For a two-hour movie it sure starts fast – there’s a “sea eruption” as the coast guard examines an abandoned craft, and a gushing leak in an undersea traffic tunnel, then a flurry of government workers reacting to the news, each worker rapidly introduced via subtitle, and this is all in the first two minutes. Little did I realize we’d mostly stick with these government workers for the next 118 minutes – this is a Godzilla movie told from the POV of the bureaucrats trying to devise a solution to the kaiju problem. I meant to watch this two years ago as part of a double-feature, but was so disappointed by the American remake, I cancelled. Should have carried on with the plan – despite its insistent focus on meetings, this is unique and excellent.

While the government works on their undersea-volcano theory, Godzilla’s tail shows up on the TV news, then as the PM is assuring the public there’s no danger of it coming onshore, it comes onshore. The fate of humanity may depend on the government’s response, but the higher-ups only listen to high-ranking officials, not anyone with actual knowledge or ideas. A scrappy young voice-of-reason deputy cabinet secretary named Rando (Hiroki Hasegawa, lead Fuck Bomber of Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, also in Before We Vanish) forms an impromptu committee of underrated functionaries to brainstorm solutions the old-guard leadership isn’t coming up with, making this the most Colonel Blimp-like of Godzilla movies.

Back to the giant monster movie at hand, the thing that comes onshore is… not Godzilla? I thought it might be a monster that G ends up fighting, but after struggling through the city and splashing blood everywhere, it collapses then suddenly evolves into the G we all know. Every time it stops and then rises again, it’s more powerful with new abilities – the fin-glowing, fire-breathing, purple-energy-releasing sequence is especially impressive.

When purple energy beams destroy the prime minister’s chopper, a know-nothing with seniority is made PM, and pretty easily convinced by the U.S. to let them nuke Tokyo. Sure he feels awful, but he has no ideas or power of his own, so it’s up to Rando, his team and his negotiations with the talented half-Japanese daughter of a U.S. senator. The movie is obvious about its politics and complaints – and again, it’s mostly meetings – but it’s also excellently paced and has outstanding monster-devastation scenes.

There are a million actors in this, each introduced with onscreen name and title, and I only kept track of a few. The PM is Ren Osugi, who shows up in every other Japanese movie I watch, and died last year. Kayoko is Satomi Ishihara of the Ring sequel Sadako 3D. Rando’s team includes Mikako Ichikawa of Anno’s live-action cartoon Cutie Honey, and Shinya Freakin’ Tsukamoto.

Not really horror, a disaster movie – made in response to the American version, which wasn’t good at all. This got a limited release in the US, where it mostly appealed to nerds on fansites, while in Japan it won best film and best director and was only outsold by Your Name. Hideaki Anno made this as a mental break between Evangelion films, the fourth of which is now five years delayed. Codirector Shinji Higuchi made Attack on Titan with some of the same cast, and directed sfx for the 1990’s Gamera movies. Anno might be following up with an Ultraman movie, and if he never finishes making the theatrical Evangelion series, I’m never gonna start watching it.

It has been over a year since I’ve watched the last ten minutes of a bunch of mediocre horror movies on streaming sites, and the temptation to properly watch some of these has been building, so it’s time to knock out a bunch and save myself some time.


Bird Box (2018, Susanne Bier)

Sandra Bullock regains consciousness and calls out “boy! girl!” when searching for the boy and girl, while phantoms are trying to trick the kids into removing their blindfolds. Is avoiding names a Pontypool sorta thing? “I have so much I want you to see” sounds like a sideways Hellraiser reference? The oppressive sound design is meant to distract the characters from locating the birds they seek. Once they get indoors, where the monsters cannot reach, there are no birds, annoyingly, it’s just a school for the blind – the last survivors of the suicide-sight monster-pocalypse. Blinds are like normals, now. She DOES have a box full of birds, pretty blue-green guys, then she names her “son” after the guy from Moonlight, presumably deceased. This was part of that wave of netflix movies that everyone thought they had to watch just because they had netflix, so I’m probably the last person in the world who hasn’t seen it. Bier made After The Wedding, which I saw a very long time ago, Bullock hasn’t been prolific since Gravity.


The Silence (2019, John Leonetti)

Netflix knows you want to watch this after Bird Box. This is obviously where Bird Box and A Quiet Place meet. From the fast-forward it looks Tucci-centric and monotonously beige. Stanley Tucci’s family encounters a traumatized lost girl who was sent with a noisemaker-rigged suicide vest to attract the murder-bats that killed the world, while masked dudes kidnap family members in slow-mo, and mom does that Quiet Place thing where she suicide-screams so the kids can escape. Tucci-gang and kidnap-gang brawl under a swarm of murder-bats, then an unwelcome voiceover catches us up. The director made Mortal Kombat 2, the writers worked on Transmorphers and a C. Thomas Howell movie,


Velvet Buzzsaw (2019, Dan Gilroy)

Zawe Ashton wanders into a haunted art gallery alone at night, the artworks all streaming paint onto the floor and into her body, while in a storage facility, Jake Gyllenhaal encounters a killer android on crutches, and at home Rene Russo gets assaulted by sculptures. Russo survives the night and tries to stay safe by divesting herself of all paintings and sculptures, but her tattoo counts as art, and kills her via shady CG. As in Bird Box, Malkovich had been killed off in the previous 90 minutes, damn it. Gilroy made Nightcrawler, but more importantly, he cowrote Freejack.


Apostle (2018, Gareth Evans)

Since we’ve watched the Downton Abbey movie, let’s see what old too-good-for-TV Dan Stevens is up to… ah, burning swamp witches in direct-to-video films. Dan rescues two women from a sexist cultist, whom they strenuously murder, while the cult compound burns, the camera bouncing here and there, recalling Evans’s V/H/S/2 segment. A mountainside explodes in fire and blood, the women escape, and the cult beardo watches a dying Dan embrace the grasses and become the new swamp-witch. Evans made The Raid movies… oh jeez, I watched one of those just three years ago and have forgotten all about it.


The Hole in the Ground (2019, Lee Cronin)

Seána Kerslake is in a hole in the ground. I hoped from the description that this would be a modern The Gate, but it looks like another The Descent. After an eternity of crawling, she rescues her unconscious son but awakens the blind beasties who can transform into people who probably died earlier in the movie. Back home, how can she know who’s real and who’s a beastie? Movie characters do not care about what is knowable, so she burns down her house with one son inside, and drives off with her “real” son, then we wait for the inevitable reveal that she got it wrong – there it is! Lee is presumably Mikal Cronin’s brother, his cowriter did a series called Zombie Bashers.


Cabin Fever Remake (2016, Travis Z)

Oh no, sad Matt (Daddario, of the Buffy-looking series Shadowhunters) is burning down the cabin with his feverish girlfriend inside, then his feverish buddy gets shot by rednecks and Gage blows them away. I see this is going the horror-comedy route, with the ever-popular overbearing sound design. He comes across Louise Linton of The Midnight Man, calls her a bitch, then I guess he walks into the woods and is killed by the editing and the too-loud music. Our director Mr. Z worked on Hatchet III and Behind the Mask, and screenwriter Randy cowrote the original with Eli Roth, who made not one but two poorly-reviewed films last year, plus a History of Horror doc series.


Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018, Hèctor Hernández Vicens)

Ooh the zombie can talk and kidnap children in this second remake of the Romero sequel. Some bellowing army dudes are extremely good shots with their pistols as a horde approaches, but they all suffer the fate that army dudes in zombie movies must, while Sophie Skelton (Outlander) runs right past the horde to rescue her kid, beheads the talking zombie (Johnathon Schaech of The Scare Hole) with typical action-movie kissoff dialogue, then reads some science narration in as bored a voice as possible. The director’s follow-up to The Corpse of Anna Fritz, which itself got a remake, perpetuating some sorta horror sequel-remake super-cycle.


Await Further Instructions (2018, Johnny Kevorkian)

I skipped back an extra couple minutes because I noticed the movie’s blue-gray palette suddenly bloom into full color. It’s nothing though, and back in the blue-gray house the TV is telling the family members to kill each other, and dad complies with a hatchet before he’s taken down. I hope this all turns out to be a gag by the neighbor kids at the end. Nope, when smashed, the TV comes to Cronenbergian life and Tetsuos the dead dad. Sam Gittins (this year’s Ray & Liz) appears to win, then the whole family is murdered by cables except the newborn who I guess grows up with cables as parents. The director made family thriller The Disappeared a decade ago, the writer has a short about deadly colors called Chromophobia.


Cargo (2017, Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke)

Oh, Martin Freeman is not gonna survive this pandemic apocalypse. After he goes blind and hungry, a kid takes his baby and rides undead-Martin to the zombie-hunter tribal lands in painful, wordless slow-motion. A remake of their 2013 short, but 98 minutes longer.


Veronica (2017, Paco Plaza)

The Spanish Ouija horror – kids are fleeing a demon-infested apartment building, Vero goes back for the youngest, then realizes the demon was inside her all along and tries to stop herself. Inventive effects, a cool look, and kickass post-punk song over the credits – one of the rare Last Ten Minutes entries that seems like a good movie. From the director of the original [Rec] plus two of its sequels.


Life After Beth (2014, Jeff Baena)

It’s killing me that the Zombie Aubrey movie was deemed not good enough to watch, but hey, my time is valuable. Dane DeHaan (Valerian himself) has strapped a fullsize oven to Aubrey’s back to slow her down, and they go for a romantic canyon hike before he shoots her. “I am sorry the whole world went to shit, but it was totally worth it.” John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon must be dead, but Anna Kendrick is here. The movie’s best original detail is that zombie gravestones have two death dates. Our writer/director specializes in little-loved Aubrey Plaza movies, also made The Little Hours.

The second half reveals that Bradley Cooper’s washed-up drunk suicidal 1970’s jam-dude was the lead character all along, bumming out a movie that we thought would be more about the giddy excitement of Lady Gaga’s rise to stardom. She’s an amateur from nowhere with a golden voice, but being a pop singer in 2018 requires choreography and shitty beats, so Cooper loves and marries her but still gets to be the guy who keeps it real, commenting on her false costumes and dance moves, then goes back to barking indecipherable lyrics over Neilyoungian jams (backed by Neil’s band Promise of the Real).

Despite the Cooper obsession, it’s a well-paced beauty of a movie that seems to exist for that one song/scene, Gaga revealed to be far more talented than her work in Machete Kills hinted at. The camera dives and swoops through the rock concert scenes, Sam Elliott is cool as ever, and it’s not until the closing credits that we stop to wonder what Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle were doing in a movie together.

Only a couple minutes after Buster Scruggs ended, the opening titles of this movie announced that it’s a story told in six chapters – what are the odds? Unexpected suicides in both movies too. It’s not that I wanted a faithful remake, since the plot is the weakest thing about Argento’s Suspiria, but what made them turn a bonkers Italian horror about witches in a dance studio into a 2.5-hour movie set in Berlin during the Baader-Meinhof hijacking, with long sections about a psychiatrist who lost his wife in the Holocaust? What’s the meaning of Tilda Swinton playing both Evil Mothers in charge of the studio and also the psychiatrist? Nice plot twist with Dakota Johnson (the older sister in Bad Times at the El Royale) appearing to be the fresh-meat new girl with especially good dance-murder skills, later revealed to be the reborn Mother Suspiriorum come to cleanse the school by killing one or both Tildas. I mean, this was a lot of movie for a single weeknight, so I think that’s what happened. I have mixed feelings, but pretty sure I need to keep watching all of Luca’s movies (this is my second of the year).

Chloe Grace is a paranoid escaped dancer in the opening scenes, then disappears forever, followed shortly by suspicious Olga, who gets gnarled up in the practice room. Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness) is the dancer who shows Dakota around, and Jessica Harper cameos as the psychiatrist’s dead wife. Most unexpected name in the credits: The Turin Horse cinematographer Fred Kelemen as one of the cops who Psych Tilda asks for help. Writer David Kajganich has also done a Body Snatchers remake and a Pet Sematary remake.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky compares it to “the movies Nicolas Roeg was making around the same time, confounding mosaics of predestination and psychoanalysis … It’s a movie where most of the characters are liminal figures, mid-phase between identities. It is packed with doors, mirrors, ceremonies, rehearsals, shared secrets, and make-up, suggesting commonalities between the backstage world and the supernatural through collage.”

I thought about watching this, then rewatching Vertigo, then rewatching this… but I’m not made of free time here, so I just wikipediaed Vertigo then watched this once. It’s 90+ percent footage from San Francisco movies and shows (credited at the end in a dizzying rush of title cards), with some added effects: manipulated TV and film screen images, dialogue chopped out leaving behind only pauses and breaths, and the titular fog. Everything is fit into 4:3, a few bits of dialogue or voiceover are left in, and the whole thing is accompanied by great string music by Jacob Garchik and the Kronos Quartet.

I probably would’ve enjoyed this just as much without knowing the story concept, but having the Vertigo storyline to follow makes it more memorable. Favorite sections: the “women looking at paintings” scene, the “Chuck Norris being pensive” footage, and especially the ending, a montage of bickering couples and earthquakes leading to the final death plummet. Good use of screens and tape recorders, and humor throughout – this isn’t as extreme as Tscherkassky or Martin Arnold in its found-footage manipulation, but just as enjoyable. David Cairns points out there’s a Bill Morrison equivalent, Spark of Being as a found-footage Frankenstein.

“What is line?” Took a while to realize that this isn’t actually a comedy – it’s a dramatization of Greg Sestero’s book, and so the adventures of Good Guy Greg who gets pulled into this madcap craziness by his nutty friend. Having seen Retro Puppet Master, I would never choose to watch a Greg Sestero biopic… James Franco’s hilarious Tommy Wiseau impression and the bewildered professionals played by Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer kept me from turning it off, and the closing titles sequence reveals this film’s reason for existing, as they split-screen the original film with perfectly timed re-enactment scenes. They’re all big goofy fans of The Room and wanted to feel what it’s like to make their own Room.

Okay, we’re at a crisis point with the movie blog. I fell about two months behind, only taking basic plot and character notes on the last 25 movies, so I need to admit the next few posts are going to be very bad and just rush through them. Jumping back and forth between some recent SHOCKtober films and the Aug/Sept backlog for a while…

I’m not a huge fan of remakes of beloved classics, so ignored this when it came out, then I heard it was actually good, so took a chance. It’s actually good! An intense little horror film, splitting the difference between adding new details (prologue with a demonic-possessed girl being burned to death by her father), following the same old story with fan-service references (“does that sound… fine?”), and trying to top the original (*two* people cut their own arms off).

After the prologue we meet the doomed new gang. Eric (Lou Pucci of Spring and Southland Tales) is the glasses nerd who will discover the Book of the Dead and read the cursed passages. Olivia (Jessica Lucas of Cloverfield and Gotham) is a dark-haired nurse who is probably the first to die, though it’s hard to tell when anyone in this movie actually dies. City Boy David (Shiloh Fernandez of We Are Your Friends) is our lead cool dude who we assume will be the new Ash, but won’t be. His blonde girlfriend Natalie (Liz Blackmore of TV’s Vampire Diaries) gets bitten on the hand, tries to take care of the problem with the electric carving knife but still goes full demon.

And that leaves Mia (Jane Levy of Don’t Breathe and Castle Rock), City Boy David’s sister who was lured to the cabin as an intervention to help her get off drugs. She’s the first victim of demonic possession (of all the details from the original, they kept the tree-rape scene), then vomits demon blood onto Nurse Olivia, is locked in the basement, but I guess Mia recovers, cuts off her own hand, and chainsaws a Demon Mia to death in the apocalyptic blood rain as the cabin burns down. Some fun with camera and focus, as in the original.

Great opening titles, the credits created from an array of redacted documents. I took a note when pausing to grab snacks: “no way will the movie live up to these opening titles” – and it didn’t!

but it’s thrilling when G’s laser-breath is finally unleashed:

It doesn’t go the full Cloverfield, but sticks close to the ground, glimpsing giant monster battles from a panicked human perspective, much of the action unreadably dark on my screen. Bomb disposal expert Col. Witwicky must be cursed, he and each of his family members getting right in the path of monster attacks, until he breaks the curse at the end by torching the bad-guy monsters’ eggs before they can overrun the planet. And oh yeah there are evil monsters here, and Godzilla’s the good guy. And Juliette Binoche dies horribly after only 15 minutes, and Bryan Cranston is the star but he dies too, and Sally Hawkins gets three lines, and Ken Watanabe plays the Japanese scientist, and David Strathairn plays the serious military one, but mostly we’re left with Witwicky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, lead rapist of Nocturnal Animals) trying to get home to his Olsen wife before the world ends.

Evil Mantis Monster:

Hidden Mothra reference on a fishtank:

Gareth made this between indie alien thriller Monsters and a Star Wars spinoff. I was planning to double-feature this with the even newer Godzilla movie from the creator of Evangelion, but after two disappointing action flicks in a row (this and Alien: Covenant) I couldn’t risk a third, so rewatched Fury Road instead. Normally I’d say “argh, why did I watch this bland multiplex junk,” not recalling why it ended up on my must-see list, but now thanks to Letterboxd I can look up exactly who recommended it… aha, Ehrlich with 4.5 stars. “One of the most satisfying, well-paced & beautifully directed blockbusters since Jurassic Park… genuinely registers as the first post-human blockbuster.” And MZ Seitz listed it as one of the century’s best. They are high.

Wasn’t planning it this way, but I guess my viewing of Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers, and last year’s SHOCKtober screening of the 1956 original (and I suppose The Invasion) were all prelude to this wonderful Alamo screening of the best Body Snatchers movie. It loses the 1950’s prudishness, ramps up the energy and paranoia (and humor, when Jeff Goldblum is onscreen) and lands on an even bleaker ending than the original tried to imply. It could almost be a sequel instead of a remake – the 1956 ends (not counting the dumb framing story) with Kevin McCarthy screaming on the highway, unheeded, and early in this version McCarthy appears on a city street yelling “We’re in danger – you’re next!” just before getting killed.

“A disquieting paranoid thriller informed by the conspiracy theories of the period and the jaded cynicism that followed the death of the counterculture movement,” per Adam Cook.

Donald Sutherland is our new McCarthy, a San Francisco health department investigator and the boss of Elizabeth (Brooke Adams: The Dead Zone, Shock Waves). Donald likes Liz but she’s married to Art Hindle (lead dude in The Brood), who is the first to be invaded – not counting their psychiatrist guru friend Leonard Nimoy, who was probably a pod from the start. While uncovering the plot and figuring out what to do about it, they huddle with friends Goldblum and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright, in The Birds as a teen, later Alien and Witches of Eastwick).

The Shaun of the Dead trick of pretending to be a zombie and walking among the others seems to work, until Donald and Liz get shocked by something and scream. Donald spotted a pod next to a homeless dude (and his dog) and kicked it – a few scenes later the dog is walking around with the dude’s face. As in the original, Liz is only left alone for a few minutes when she falls asleep and gets replaced, melting in Donald’s hands as her pod version rises up, telling him to join them.

Screenplay by W.D. Richter, later director of Buckaroo Banzai with Goldblum. Fun angles and shadowplay, and perfectly balanced tone of terror and action – no wonder a couple movies later Kaufman’s The Right Stuff got eight oscar nominations. Sutherland was later in the quite bad Puppet Masters, in which Earth is invaded by mind-controlling alien parasites, and McCarthy would reprise his role yet again in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

Film Quarterly:

Visually, the movies couldn’t differ more. Siegel’s unadorned black-and-white has yielded to Kaufman’s lyrical color, tilts, handheld shots, and high key lighting. Michael Chapman’s photography is both lustrous and penumbral, with deep shadows and crowded, mobile frames. Annexing the genre’s salient mood of engulfing dread, he has made the new Body Snatchers a film noir in color.