Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Graveyard Shift Sisters 2016 Film Recap

The indelible compulsion to make some sort of end-of-year list has been nagging at me all month. Indeed it has been a great year for the horror genre. There seems to have been more solid entries from both the independent and wide release markets and even some balanced divisiveness that have sparked productive debates that didn't end in a Jerry Springer brawl.

This will be me going off the cuff; no preparation, just working from pure memory. It just so happens that I narrowed it down to ten, not including some of the great horror shorts nor the brief coverage of my favorites from Fantastic Fest. And in no particular order.

The Conjuring 2

Director James Wan very patiently and beautifully creates an emotional aesthetic in his construction of fear that clearly resonates with not just horror fans, but the other $100 million+ generating film goers on the brink of a sunny and warm summer. I admit that part of me that craves romance found myself caught up in the rapture of the Hollywood version of real life 'demon exorcists' Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). I'm not proud of it. I'm working overtime to erect my Maxine Shaw exterior. But their on screen chemistry is definitely a component of the series' mainstream success while still remaining scary.

Graveyard Shift Sisters note: I still wish we got a full frame of the woman at the DeFeo seance sporting that lovely afro.

The Eyes Of My Mother

I wrote a review over at my step-family's crib Birth.Movies.Death which you can read by clicking on this underlined spot. I thought it lovely and terrifying. Definitely a must-see.

Under The Shadow

I'm pretty convinced we're supposed to and expected to be in a constant state of fear due to inhabiting such a volatile world. In 1980's Tehran, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) are boxed in the constant threat of bombings, the dire consequences for not adhering to restrictive, societal customs, and supernatural beings? But how do this mother and young daughter rectify the rifts in their relationship? How does an established, 'strong-minded' woman raise a daughter in their time and space? These are questions I found very interesting while watching this.

The Witch

This breakdown of an arguably otherwise strong family unit of a narrative was my first "how could you not love this?!" of the year. There's much to find within the film's marketing line, "Evil Takes Many Forms" as the witch within The Witch was just that: a variation of the evils of the desire of people in its many forms. It's powerful message of human frailty was a fascinating tour into the past, carefully crafted by writer/director Robert Eggers. This film should've been an Oscar contender.

The Handmaiden

Imagine if Bound was much longer with the care of a novel. Like if a novelization of Bound was made into a film centered in Korea with an all Korean cast. Bound was a really good movie about how two queer women found love and outsmarted, swindled and played the men that underestimated them. Kinda like what happens in The Handmaiden but perfectly executed.

The Blackcoat's Daughter

This was a chore to even get my hands on. And with Osgood Perkins (writer and director) all abuzz on Netflix with I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, it was a small mystery for awhile as to why the film formerly known as February had such a good reception on the festival circuit but no release. Luckily, it looks like our new indie friend A24 (also responsible for the distribution of the stellar non-genre but one of my faves of the year Moonlight) will be releasing it sometime in 2017. The Blackcoat's Daughter was unsettlingly void of too much sound with careful pacing, and along with the weight of the emotion from the characters dealing with loneliness and typical teenage angst with a malevolent entity roaming about was super exhausting. And that is to say that this film did. it's. job. Little Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka's Kat) ain't nothin' to fuck with.

The Invitation

What I love about The Invitation is that you know exactly what's going on very early and simultaneously know absolutely nothing until the very last frame. The Invitation feels bigger than the confines of the 60's/70's stylized Hollywood hills home within which almost the entire film takes place. A group of adults getting together for a dinner party and the nucleus being two people that have a history that ended in tragedy looms over the forced, superficial chill vibe. Director Karyn Kusama gave us mood and carefully unveiling beats to really immerse the audience into the building of paranoia and disorientation that happens throughout.

Graveyard Shift Sisters note: Team Kira over here. Actually, Emayatzy Corinealdi is our #Blackwomaninhorror of the year. One passing exchange she has with Tommy (Mike Doyle) still kinda bothers me as he just grabs her hips in some sort of ownership way and makes a comment about having his child? I'm sorry, say what? That was so racially and gender loaded, that it makes my head spin every time I watch. One because it's so quick and two, because where do I begin to unload on that brief moment that was all kinds of rude and riddled with the historical and institutional damage to Black women's bodies. Did anyone else catch that? And the fact that he just does it in front of her boo Will (Logan Marshall-Green)? Man...

Green Room

I remember how spellbound I was with Anton Yelchin's performance in House Of D (2004). He's been on my mind as an actor to watch since, even being a pull to give that Fright Night remake a shot. It's really sad to see a life cut short, especially under some Dead Like Me circumstances. So now my inevitable second watch of Green Room will be experienced with a heavy heart. I've hesitated because I don't own it yet but also its content. The awareness of what's going on hits Pat (Yelchin) and his bandmates one second too long. It's terrifying that the innocent decisions we make can lead to something so traumatizing. With white supremacists surrounding you with murderous intent.

I'm still screaming/singing "Nazi punks, fuck off!"

The Purge: Election Year

While The Purge: Anarchy was certainly the best in the trilogy (so far), Election Year eerily set the tone for what was to become the 2016 United States presidential election. The outcome being so surreal, you would almost think James DeMonaco (writer/director) was in on the big whomp on more sensible US citizens. I mean, the blonde, white lady prevailed, but the triumph was only temporary in a country determined to keep some sort of status quo. And that's the similarity. The New Founding Fathers were gonna 'Make America Great Again' on their terms, no matter any outcome. And the gotcha is the way in which they pulled the young and international masses in. Most notably with Brittany MirabilĂ©'s unruly market patron later stunting purger with a (was that a bedazzled rifle?) weapon and her homegirl's, making nihilism an anticipated sport. These were not subtle messages delivered but Election Year was set up to assault your senses. It was smart camp.


What feels like a movie you've seen countless times and referenced thousands of others because of its iconic impact on film and culture, Darling uses some of these old tropes in a refreshing way with an amazingly believable performance from lead, Lauren Ashley Carter. Possible haunted house, lonely girl driven by an unseeable madness is kind of the whole of Darling but the story that's put together by writer/director Mickey Keating with technical touches that makes it something completely new on its own.
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