David Bruckner’s The Ritual is a wonderful film, which I review here, which combines rich allusions to other horror films while also doing something quite distinctive. In my review, I mention some of the more obvious references of the film, but here’s a less obvious one: Karyn Kusama’s 2015 film, The Invitation.
You can’t expose yourself to grisly images and concepts on the daily and not have a strong stomach. And so it was with more than a little surprise that I found myself having to repeatedly take a break from episode 10 of the fantastic Charles Manson’s Hollywood podcast, which recounts in grisly detail the murders that took place at Sharon Tate’s home in 1969.
Now none of these details were new to me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there may have been elements left out in the telling. But the very intimate nature of listening to the description of events instead of reading it or watching it impacted me in a way for which I was wholly unprepared. And so it got me thinking about the ways in which podcasts are revolutionizing the horror experience for fans. Read more
The Ritual just arrived on Netflix US on February 9, 2018, after general release in the UK and Ireland last October. It’s directed by David Bruckner (The Signal, 2007, and the “Amateur Night” segment in V/H/S, 2012) and co-written by Joe Barton and Adam Nevill. Nevill wrote the fantastic novel of the same name (2011). (Aside: go and read the novel.) Since I loved the novel, I’ve been following the film with anticipation, and so part of me expected disappointment as I began it as soon as it was humanly possible for me to do so on the day it arrived on Netflix. I was not disappointed. Far from it. In fact, The Ritual is my favorite horror film of 2018 so far.
This post contains spoilers
Despite being filmed in Australia, Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out (2016) is a film that very much feels like it belongs in Trump’s America. From the way wealth and privilege are leveraged to create a veneer of normalcy to the intersection of male privilege and childhood, this film’s messaging is situated directly in those conversations being held in the American cultural sphere.
The film’s storyline is a relatively simple one. Having arrived at the Lerner residence to babysit 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), Ashley’s (Olivia DeJonge) expected quiet evening takes a dramatic turn when she is forced to guard her charge and his best friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), against a home intruder. But things quickly take a turn when Ashley discovers that her biggest threat comes from the person she’d least suspect. Read more
Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, and I left the theater trying to figure out what to make of it. The story is simple: dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) meets a waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), and they begin a relationship in which she becomes his new muse and must find her role in her new life while vying for his attention with Reynolds’ high-class clients and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). Soon, Alma begins to assert herself as the primary woman in Reynolds’ life and eventually demonstrates the implications of that role to him and the audience. Phantom Thread is a beautiful movie but the great camerawork and outstanding performances hide layers of meaning based principally on the complicated relationship at the center of the movie.
Although the film is a romance, there are some horror and thriller elements that helped me comprehend what was happening. To understand some of these aspects of the film better, I recommend thinking about it in relation to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Psycho, as well as Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper.