A good haunted house movie, much scarier than the 1970’s one, with some good demons and a new twist: the couple can’t move out of the extremely ghost-filled house because they’re Sudanese refugees who barely survived a treacherous boat ride that killed their daughter, and have been placed here by the government, their only chance to stay in Britain. He’s Sope Dirisu of the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel, and she’s Wunmi Mosaku of Lovecraft Country and the Wyatt Russell episode of Black Mirror. Ghosts in the house, crows in the walls and thugs outside, nowhere to hide. When he’s scraping off all the wallpaper and pulling out the wiring, and she’s trapped in the maze of their housing complex, I start wondering if they died at sea and England is hell, but they’ve got other secrets: their “daughter” was a girl they kidnapped to get preferential treatment while escaping. But instead of hell-vengeance, the wife kills the witch and they patch up the walls to please the housing people, and try to live in relative harmony with their racist neighbors and house full of spirits.

Wife, husband…

and daughter:

Good house and one good character: Roddy McDowall as a jaded, buttoned-up medium refusing to let the spirits in. He and some others are sent by a rich guy to live in the definitely haunted house to prove the existence of an afterlife. Arrogant scientist Clive Revill (CHUD II: Bud the Chud) almost sinks the movie, but fortunately the house wins, and Roddy outlives Clive. Roddy’s fellow medium is Pamela Franklin (Food of the Gods, The Nanny), the first to die, and Clive’s long-suffering wife Gayle Hunnicutt (Eye of the Cat) is allowed to live. Roddy defeats the ghost by taunting it relentlessly, which seems a bad strategy, but don’t underestimate the British weakness against taunting. Written by Twilight Zone vet Richard Matheson. Hough has made his share of cult faves, and also a Howling sequel, which I’ve probably seen but the sequels were all so shitty I’ve never tried to straighten out which movie was which.

My first-ever Sammo Hung movie. This did have skeletons, a ghost pulling somebody into a mirror, a hopping vampire, an Evil Dead hand rebelling against its body, and a battle between magicians, but it’s really not a horror movie. Rather a comedy action flick: a likeable loser called Big Guts is getting cucked by his wife and set up by his boss, but keeps managing to survive. I can see the Sammo influence on Jackie Chan, using all the props in the room and looking panicked while doing cool moves. Magician Lau (Tai Bo) disapproves of his master’s murderous work-for-hire, kwaidans and protects Sammo, then defeats evil magician Peter Chan Lung. Internet says both magicians were in Enter the Dragon, all my early kung fu movie interests starting to come together. I think one of the Jackie/Sammo collabs like Project A or Dragons Forever should be next. This movie has convinced me that Sammo is cool, but it loses points for bird killing.

I thought it was the Plazadrome screening of part 3 that got me on a Nightmare on Elm Street kick this month, but no, it was probably this:

Pretty good unwinking found-footage ghost story, or, an Australian remake of Fire Walk With Me with a worse sound mix. Some Paranormal Activity stuff after Alice dies on a family lake trip then is spotted on camera afterwards. These appearances are twice explained away: first her brother was acting ghostly to get her exhumed, then the neighbor actually snuck into the house looking for the sextape Alice made with him. So partly it’s about a grieving family, partly about Alice’s secrets, and maybe there’s a real ghost. The director’s follow-up is a six-hour Netflix show called Clickbait.

Cityscape (2019, Michael Snow)

This looks and sounds great, I must remember to watch it often. Snow is up to his old tricks, the camera across the river from the Toronto skyline, tracking down then up (an almost-invisible cut in the water), left and right, a drumbeat soundtrack increasing in speed and intensity along with the camera, whipping back and forth, then slowing down and adding rotation into the mix, never going the full Centrale, staying on one axis at a time, finally spinning off in the sky.


Train Again (2021, Peter Tscherkassky)

Strobing between trains and horses, combining images so it looks like horse action is being projected onto the side of a train, or the train is the physical filmstrip. Then tracks-as-filmstrip, colliding into each other, always in motion. And this being Tscherkassky he shows the filmstrip itself sliding around, overlapping other images, displaying printed soundtrack and fetishizing sprocket holes. Some visual and sound segments are identifiably looped, some images inverted and posterized. Not sure why Danny bikes in from The Shining but it made me laugh to see him here. A theater audience is strobed against a parade of Lumiere films, then of course The Great Train Robbery appears. Screaming brakes and smash-ups dissolve into shards – I can’t tell if this is Evan Johnson-style digital melt or if my encoded copy just can’t keep up with the motion. The flicker on this thing must really be something in a theater. Closes with a Kren appreciation, the train rounding the bend, having survived history and catastrophe.


Log 0 (2019, Isiah Medina)

Silent but for one burst of rain, this feels like a random assemblage of things, daily life and filmmaking excerpts. I’d thought of the title as mathematical, but oh, it’s an activity log, like the little end-of-year videos I make but Medina-style. Towards the end piano music comes in and the shots get longer, and there’s somebody sketching some curves, so maybe it’s mathematical after all, or both.


Duck Duck (2019, Harmony Korine)

Dance-beat instagram-filter hot dog furries go on a gentle hotel-trashing rampage. My first Korine movie since Trash Humpers is under four minutes long and could’ve been a minute shorter, so I dunno how I feel about tackling the 95-minute The Beach Bum anytime soon. Description says this “exploring the emerging disciplines of wearable cinema, augmented reality, and spontaneous storytelling.”


White Echo (2019, Chloe Sevigny)

Kickass little movie about a group of women using a ouija board in an old house, a spirit following medium Kate Lyn Sheil home. Groovy music, too.


Point and Line to Plane (2020, Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Easily my favorite Bohdan/Campbell, dedicated to the memory of the two departed friends mentioned in the voiceover, so some truth in the story here. Ghosts and movement (fast horizontal camera pans) tie this to the other shorts watched today. Art (Hilma af Klimt) and color and patterns are discussed as DC travels to cities and museums, ruminating on two late friends.


La Chanson de Prévert (2021, Michel Gondry)

Apparent cutout animation of an autumn leaf that produces radical temporal effects on anything it touches, set to an upbeat French pop song. Tremendous.


Figure Minus Fact (2020, Mary Helena Clark)

Still frames at first. Bells and silence… insects and fishes. Not sure what it’s going for, but it’s in crisp HD and some of the images are very nice. There are numbered “figures” (demonstrating insects that blend in with plant life) but most figures are presented unnumbered, sans fact.


Nimic (2019, Yorgos Lanthimos)

The Lanthimos short with the great poster and music. Considering laying down my rock records and getting really into Britten and Ferrari, but I need to finish Tom Waits Mode first. A little movie with big music and camerawork, Matt Dillon happens upon a mimic (Daphne Patakia of Benedetta) on the subway, who replaces him in his home and profession. Mimicking Lanthimos’s usual cinematographer is Diego García, who shot Cemetery of Splendor.


The Bucket (2019, Jia Zhangke)

Ohhh no, I was gonna say the music sounds like a TV ad, but this WAS a TV ad, a “shot on iPhone” promo about a guy traveling from the country to the city with a heavy bucket packed by his mom, which turns out to contain eggs from her farm packed in sand. Not gonna count this as a Jia film, just a paycheck, but at least there was bird tossing.


The Names Have Changed Including My Own (2019, Onyeka Igwe)

Archival slideshow, then british-accented narrator speaks of reading a book about her grandfather. Australian? A mother walks off with her infant twins. A darkened-stage dance routine, really nice photography. Discussion with her father or an uncle over a video version of the slave trade story featuring the grandfather. Facemask and hand sanitizer in a 2019 movie. A silent film is run and described in real-time but only the film reels and equipment are shown. Story of separated twins who reunite late in life. These threads run one after another, shorter and faster towards the end. The film about trains and the research family history in archival media really ties this nicely to the Tscherkassky and Bohdanowicz shorts.


The Return of Tragedy (2020, Bertrand Mandico)

“A smile is not a peaceful act, it’s a carnivorous statement.” In English and great color, Elina undead flying her internal organs like a kite while a cultist named Kate Bush confuses the cops. Scenario repeats with different details and results. The casio music and kooky weirdness recalls Quentin Dupieux. Yann Gonzalez also came to mind, or rather I was trying to remember if Mandico is the filmmaker who’s in M83, but no that’s Gonzalez, who is mentioned in the credits.

“What is a troll?”

Cyberbullies get murdered by ghost of their victim, five stars. Much of the terror here is in degraded video and waiting for sites to load. Unfortunately when I think of this movie, instead of the cool stuff like the one guy’s suicide by blender, I keep lingering on the last two seconds, which unwisely leave the desktop and show us the ghost. But movie also had positive outcomes, getting me to put the post-it note over my laptop camera again. Fun how the movie sets up Blaire, whose desktop we’re in, as a friend, paints her as a victim, then as her friends turn against each other and die, it’s revealed that she’s just as bad, and finally worse.

Blender boy is Terri from the movie Terri, and two of the girls are TV stars. The director is from Georgia (the country) and his followup was an “animated documentary” about a painter/puppeteer. The writer worked on the Sleepy Hollow series, and the gaggle of producers are the only ones who returned for the sequel.

How did Karl Krumpet’s 25-second vacation video get eleven million views??

This actually ended up being worse than Serpent and the Rainbow, an achievement. Mom moves the four kids to her childhood home in America so “they” will never find the family, then the kids meet Anya Taylor-Joy, who will “change their life – forever.”

This ghost-child is foreshadowing:

A year later the mom dies and they become increasingly secluded, barely seeing Anya, who’s being pursued by local realtor Tom. When Tom’s new job offer turns out to be a scam he extorts oldest son Jack for their killer dad’s stolen money, which Jack has to retrieve from the haunted attic, and spawns all sorts of flashbacks and revelations – the dad found them and killed everybody, and Jack locked him in the attic and has been pretending the others are still around.

Family Portrait:

Sledgehammer Realtor:

Jack was just one of the leads in 1917, and the realtor dude was in Poldark. Other son Billy got to hang out with Anya again in The New Mutants, and daughter Mia Goth woukld reteam with Anya in Emma. From the writer of The Orphanage, which I fully intended to watch this month but after this, I’m gonna push it till next year.

Intersection of a Japanese gang, a Chinese gang, a drug-addicted girl who sees ghosts, a crooked cop, a traitorous thief, a gangster’s girl out for revenge, and a floppy-haired boxer who wrongfully believes he has a fatal brain tumor, on one crazy night. Not as crazily awesome as I was led to believe, just a solid gangster action flick with one especially successful performance (the traitor).

Julie/Becky:

Traitor/villain Kase is Shota Sometani (tortured to death with a soldering iron in Lesson of Evil, maybe the narrator in Tokyo Tribe). Boxer Leo is Masataka Kubota of 13 Assassins. Revenge-girl Julie is “Becky” of a trio of Pokemon movies, and her late boyfriend Yazu is Takahiro Miura of Harmonium. The crooked cop: Nao Omori (Ichi the Killer himself, star of R100).

Leo with his girl Monica, freaking out on the subway:

Our first movie of 2020 was this hazy, ghostly thing. Ada is being tailed by Detective Issa, who suspects her of setting fire to her new husband Omar’s house, but at night Issa is being possessed by the spirit of Ada’s lover Souleiman who died at sea seeking work in a country that didn’t constantly rip him off.

Great synth music by Fatima Al Qadiri, who has released records on Warp and Hyperdub, and cinematography by Claire Mathon, who shot both the Guiraudie movies I’ve seen, and is currently winning awards for Portrait of a Lady on Fire. No screenshots because we cancelled netflix since watching.