What a good week to check out some pretty visionary, interesting filmmaking. And also Aladdin.
Oh, I’m kidding. Aladdin‘s fine.
Click the film title to link to the full review.
We are beyond delighted to have been allowed to screen Jim Jarmusch’s new zombie classic The Dead Don’t Die two days in advance of its national opening. To honor this remarkable film and its amazing cast, we look at the best other horror movies that star these actors.
Just when Shaun of the Dead convinced me that those Limey Brits had created the best-ever zombie romantic comedy, it turns out they’d only created the most British zom-rom-com. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick take the tried-and-true zombiepocalypse premise and sprint with it in totally new and awesome directions.
And the cameo. I cannot imagine a better one. I mean that. I’m not sure a walk on by Jesus himself could have brought me more joy.
That’s not true. Plus, in zombie movie?! How awesome would that have been?!
Jesse Eisenberg anchors the film with an inspired narration and an endearing dork characterization. But Woody Harrelson owns this film. His gun-toting, Twinkie-loving, Willie Nelson-singing, Dale Earnhart-number-wearing redneck ranks among the greatest horror heroes ever.
I give you, a trip to a loud and well-lit amusement park is not a recommendation Max Brooks would make during the zombiepocalypse. Still, you’ve got to admit it’s a gloriously filmed piece of action horror cinema.
The Dead Don’t Die is not Jim Jarmusch’s first foray into horror. In 2013, the visionary writer/director concocted a delicious black comedy, oozing with sharp wit and hipster attitude.
Great lead performances don’t hurt, either, and Jarmusch gets them from Tom Hilddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve (perfect!), a vampire couple rekindling their centuries-old romance against the picturesque backdrop of…Detroit.
Not since the David Bowie/Catherine Deneuve pairing in The Hunger has there been such perfectly vampiric casting. Swinton and Hiddleston, already two of the most consistently excellent actors around, deliver cooly detached, underplayed performances, wearing the world- weariness of their characters in uniquely contrasting ways.
There is substance to accent all the style. The film moseys toward its perfect finale, casually waxing Goth philosophic about soul mates and finding your joy.
It is 1977 in “a divided Berlin,” when American Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson, nicely moving the character from naivete to complexity) arrives for an audition with a world-renowned dance company run by Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton, mesmerizing).
This “cover version” (The Tilda’s phrase, and valid) of Argento’s original lifts the veil on the academy elders early, via the diaries of Patricia (Chloe Moretz), a dancer who tells psychotherapist Dr. Josef Kiemperer (also The Tilda, under impressive makeup) wild tales of witches and their shocking plans.
Guadagnino continues to be a master film craftsman. Much as he draped Call Me by Your Name in waves of dreamy romance, here he establishes a consistent mood of nightmarish goth.
But even when this new Suspiria is tipping its hat to Argento, Guadagnino leaves no doubt he is making his own confident statement. Women move in strong solidarity both onstage and off, dancing with a hypnotic power capable of deadly results. In fact, most of the male characters here are mere playthings under the spell of powerful women, which takes a deliciously ironic swipe at witch lore.
A giddy hatchet to the head of the abiding culture of the Eighties, American Psycho represents the sleekest, most confident black comedy – perhaps ever. Director Mary Harron trimmed Bret Easton Ellis’s novel, giving it unerring focus. More importantly, the film soars due to Christian Bale’s utterly astonishing performance as narcissist, psychopath, and Huey Lewis fan Patrick Bateman.
There’s an elegant exaggeration to the satire afoot. Bateman is a slick, sleek Wall Street toady, pompous one minute because of his smart business cards and quick entrance into posh NYC eateries, cowed the next when a colleague whips out better cards and shorter wait times. For all his quest for status and perfection, he is a cog indistinguishable from everyone who surrounds him. The more glamour and flash on the outside, the more pronounced the abyss on the inside. What else can he do but turn to bloody, merciless slaughter? It’s a cry for help, really.
Harron’s send up of the soulless Reagan era is breathtakingly handled, from the set decoration to the soundtrack, but the film works as well as a horror picture as it does a comedy. Whether it’s Chloe Sevigny’s tenderness as Bateman’s smitten secretary or Cara Seymour’s world wearied vulnerability, the cast draws a real sense of empathy and dread that complicate the levity. We do not want to see these people harmed, and as hammy as it seems, you may almost call out to them: Look behind you!
As solid as this cast is, and top to bottom it is perfect, every performance is eclipsed by the lunatic genius of Bale’s work. Volatile, soulless, misogynistic and insane, yet somehow he also draws some empathy. It is wild, brilliant work that marked a talent preparing for big things.
Opening with a brilliant prologue that wraps a nice vibe of homage around the cold realities of “walking while black,” writer/director Jordan Peele uses tension, humor and a few solid frights to call out blatant prejudice, casual racism and cultural appropriation.
When white Rose (Alison Williams) takes her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet the fam, she assures him race will not be a problem. How can she be sure? Because her Dad (Bradley Whitford) would have voted for Obama’s third term “if he could.” It’s the first of many B.S. alerts for Peele, and they only get more satisfying.
Rose’s family is overly polite at first, but then mom Missy (Catherine Keener) starts acting evasive and brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) gets a bit threatening, while the gardener and the maid (both black – whaaat?) appear straight outta Stepford.
Peele is clearly a horror fan, and he gives knowing winks to many genre cliches (the jump scare, the dream) while anchoring his entire film in the upending of the “final girl.” This isn’t a young white coed trying to solve a mystery and save herself, it’s a young man of color, challenging the audience to enjoy the ride but understand why switching these roles in a horror film is a social critique in itself.
Get Out is an audacious first feature for Jordan Peele, a film that never stops entertaining as it consistently pays off the bets it is unafraid to make.
Big week! So many movies! Some of them are even great. This week we break down Men in Black: International, Shaft, Late Night, The Dead Don’t Die, Halston plus everything worth your time in home entertainment.
Listen to the full podcast HERE.
by Hope Madden
Indie god and native Ohioan Jim Jarmusch made a zombie movie.
If you don’t know the filmmaker (Down by Law, Ghost Dog, Only Lovers Left Alive, Paterson and so many more jewels), you might only have noticed this cast and wondered what would have drawn Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, RZA, Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez to a zombie movie.
It’s because Jim Jarmusch made it.
Jarmusch is an auteur of peculiar vision, and his latest, The Dead Don’t Die, with its insanely magnificent cast and its remarkably marketable concept, is the first ever in his nearly 30 years behind the camera to receive a national release.
Not everybody is going to love it, but it will attain cult status faster than any other Jarmusch film, and that’s saying something.
He sets his zombie epidemic in Centerville, Pennsylvania (Romero territory). It’s a small town with just a trio of local police, a gas station/comic book store, one motel (run by Larry Fassenden, first-time Jarmusch actor, longtime horror staple), one diner, and one funeral home, the Ever After.
Newscaster Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez – nice!) informs of the unusual animal behavior, discusses the “polar fracking” issue that’s sent the earth off its rotation, and notes that the recent deaths appear to be caused by a wild animal. Maybe multiple wild animals.
The film never loses its deadpan humor or its sleepy, small town pace, which is one of its greatest charms. Another is the string of in-jokes that horror fans will revisit with countless re-viewings.
But let’s be honest, the cast is the thing. Murray and Driver’s onscreen chemistry is a joy. In fact, Murray’s onscreen chemistry with everyone—Sevigny, Swinton, Glover, even Carol Kane, who’s dead the entire film—delivers the tender heart of the movie.
Driver out-deadpans everyone in the film with comedic delivery I honestly did not know he could muster. Landry Jones also shines, as does The Tilda. (Why can’t she be in every movie?)
And as the film moseys toward its finale, which Driver’s Officer Ronnie Paterson believes won’t end well, you realize this is probably not the hardest Jim Jarmusch and crew have ever worked. Not that the revelation diminishes the fun one iota.
Though it’s tempting to see this narrative as some kind of metaphor for our current global political dystopia, in fairness, it’s more of a mildly cynical love letter to horror and populist entertainment.
Mainly, it’s a low-key laugh riot, an in-joke that feels inclusive and the most quotable movie of the year.