aka Dans ma peau
Written and Directed by Marina de Van
Starring Marina de Van, Laurent Lucas, Léa Drucker, and Thibault de Montalembert
One of the most ridiculous bits of praise I ever heard about a movie was that a girl in It Follows laid pieces of grass on her leg in a symbolic act of cutting. I liked the movie, but so what? An empty metaphor, unsupported and never addressed is nonsense. Self-harm is a real issue, not something to be winkingly referenced in an attempt to appear deep. Marina de Van understood that it is a frightening and irrational means of control, and she deconstructed herself to explore this in her film In My Skin.
Written and directed by Bill Gunn
Starring Duane Jones, Marlene Clark, Bill Gunn, Sam L. Waymon, and Leonard Jackson
Vampires are associated with Eastern Europe in American film, despite the rich world culture of similar mythologies. Even in the classic blaxploitation horror Blacula, African prince Mamuwalde is turned into a vampire by a very traditional Dracula. Almost as though in answer to the Euro-centrism of Blacula’s origin, the following year saw the release of Bill Gunn’s Ganja &a Hess. The importance of this film cannot be understated, as it presented a very different model of black filmmaking amidst a glut of crass cash-ins.
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Written by Rachel Talalay and Michael De Luca, based on characters created by Wes Craven
Starring Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Ricky Dean Logan, Breckin Meyer, and Yaphet Kotto
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984, creating the relentless killer who became the sole speaking member of the Unholy Trinity of 80s Slashers. Together with Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger captured imaginations and box office with flamboyant murders and the inability to stay dead for long. Sequels were on such a fast track that only 7 years after the original Freddy movie the 6th one was released. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was not, of course, the end of Freddy Krueger. It wasn’t even the last time that the character would be portrayed by Robert Englund. But it was the last of the original sprint of Nightmare movies.
Written and directed by Karen Lam
Starring Katerina Katelieva, Richard Harmon, Mayumi Yoshida, Kelvin Redvers, Nelson Leis, David Lewis, and Natalie Grace
Women in movies are often raped and killed in order to motivate male heroes. When women began to be shown as heroes, their rapes became their own motivations. As thrilling as it is to watch Jennifer hunt down her attackers in I Spit on Your Grave, it and far too many other pictures assume that the only reason for vengeance is sexual assault on women. Which leaves me feeling conflicted about Evangeline, a film that steeps itself in vengeance cliches to address matters of humanity and spirituality.
aka Las luchadoras contra el médico asesino
Directed by René Cardona
Written by Alfredo Salazar
Starring Lorena Velázquez, Armando Silvestre, Elizabeth Campbell, Roberto Cañedo, Sonia Infante, Chucho Salinas, and Chabela Romero
Once upon a time, a fella named K. Gordon Murray discovered that there was money in dubbing and distributing Mexican films for American audiences. He’s most known now for importing children’s movies like Little Red Riding Hood (La caperucita roja) and Santa Claus, particularly since Mystery Science Theater 3000 re-popularized it. Murray also brought over luchador movies, including several with El Santo (renamed Samson) and films like Wrestling Women Vs the Aztec Mummy.
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Stephen King
Starring Chlöe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Demetrius Joyette, and Judy Greer
It’s got to be a thankless task to remake a movie adaptation of a novel for the second time, especially when the previous remake is only a decade old. The fact that the original film is so iconic that images from it persist in popular culture almost 40 years on makes it practically a fool’s errand. Yet in 2013, another version of Carrie was presented to a skeptical audience.
Directed by Brea Grant
Written by Brea Grant and Vera Miao
Starring Brea Grant, Vera Miao, Sean Maher, Kit Williamson, Constance Wu, Stacey Storey, Alex Berg, and Alex Fernie
Who doesn’t love a good apocalypse? Since at least the days of science fiction films like The War of the Worlds movies have presented us with stories of threats to our way of life, whether through war, disease, environmental catastrophe, the risen dead, or killer plants from outer space. While some wallow in nihilism, most of them reaffirm or faith in humanity’s ability to overcome hardships and rebuild. Even when there are few characters the implication is that they represent society, so their success heals all. Best Friends Forever follows two young women on a road trip from Los Angeles to Austin as the nation reels from a nuclear attack. It’s a very personal apocalypse, and it emphasizes the significance of a single relationship against the background of a nation’s collapse.
Directed by Danielle Harris
Written by Alyssa Lobit
Starring Alyssa Lobit, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Kamala Jones, AJ Bowen, Brianne Davis, Christopher Backus, Dana Daurey, and Chris Meyer
In last year’s review of X-Game I mentioned the influence of the Saw franchise on modern vigilante horror. Five years ago, Danielle Harris’s Among Friends used the sub-genres conventions to point out how rape culture targets victims with continued societal disbelief and minimization. Spoilers, ahoy. There’s just no way to discuss this one without revealing plot points.
Directed by William Berke
Written by Carroll Young
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Sherry Moreland, William Henry, Lyle Talbot, Joel Friedkin, and George Eldredge
Odds are that if you know about Johnny Weissmuller at all, you know him as an actor who played Tarzan. Maybe you even know about his pockets full of Olympic gold and record-setting competitive swimming career. If you read my last review, you also know he faced a giant spider in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery. Well, my friends, today you’ll learn about his second encounter with a big damn spider, as Jungle Jim in Fury of the Congo.
Directed by Wilhelm Thiele
Written by Edward T. Lowe Jr. from a story by Carrol Young
Based on characters by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring Johnny Weissmuller, Nancy Kelly, Johnny Sheffield, Otto Kruger, Joe Sawyer, Lloyd Corrigan, and Robert Lowery
There are movie series that feature giant spiders in recurring roles. With heavy-continuity franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it can be tricky to figure out how to handle the review. It’s a lot easier with the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, which are largely unconnected apart from basic character facts. For the 8th installment, Tarzan’s Desert Mystery, all you need to know is that there’s a guy named Tarzan (Weissmuller) who wears a buttflap. He has a son named Boy (Johnny Sheffield), who is also averse to clothing. Forget about Jane. She’s in England, helping out by working as a nurse.