Browsing Category

Dawn

Posted on January 5, 2018

3 Films That’ll Help You Understand The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Dawn

If you’ve watched Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), you may well have walked away baffled. I know I did. But in a good way. The film is intriguing enough that it draws you in, makes you think—even if it’s only to ask: “What the hell was that all about?”

The plot follows successful cardiologist Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell), who has befriended the son of a patient who died on his operating table. Martin (Barry Keoghan) seems content at first just to meet Steven for coffee and desultory conversation, but it soon transpires that his relationship with the man who operated on his father is more complicated: he wants, as he says, “an eye for an eye.” He wants Steven to sacrifice one of his family members—his wife Anne (Nicole Kidman), daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) or son Bob (Sunny Suljic)—to balance the family member Martin thinks Steven took from him. The characters all speak in monotones and reveal very little of their underlying thought or emotion: the style is detached, and environments, houses, hospitals, cities, fill the frame, representing the attenuation of human motivation. It’s hard to know, in short, why characters do what they do.

In an effort to illuminate Lanthimos’s film, here are three films with which its meaning seems to me interwoven. Thinking through each of these films to Killing of a Sacred Deer sheds light on both.

Read more

Posted on December 21, 2017

Misreading Othello in the new Thriller, Dismissed

Dawn

Dismissed (2017) is an interesting film for anyone who is involved in education. Anyone else might find its central story of a psychopathic teen, Lucas Ward, played chillingly by Dylan Sprouse, a bit flimsy. Would a kid really be driven to rather absurd sadistic machinations and even to murder because his English teacher, David Butler (Kent Osborne), gives him a B+ on his paper? (Admittedly Butler later changes Lucas’s grade to an F after Lucas threatens him and calls him out on the fact that he got his degree from Iowa State rather than an Ivy League university. But still . . . ) Directed by Benjamin Arfmann and written by Brian McAuley, Dismissed is a rather lackluster and contrived entry in the psychopathic stalker subgenre. I personally found it enjoyable, though, and not only because I happened to be watching this story of a student who flips out over a grade during grading period at the end of a semester.

Dismissed has something that you almost never see in film: a scene in which two characters engage in a close reading of a literary text. Some of you may now be having unpleasant flashbacks to your last English class, but stay with me. This really is an interesting scene. (It begins at about 25 minutes into the film.)

Read more

Posted on December 14, 2017

The Doll: Horror and the Human Barbie

Dawn

The Doll, which was released in December 2017, is the second horror film written and directed by Susannah O’Brien, president of Sahara Vision Productions. O’Brien’s first horror film, Encounter, was released in May 2016, and she has a third film, Hallucinogen, due for release imminently.

The Doll is set in motion when two men, Andy (Anthony Del Negro) and his roommate Chris (Christopher Lenk) order a Russian escort from a distinctly shady website. This brilliant maneuver is supposed to make Andy’s girlfriend Shannon (Isabella Racco) jealous so she’ll come back to him. (The fact that Shannon walked out on Andy because he was making out with two women in their pool doesn’t seem to occur to Andy and Chris, who are immediately revealed as not the smartest tools in the toolbox.) Anyway, the Russian woman knocks at the door and Chris and Andy are suitably impressed by the looks of Natasha, played by the so-called “human Barbie,” Valeria Lukyano. Natasha doesn’t just look like a Barbie, she acts like one too, engaging in strictly minimal communication. And even though they supposedly think she is an actual human, Chris and Andy treat Natasha disconcertingly like a doll. “Where shall we put her?” asks Andy. And they proceed to put her in the attic–over and over. Happily (for this viewer at least), Natasha may not talk much, but she is handy with a knife. The plot thus follows her killing spree (which she engages in for reasons which are entirely obscure), intertwined with the much less interesting drama of Andy and Shannon’s love life.

Read more

Posted on November 25, 2017

Red Christmas: A Disturbing New Holiday Horror Classic

Dawn

Directed by Craig Anderson, Red Christmas premiered in Australia in the summer of 2016 and became widely available in the US (on DVD and streaming) in October 2017. When I say that Red Christmas is disturbing—even unpleasant—I’m in no way saying you shouldn’t watch this film; indeed, it seems poised to become a holiday classic. It’s disturbing and unpleasant in the way horror films should be, and it joins a pantheon of similarly disturbing holiday films, not least Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (Charles E. Sellier, Jr., 1984). To the extent that horror films make manifest what we repress and deny, the holidays (which demand extra helpings of repression and denial if mass mayhem is to be avoided) are undeniably ripe for the most disturbing of horror films. Enter, Red Christmas.

Read more

Posted on November 1, 2017

The Dangerous Politics of Geostorm

Dawn

Critics are in the process of hammering Dean Devlin’s cli-fi action / horror film Geostorm (2017)—and one of the most damning charges has been how stupid it is. “The stupidest film I have ever seen,” claimed Mark Kermode, tweeting “I have seen Geostorm. My brain is now cowering in a dark corner of my head and refusing to speak to me.”

Mark Kermode’s assessment of Geostorm

I did not, for the most part, experience Geostorm as stupid. As a long-time fan of disaster movies, part of me actually enjoyed it. More than that, though, I was disturbed by the relentlessly dangerous message of Geostorm—and I say that recognizing that director Dean Devlin had nothing but good intentions. In an interview, Devlin describes talking with his young daughter about climate change, trying to answer her anxious question: “Why aren’t we doing anything about it?” He goes on to say that Geostorm emerged from that conversation: it’s a “cautionary tale—a fable. What could happen if we wait to deal with this.”

Read more

Back to top