there, but it lands others unexpectedly.

Angelica Huston – always an imposing presence – leads a cast of witches whose dastardly plan to eliminate all the children in England is overheard by, well, a child in England. Now he has to save the world, even though they’ve turned him into a mouse.

While this is absolutely a family film, full of Honey I Shrunk the Kids style fun with the tiny mouse protagonist, plus a lot of slapstick humor, Huston is forever frightening, and the film takes an absolutely terrifying turn once all those witches remove their day-to-day faces.

No, The Witches may not be a true horror flick, but it was a terrifying experience for countless kids in 1990 and it definitely boasts some of the scariest witches in cinema.

2. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Nearly 50 years after its release, this film remains a disturbing, elegant, and fascinating tale, and Mia Farrow’s embodiment of defenselessness joins forces with William Fraker’s skillful camerawork to cast a spell. Yes, that crazy pederast Roman Polanski sure can spin a yarn about violated, vulnerable females.

Back in ’69, Roman was interested in Rosemary Woodhouse, she of the fuzzy slippers who doesn’t want to be a bother. Tethered to aspiring actor/bad husband Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary moves into a Manhattan apartment building with a dark past and some peculiar neighbors.

Working from Ira Levin’s novel, Polanski takes all the glamour out of Satanism – with a huge assist from Ruth Gordon, who won an Oscar for her turn as the highly rouged busybody Minnie Castevet.

By now we all know what happens to poor Rosemary, but when the film was released, thanks much to Mia Farrow’s vulnerable performance, the film boiled over with paranoid tension. Was Rosemary losing it, or was she utterly helpless and in evil hands? Not that Roman Polanski, of all people, can be trusted in such a situation.

1. The Witch (2015)

The unerring authenticity of The Witch makes it the most unnerving horror film in years.

Ideas of gender inequality, sexual awakening, slavish devotion to dogma, and isolationism and radicalization roil beneath the surface of the film, yet the tale itself is deceptively simple. One family, fresh off the boat from England in 1630 and expelled from their puritanical village, sets up house and farm in a clearing near a wood.

As a series of grim catastrophes befalls the family, members turn on members with ever-heightening hysteria. The Witch creates an atmosphere of the most intimate and unpleasant tension, a sense of anxiety that builds relentlessly and traps you along with this helpless, miserable family.

Every opportunity writer/director Robert Eggers has to make an obvious choice he discards, though not a single move feels inauthentic. Rather, every detail – whether lurid or mundane – feels peculiarly at home here. Even the most supernatural elements in the film feel appallingly true because of the reality of this world, much of which is owed to journals and documents of the time, from which Eggers pulled complete sections of dialog.

Equally important is the work of Eggers’s collaborators Mark Kovan, whose haunting score keeps you unnerved throughout, and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke. From frigid exteriors to candle-lit interiors, the debilitating isolation and oppressive intimacy created by Blaschke’s camera feed an atmosphere ripe for tragedy and for horror.

As frenzy and paranoia feed on ignorance and helplessness, tensions balloon to bursting. You are trapped as they are trapped in this inescapable mess, where man’s overanxious attempt to purge himself absolutely of his capacity for sin only opens him up to the true evil lurking, as it always is, in the woods.

Dark and Darker

Triple 9

by George Wolf

Shifting alliances, desperate men, deadly double-crosses, dirty cops and sacks of cash…Triple 9 doesn’t pretend it’s doing anything new, but it often finds effective ways to repackage the old hits.

Borrowing from a host of other cop thrillers from Heat to The Town, Triple 9 give us characters of varied shadiness taking orders from the Russian mob. Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a former Blackwater operative working with a crew that includes two Atlanta detectives (Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins, Jr.) to pull a brazen heist that will help get a Russian crime boss out of Putin’s gulag.

But Irina, that boss’s wife (Kate Winslet) has one last job in mind for Michael and his boys, and she’s not shy about getting nasty to make sure they comply. Delivering will take a bigger diversion than usual, and a cop going down (a “triple 9”) would give them just the time they need.

Slowly, a new face on the force (Casey Affleck) and his seasoned-cop uncle (Woody Harrelson, sporting some unsettling dentures) start sniffing out the plan, and the countdown to a final confrontation is on.

Matt Cook’s script is plenty familiar, with thin spots in the narrative and character choices that don’t always ring true , but director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) is adept at making brutal worlds engaging. There is precious little light anywhere in Triple 9, but Hillcoat leans on his veteran ensemble and delivers enough stylized tension to keep you interested, even if you’re rarely guessing.






Aussie Cujos

The Pack

by Hope Madden

There are not a lot of Australian horror movies I would pass up. Whether it’s the relentless, grisly terror of Wolf Creek, the shattering metaphorical horror of The Babadook, or one of the trademark muscular, bloody comedies like Wyrmwood or 100 Bloody Acres, somehow Aussie genre output satisfies more often than not.

Nick Robertson’s The Pack offers a slight premise, but mines it for all it’s worth as an isolated farmhouse family must survive the night once a pack of flesh-hungry dogs surrounds their property.

There’s precious little story outside the nightlong attack. Carla (Anna Lise Phillips) is a vet who tends to the pets and farm animals in the surrounding countryside, a job that’s meager wage pays most of the bills now that something’s been killing so much of her family’s livestock. Her husband Adam (Jack Campbell) refuses to sell the property to the creepy banker; their son (Hamish Phillips) wants to stay while their teenaged daughter (Katie Moore) would rather live in town.

And then dogs come.

The wild isolation of the outback has provided the backbone for most of the country’s horror output – as it does again here. Rather than filming the vast, surrounding woods and wilderness as a menace, cinematographer Benjamin Shirley’s camera captures the elegance and beauty of it. You don’t wonder what makes this family want to stay. It’s an interesting cinematic choice, because you aren’t given the sense that their separation from the larger society is necessarily dangerous, rather that this abundance of beauty somehow betrays them.

Same with the dogs. These are not your sinewy, feral beasts slinking through the woods. They’re gorgeous – fluffy, even. And yet, when enough of them spread out through the trees just beyond the edge of the property, their heads lowered, their eyes catching the fading light, it’s all you can do not to yell to Adam to run.

The problem with The Pack is that the whisper thin plot doesn’t allow for much of a climax or denouement. The final scene in this film leaves more questions than answers, and not in an exciting, ambiguous way.

It’s a quick and finely acted rush, but like the sugar from this box of Thin Mints next to me, it’s not a rush that sticks around.


Keep Digging

The Treasure

by Hope Madden

Corneliu Porumboiu’s new film The Treasure is just that, if you have the patience to wait for it.

The Romanian director is a master of the deadpan comedy of manners, setting his films firmly in the conflicting values and strapped economy of post-Communist Romania. Dry, that’s what I’m saying, but no less than wonderful.

In The Treasure, he is once again braiding historical ideas with workaday sensibilities to create the driest kind of treasure hunt.

The ripe ground for this comical examination is a chance to escape the paycheck-driven world. The stage is set when Costi (Toma Cuzin), an office worker with a bland if contented life, is offered a sketchy opportunity to find riches buried in a neighbor’s crumbling family property.

Like Porumboiu’s excellent 2009 film Police, Adjective, The Treasure uses its low key approach to turn the minutia of daily existence – administrative red tape, day to day boredom, bill paying – into understated yet absurd comedy.

Cuzin’s performance – much of it simply the expression on his face – offers so much with so little. As boringly adult as his life has become, there is a childlike quality to the character that gives his every choice a sweetness. Is he naïve, even ignorant, to buy into this clearly desperate scheme?

His quietly likeable good guy is perfectly counterbalanced by his griping neighbor, Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu). Adrian’s sense of entitlement and bitterness come out most strongly and most humorously when a third treasure hunter – just an interested party with a metal detector (Corneliu Cozmei – a non-actor and actual metal detector technician) enters the picture.

The banter as the three men tediously sweep the property, gain and lose hope, bicker over the situation, exposes the social commentary about Romania’s political landscape in a way that is familiar, believable, and uncomfortably funny.

Porumboiu’s consistent use of stationary, wide shots exacerbates the film’s sense of inertia, which is used to generate the tension that fuels the comedy.

It can feel like a long set up for a surprisingly lovely climax, followed by the most inspired use of music. When the final, surprising but fitting image rolls against the death metal band Laibach’s cover of the 80s pop hit Live is Life, the absurd clash of reality and fairy tale is complete.


Couldn’t They Have Rested?

Gods of Egypt

by George Wolf

Gods of Egypt brings the deities out to play for a boring mess of ridiculousness that will make you wish they had rested one more day.

Apparently one of the 16 people that saw both John Carter and Jupiter Ascending took too much cough syrup and decided to create the mutated offspring of those travesties. Look away!

It is a time “before history began” (what?), when Gods and mortals live together but are easily identifiable, thanks to the Gods being extra large and having gold running through their veins. The two groups seem to co-exist well, with the women folk apparently bonding over a shared love of push-up bras.

But, just as the God King of Egypt (Bryan Brown) is set to abdicate his throne and bestow the crown on his son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the King’s malevolent brother Set (Gerard Butler) swoops in with his army and proclaims himself to be the new King.

After a struggle, Horus is in exile and the populace is enslaved by Set. But wait! A clever, spunky mortal named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) just might be spunky and clever enough to rescue his beloved Zaya (Courtney Eaton), and help Horus bring down his power-hungry uncle, all while cracking a few one-liners!

From the hilariously hyper-dramatic opening to the let’s-all-learn-something-today ending, director Alex Proyas (The Crow, I Robot) crams the screen full of CGI effects and swooping panning shots aplenty, but can’t generate any more substance than something you might watch standing in line at Disney World while dad sneaks peeks at passing cleavage.

Proyas gets no help from the script. Co-writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold, The Last Witch Hunter) vacillate between camp, video-game exposition, and genuine WTF moments such as Zaya’s treatment at the hands of her “cruel” master: a sternly-worded rebuke!

Oh, the humanity!

The performances range from Master Thespian overacting (Butler), to big-eyebrow mugging (Thwaites) to Geoffrey Rush fighting a cloud monster (Geoffrey Rush). And, like Eddie Redmayne’s disastrous turn in Jupiter, Chadwick Boseman brings an interpretation to Thoth, the God of Knowledge, that is painfully awkward.

After more than two hours of this haplessness, you get the feeling that Gods of Egypt aspired to be some sort of swashbuckling adventure akin to The Thief of Bagdad, with a side of Indiana Jones.




Has He Landed Yet?

Eddie the Eagle

by Hope Madden

If you are a sucker for plucky underdog stories, has Eddie the Eagle got a movie for you! Based very loosely on the story of British Olympic ski jumper Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards, director Dexter Fletcher’s film is far more interested in feeling good than digging in.

Taron Egerton (Kingsmen) plays Eddie with as much charm as the screen can hold. The performance marks a serious physical transformation for the actor, but it’s the endearing characterization that keeps the film afloat.

As a wee, myopic lad back in blue collar Cheltenham, UK, routinely heads out the door to find a bus and follow his dreams of becoming an Olympian, it’s hard not to immediately fall for this sweetly tenacious character. He never loses that dream as he grows up, finding more realistic pathways toward his goals – he was actually among the best speed skiers in England. But obstacle upon obstacle eventually redirect him to ski jumping, regardless of the fact that he’s never ski jumped before, or that England had no ski jumping team.

The facts of Edwards’s journey toward the 1988 games in Calgary are blurred and blended in favor of an 80’s style comedy, and it’s hard not to think that a more honest adaptation of his truly unique road to becoming an Olympian might have made for a more interesting film. Instead, he goes to Germany, finds a begrudging mentor in a failed Olympic hopeful with a bad attitude and a drinking problem (Hugh Jackman), and eventually charms the world.

The film is endlessly sweet with a focus, unlike other sports biopics, not on competition and success, but on the struggle and the dream. Unfortunately, the frothy confection does more to emphasize something quaint rather than something heroic – and Edwards’s commitment to his goal truly was heroic.

It’s a soft hearted and well-meaning film, just as cliché-riddled as any other sports flick, but somehow the gentle underdog at the center of it all remains as easy to root for today as he was in ’88.


Fearless Oscar Predictions!

Get your ballots ready – it’s time to determine best bets and the losers who deserve better. Who will take home the gold hardware? Who should? Who will shine the brightest on the red carpet? We only care about two of those questions, so let’s see how we shake it out.



The Big Short

Bridge of Spies


Mad Max: Fury Road

The Martian

The Revenant



Will Win: The Revenant
The Revenant has so much momentum going into Sunday, any other winner would be an incredible upset. We don’t see that happening.

Should Win (Hope): The Revenant
This was such a masterfully crafted epic that I cannot balk with its win, although I could just as easily celebrate the nod for Mad Max: Fury Road, Room, or Spotlight.

Should Win (George): Carol
That’s unlikely to happen since it wasn’t even nominated (shakes fist), so out of this group, I’m saying The Revenant by an eyelash over Mad Max: Fury Road.



Adam McKay, The Big Short

George Miller,  Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant

Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Winning the best directing Oscar in consecutive years is rare, but the momentum says Inarritu will pull it off. With back to back wins from the Director’s Guild, an Oscar two-fer this Sunday seems likely.

Should Win (Hope):  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Inarritu’s vision and execution are breathtaking achievements and I could not find fault with this win, although the same can be said for George Miller and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Should Win (George): George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
No doubt, The Revenant was a marvel of direction, but the way George Miller revitalized his own franchise with astounding visuals and breakneck action was damn near a miracle.



Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
The surest bet this weekend.

Should Win Best Actor (Hope & George): DiCaprio
It can be hard to appreciate a performance that relies so little on dialog, but it is impossible not to see what DiCaprio was able to transmit with no more than 15 lines in English. He deserves the prize.



Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Will Win: Brie Larson, Room
Again, Larson couldn’t have more momentum, having picked up nearly every award along the road to the Oscars. We can’t imagine we’ll see an upset here.

Should Win (Hope): Brie Larson, Room
Larson conveys a mixture of torment and hope, love and grief that is so authentic it is almost too much to bear. She alone deserves this trophy.

Should Win (George): Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
All the nominated performances are stellar, but Rampling was a master of understated humanity, with a final shot that’s fit for a time capsule.



Christian Bale, The Big Short

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Will Win: Stallone Stallone, Creed
He was as good as he’s ever been, yes, but this win will be more about heart than mind.

Should Win (Hope & George): Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Gather ye canned goods and duct tape while ye may, because the day Stallone takes an Oscar from the great Tom Hardy, the end is nigh.



Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Will Win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
This may be the biggest toss up in the list, but Winslet – an Oscar favorite for good reason – seems to have Big Mo on her side.

Should Win (Hope): Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
I’d give this one to Leigh, whose performance in The Hateful Eight proves her mettle as a comic actress and a performer who can take a beating – although a nod for Rooney Mara’s understated, aching performance in Carol would also deserve the attention.

Should Win (George):
Rooney Mara, Carol
I’ll go with Mara, in a squeaker rover JJL, for being the soul of a beautiful film anchored in love and longing.



Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

Inside Out


Straight Outta Compton

Will Win: Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
McCarthy’s magnificent integrity and humanity with a screenplay will finally be acknowledged.

Should Win (Hope & George): Alex Garland, Ex Machina
We will not complain if Spotlight takes home this award because the amazing Tom McCarthy deserves the nod, although we would personally go with Alex Garland’s psychosexual phenom Ex Machina.



The Big Short



The Martian


Will Win: Charles Randolph & Adam McKay, The Big Short
It’s a tight category, but McKay and Randolph’s irate comical sensibility has impressed voters all along, and may carry them to gold.

Should Win (Hope): Emma Donoghue, Room                                                                               Adapting her own novel, Donoghue somehow managed the impossible in creating a hopeful, even wondrous tale of the single most horrific incident one could imagine. She’s pure magic.

Should Win (George): Todd Haynes, Carol
Haynes’s adaptation of Phyllis Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt conveys the costs of love so profoundly it settles in your bones.


Chris Rock hosts the 88th Annual Academy Awards airs this Sunday at 8:30 on ABC.

Deja Vu

Cabin Fever

by Hope Madden

Back in 2002, I wondered whether there was such a need for an Evil Dead reboot that Cabin Fever was necessary. Director/co-writer/co-star Eli Roth’s first feature just updated the “cabin in the woods” classic by removing demons and inserting a water-bound virus. Otherwise –right down to the rotting girlfriend in the toolshed – it’s the same movie. Only worse.

So, you can imagine the path my thoughts took to find that Cabin Fever has been rebooted, just 14 years after the “original” release. Has so much changed that a retooling of what was essentially a retooling makes sense?


In case you missed the first one, five college kids – a handsome couple, the two who haven’t hooked up yet, and the fifth wheel – head into the woods for spring break. Yes, it not only sounds so clichéd that you actually think of spoofs before you think of serious horror movies, but it is, in fact, an exact duplicate of the 2002 version.

Just minutes into the five pretty co-eds’ journey, it’s not even the Eli Roth film you remember. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s 2012 meta-flick Cabin in the Woods will more likely spring to mind because Cabin Fever opens so heavy handedly it’s almost a spoof.

A bigger gun, a couple of selfies, and you basically cover every major difference between the 2016 and 2002 renditions of the film. What the movie lacks in originality – which is everything – it begins to compensate for with adequate performances and good looking scenery. Plus, no major Eli Roth sightings, which is always a positive.

Except for Samuel Davis (bland and weak) and Randy Schulman (flatly caricatured), the acting is quite solid. Cabin Fever is an adequate remake of a perfectly serviceable horror film, but there’s something to be said about beating a dead horse here. Or, in this case, beating Pancake the dog.


Biblical Fugitive


by George Wolf

It’s not quite the Talladega Nights vision of Jesus in a tuxedo t-shirt singing lead for Lynyrd Skynyrd, but Risen casts the Biblical story of the resurrection as a political thriller.

Director/co-writer Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) clearly has his eye on more than just the “faith-based” demographic. There’s good business in that audience, to be sure, but Risen is geared toward attracting more mainstream moviegoing tastes as well.

The film establishes a “non-believer” point of view at the outset, shortly after Pilate (Peter Firth) informs his trusted tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes in fine form) of the order to crucify “Yeshua” (Cliff Curtis). With a visit from the Emperor looming, Pilate charges Clavius with ensuring that the growing threat of Yeshua’s disciples dies with him.

Of course, the plot thickens once Yeshua’s body vanishes from the tomb. Clavius and his apprentice Lucius (Tom Felton) begin a desperate search for the body, or any body that might convince the masses their Messiah is dead.

It always seems awkward for Biblical characters to be speaking English, but here it fits the “B” movie feel of the narrative, as early political intrigue gives way to an all out manhunt. Regardless of what’s being spoken, Yeshua as portrayed by veteran supporting actor Curtis, a New Zealander with a Middle Eastern look, is a nice piece of casting.

A more familiar faith-based structure emerges in the film’s third act, as the doubting Clavius begins to see things he cannot explain, and the film’s worldview shifts to that of the converted.

That’s not an inherently bad thing, and the film gives the journey a welcome nuance. Though Reynolds overdoes the symbolism at times (Pilate washing his hands, Mary Magdalene bathed in sunbeans), Risen leans more on intelligence than obedience, and is ultimately more believable for it.



Unbearable Secrets

Son of Saul

by Hope Madden

When Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemes’s blistering Holocaust drama, opens, you will think the film is out of focus. Hold tight, because Nemes has made a conscious decision here and this is just the first of many moments that will alter the way you look at a film.

The director’s breathlessly confident feature debut, which the Academy has nominated for best foreign language film, closely follows one Auschwitz inmate over a particularly tumultuous 36 hour period of his confinement. If you think you’ve seen everything there is to see about the Holocaust, well, the director will surprise you there as well.

Saul (a phenomenal Geza Rohrig) is a sonderkommando, or “bearer of secrets.” He is among the prisoners used by the Nazis to grease the machinery of extermination: rifling through clothing for valuables, removing victims from gas chambers, burning bodies, scrubbing floors in preparation for the next batch being hustled to the “showers.”

Nemes and cinematographer Matyas Erdely keep Saul in shallow focus so that the horror around him is all only glimpsed peripherally. We are focused, as Saul is focused, on just one thing – and yet we are, as he is, saturated in the hell of this existence.

When Saul spies the body of a young boy he deems his son, an idea seizes him. He becomes possessed to save the corpse from the knife, find a rabbi to perform a Kaddish (prayer for the dead), and give the child a proper burial.

The counterproductive, myopic insanity of this act and the controlled lunacy of Saul’s determination become almost reasonable in the context of the mechanized dehumanization around him – a horror that is immersive thanks to Nemes singular vision and Tamas Zanyi’s suffocating sound design.

Much remains ambiguous as the relatively simple story unfolds, but that simplicity allows for the director’s unrelenting focus. It mirrors Saul’s necessary focus, and the moans, screams, beatings, death, and misery that surround him and us – because it is not neatly packaged or clearly articulated – may offer the most realistic picture of the incomprehensible events that any filmmaker could hope to achieve.

Son of Saul is a deeply human film about man’s inhumanity to man and Laszlo Nemes is an artistic phenomenon.