When you walk out of a movie like The Perfection, it’s easy to get fired up and drop some extra-large hyperbole on your social network of choice. It’s a film full of rage and forward momentum. It’s a rollercoaster ride. And once off the ride, your instinctual reaction is to (a) high five the person next to you and (b) express a desire to ride that particular ride again.
That’s step one in how it gets you hooked.
Veteran TV director Richard Shepard — whose credits range from Girls to Criminal Minds to 30 Rock — has delivered the kind of movie that sticks with you. You remember Allison Williams‘ dynamic and confident performance as Charlotte, a young woman who, a former world-class cellist who was forced to put her dreams on hold to care for her ailing mother. When we meet Charlotte, her mother lies freshly dead in her bed. Elsewhere, two family members wonder within earshot of the audience what Charlotte will do now that she’s regained personal freedom. And when we watch her reunite with her longtime mentor Anton (played by Steven Weber) and his new protege Lizzie, played by the super-magnetic Logan Browning.
Later, when we learn a bit more about why Charlotte chose this as her path forward, is when things go off the rails. And to be honest, saying anything more wouldn’t spoil the film, but sometimes it really is better to let you see how things unfold for yourself. That’s part of what sticks with you, the notion that this is a movie you can’t wait to talk about, but it’s also the kind of movie you’d rather not talk about with someone who hasn’t seen it.
What I can tell you about The Perfection is that it’s a sinister yarn that is hell-bent on keeping you guessing, using narrative tricks to pervert the audience’s sense of the truth, all while being a phenomenal piece of entertainment. It bares its roots that look like De Palma’s best manifestations of tension, brutality that is gnarly and in full view, exposing — and no, I’m not exaggerating — the kind of bloodlust you’d see in horror films from South Korea or Norway. It’s also taught and meticulous, the kind of film that will leave you sweaty and disoriented. It’s a hell of a ride.
Every year, we seem to only get a few thrillers that are genuinely memorable. Because yeah, there’s a lot of trash out there. And there’s some trash in The Perfection, but it’s all the best kind. It rages against power, manipulation, and abuse, sometimes with deft precision and at others with erratic violence. What stands out is the film’s ability to control the emotional headspace of its audience even as the minds of its characters are spiraling out of control. And at the end, right before all the hyperbole starts, if you feel the weight of what its characters have been through, that’s the film burying itself inside you. That’s where it lives now.
Phase Three is coming to an end. Soon, characters we’ve grown accustomed to over the past decade will say their final goodbyes. Some of them will return for further cinematic adventures, but this is still a swansong at the end of the day. Fret not, though, friends: exciting times are coming. New heroes and villains will be introduced to the long-running franchise, some of whom will likely take us by surprise. The end of an era is always sad, but Marvel’s storied history and a rich roster of diverse characters spell a future of galactic possibilities.
For their latest announcement, Kevin Feige and co. have dug deep into the Marvel vaults to bring a new band of heroes to multiplexes in the near future. That’s right — after months of teasing, The Eternals is a go. Rejoice.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news, confirming that The Rider‘s Chloe Zhao has signed on to direct to the adventure. She’ll be working from a script by Matthew and Ryan Firpo, whose screenplay for the Nazi-hunting saga Ruin topped the 2017 Black List. Little is known about the story at the time of writing, but sources told THR that it will feature a love story between the main characters, Ikaris and Sersi.
This is another positive move by Marvel, who are finally using their platform to give talented female filmmakers deserved opportunities. Millennium Films should consider doing the same. Zhao is the third woman to direct an MCU movie. She follows in the footsteps of Anna Boden and Cate Shortland, who are helming Captain Marvel and Black Widow’s first solo outing, respectively. Furthermore, this continues their trend of plucking talent from the world of independent cinema and giving them a key to their blockbuster superhero kingdom.
But that’s not the only reason why Zhao’s appointment rules. The Eternals is a movie in the right direction because it marks the first MCU movie to be helmed by a woman that isn’t predominantly centered around a female protagonist. Lexi Alexander directed the awesome Punisher: War Zone under the short-lived Marvel Knights banner, but that wasn’t part of the current ongoing tentpole franchise. Women telling stories about women is great. Women telling stories of all types is even better.
For this reason alone, The Eternals is an important film. But what about the movie itself? Why should we be excited about an adaptation of comics no one ever talks about? Well, the fact that Marvel is about to launch a band of forgotten misfits into the mainstream consciousness is the exciting part. Once again, the studio has shown that it’s more than willing to give obscure characters a chance to shine alongside their famous stalwarts. Who doesn’t love an underdog story?
The original comic series was created by Jack Kirby. After returning to Marvel in the 70’s following a stint with DC, he was obsessed with cosmic concepts and Greek mythology. The Eternals — a race of genetically-superior beings who were created by powerful entities known as The Celestials — were a by-product of his fascinations. Unfortunately, cool concepts don’t always sell comics.
When Kirby created the characters, he envisioned them as stand-alone entities with no clear connection to the rest of the Marvel universe. In later years, other creators came along and integrated the Eternals into the bigger picture. I don’t know how Kirby would feel about their inclusion in the MCU, but I suspect the studio will want them to pair up with Spidey, et al eventually.
We’ve known that the Eternals has been planned for months, but this confirmation is heart-warming. Iron-Man, Spider-Man, Cap and other key players have been pivotal to the MCU’s success, sure — when the MCU became a thing we always knew they’d be a big part of proceedings. But none of us ever expected the Guardians, Doctor Strange, and Ant-Man to receive their own big screen yarns, let alone succeed.
The Marvel brand is powerful enough to sell itself these days. They can afford to take these chances, and long may they continue resurrecting obscure delights. Now, whose shoes do we have to shine to get that NFL Superpro movie the world doesn’t know it needs yet?
2018 has been, to say the least, an interesting year for Netflix Originals. While the streaming service has always been somewhat all over the map with the original content it is putting out, this year has particularly been full of a wide assortment of films, ranging immensely in terms of genre and demographic, from long-awaited sequels to fluffy romantic comedies to lackluster teen dramedies. But the year will be closing out on a high note, having acquired the rights to beloved festival titles Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón) and The Kindergarten Teacher (dir. Sara Colangelo).
The fall season appears to be the time that Netflix waits for to release their already positively-received films (such as with last year’s Okja and Mudbound), likely to attempt a breakthrough in awards season. But for the prior part of the year, Netflix seems as if attempting to cover all other possible territories with their film releases. Is it an attempt to expand their viewership as much as possible, or is it perhaps to cater to their strongest demographic groups and keep them engaged?
Early in the year, Netflix released the third film in the Cloverfield franchise, The Cloverfield Paradox. The film had somewhat of a surprise release the night of the Superbowl, Netflix announcing it in an advertisement during the game. Despite much audience anticipation for a third film in the franchise, it received a fairly negative response from critics and audiences. It is probably considered the most unsuccessful of the films in the franchise, which was not a great start to the year for Netflix, but it did prove a successful outreach to Cloverfield lovers and sci-fi fans alike.
However, Netflix also had some successes this year among audiences, particularly with their rom-coms: Set it Up with Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, and Lucy Liu was a fan favorite. This film proved that the typical romantic comedy formula can still be successful if done right, and turned out to be the kind of comfort movie that people desired when scrolling through Netflix on a Friday night. Another romantic hit was the YA adaptation To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, a teen flick praised for its Asian-American representation. In addition to this, it was also a rom-com that used the tropes well, and while it had a happy ending, avoided being overtly predictable.
Some of their teen-targeted films, however, have not fared quite so well, being too cliché-ridden for most audiences’ tastes. One of these is another YA adaptation, The Kissing Booth, which follows a typical high school love-triangle plot, and Sierra Burgess is a Loser, which might be slightly more outside the box, but still falls into too many of the traps of its genre. Many of its other films were poorly received, including horror thrillers like The Open House and cheesy dramas like Irreplaceable You and Mute.
But the final quarter of the year seems to be when Netflix turns things around and pulls out some of its most special titles. One of these is the much-anticipated Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white drama about a woman who works as a live-in housekeeper in Mexico City. The film was the recipient of the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, is the festival’s top prize, and was the second runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film has just recently been announced as Mexico’s official selection for Best Foreign Language Film to compete at the Academy Awards, and is in talks of being one of the year’s biggest contenders in the broader awards circuit, and not necessarily just for international awards. This is no surprise considering Alfonso Cuarón’s considering the general adoration of him in the industry and his success with previous films. But Roma in itself is such a unique, real film about family and working-class life, and the readily available access that audiences will have to it on Netflix will give everyone a chance to see and connect with this special film.
Another strong title acquired by Netflix will be The Kindergarten Teacher, a hidden gem of this year’s festival circuit starring Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film had a strong opening at Sundance where it won Sara Colangelo won the U.S. Dramatic Prize for Directing and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. The film follows a young teacher who becomes fascinated with one of her kindergarten students’ natural ability to write poetry, which quickly develops into a hunger and obsession of lost passion. This is a film that will likely fly under the radar come time for awards season, but Gyllenhaal’s performance and Colangelo’s directing make it easily one of the most notable films of the year.
While Netflix may have had an inconsistent year with its content, but the end-of-year content makes it worth the wait. It will be interesting to see how audiences react to these films once released, but if their receptions at festivals are any indication, they are bound to be successes.
The sequels had to die. Director David Gordon Green and screenwriters Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley had zero interest in continuing slasher normalcy. Their Halloween had to explore the resulting realities of the genre it’s confined within. How would “The Night He Came Home” affect its victims? What kind of mark would such a violent attack leave on the survivors? Can a filmmaker deliver on the thrills demanded by the franchise fanbase, but also remain true to such a harrowing experience?
At the Fantastic Fest premiere of Halloween, we had the opportunity to chat with several of the cast and crew. They appeared to be very aware of the continuity anxiety exhibited by certain members of the fandom. For forty years, Michael Myers has been stalking the streets of Haddonfield, Illinois. To transform most of those cinematic events into fantasies was no simple decision.
Malek Akkad inherited the responsibility of the franchise from his father, Moustapha. While he was eager to see the films continue, he was initially weary:
“At first, I don’t want to say I was taken aback, but it sort of made me pause. But the more David and Danny and Jeff explained their vision it didn’t take me long to get behind it.”
Halloweens 2-8 still exist. They haven’t been erased from your Blu-ray shelf or digital downloads. They wait for you whenever you want to press play. Akkad assures the fans not to worry; the new Halloween will not be totally unfamiliar:
“The beautiful thing is that there is so much in there for the die-hards of the whole franchise. If you haven’t seen those, you should also see it because it is a standalone movie in a very strong way with what David Gordon Green has done. At the same time, it seamlessly fits with part one. So there can be these parallel universes. We might be living in a parallel universe. Who knows? Halloween has its parallel universes.
Danny McBride was not looking to eradicate the sequels. In fact, he had no desire to write the films in the first place. However, once Green came to him with the idea, he could not let the potential slip past him. In answering the question of 2018, Laurie Strode meant they couldn’t’ worry about the mythology. They had to go back to that original October 31st:
“We were just trying to figure out a simplistic way into this, and it felt like if we had to figure out some kind of continuity between it all, then we wouldn’t be able to do it.”
When the reboot concept entered their head, the film came together quickly:
“That’s the age that Jamie is now. I don’t know; it just seemed like the right time. It was just one of those ideas that we had from the start. So we followed it.”
Such a bold decision came with plenty of anxiety, but the longer they thought about making another Halloween; the path to reboot seemed necessary.
“We’re fans of that whole series, so we didn’t cut them out because we didn’t like those movies. It was more about trying to find a way in that would keep the tone similar to what the first one was, the simplicity of it.”
Jamie Lee Curtis was not looking to crank out another night of horror for poor Laurie Strode. She returned to the series for Halloween: H20 and Halloween: Resurrection. She was done with the character, but then the script from Green, McBride, and Fradley made its way into her hand.
She could not resist. Curtis did not believe the reality of slasher films had ever been dealt with before. Even during her previous returns to the series, the pain of that fateful night was only explored on a surface level. This script allowed her to reveal authentic hurt to an audience that cheered on her pursuit in 1978:
“Trauma is real. Soldiers, police officers, fire department personnel, anybody on the front line of any conflict suffers trauma. There’s random trauma to people every day. We very rarely explore it. We feel bad for them, and we move on because nobody wants to look at the messy part of trauma. Then through the messiness watch, someone take back the power. But you can’t take back the power until you see the person who is getting in the way and we have to explore that. What was beautiful about the script was that it explored it very honestly and with a lot of integrity.”
Producer Jason Blum concurs. Although, it’s not all doom and gloom:
“It’s also about female empowerment. Three generations of women outsmarting a psychopath.”
Taking on the role of Allyson, granddaughter of Laurie, Andi Matichak believes they can have their cake and eat it too:
“It’s a lovely slasher and its fun. It’s thrilling and energetic and all those things that we love. But if this really happened where would you be forty years later?”
Allyson has grown up in the shadow of grandmother’s nightmare. Michael Myers did not just kill three teens that night. His attack sent ripples down the time stream. For Matichak, that infinite threat is the most important aspect:
“It’s a story about trauma and how trauma affects you generationally. You see how it affects her relationship with her daughter (Judy Greer) and how that trickles down to me. It’s really interesting because she has to be a mediator between the two of them for her whole life. Alyson is a little bit more of an older soul because she is constantly trying to be like, ‘Okay Grandma, get it together.’ It’s an interesting dynamic because it has made her grow up quicker than most.”
Akkad is in awe of what they’ve achieved in this latest entry, but he denies the crown of the franchise’s new figurehead:
“I don’t look at it that way because what he started was totally different, but continuing what he started is very rewarding. I know that there is no one would be happier today with this release then he would be.”
We’re still waiting to see if the grand experiment of killing the Halloween sequels works. The decision certainly led to the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the franchise. Halloween Part IX would have simply been Myers vs. a new group of victims, and would not have furthered any conversation surrounding the emotional distress of human suffering. In 2018, even the slasher film can offer a forum for thoughtful discussion.
Will that translate to box office success? Jason Blum is not worried:
“Personally, I was very satisfied the first time I saw the movie. I was really, really pleased because it was what I had hoped to set out to do. Yes, I hope we really succeed in another way, but personally, in that way, I thought it was a success.”
As an American, we don’t really get taught in school about Ireland’s Potato Famine. Sure, there may have been a short lesson in World History that covered the basics, but nothing in depth. I do know that because of a blight, Ireland’s potato crop failed in successive years, resulting in one million deaths and over a million more emigrating out of the country, dropping Ireland’s population from eight million to six million, all within the span of only four years. But until Lance Daly’s Black 47 came to my attention, I had all but forgotten about those short lessons I learned.
Though perhaps what’s more shocking is that there hasn’t ever been a film about this time period of Irish history, and especially not one featuring a cast that includes Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rhea, Barry Keoghan, and newcomer James Frecheville. I wonder why? Perhaps Stephen Rhea said it best in this interview from Irish Times:
“Some American producer said the script is very heavy – couldn’t we lighten it? And my agent at the time said: ‘How are we going to lighten it? Feed them?’”
There is no doubt that this is heavy material. While we may not have famine on this scale anymore, we do still see modern examples of what hunger can do to a nation. Don’t believe me? Let me introduce you to the concept of Food Riots. But there have been attempts before to dramatize this time period before, namely Hugh Travers cancelled Channel 4 show Hungry which was to be a sitcom set during the famine. Naturally, this caused nationwide outrage with historian Tim Pat Coogan stating, “Murder, genocide, people dying, retching, with their faces green from eating weeds, their bowels hanging out of them — no passage of time will make that funny.” until Channel 4 decided to forego the entire project.
But that doesn’t mean a story about the famine can’t be told. Black ‘47 follows an Irish Ranger, Feeney (James Frecheville), who has left his home country to fight for the British when, in 1847, he receives word of the widespread famine back home in Ireland. Upon his return he discovers his mother has died from starvation, his brother has been hung by British soldiers, and the countryside he knew is in apocalyptic shambles of dead farm land and dying communities. And he rests the blame for this on the feet of the British authorities he worked for who have not provided adequate assistance to his home. Because of this he takes up arms to exact his revenge on those who perpetuated this deteriorating way of life, but not before the British dispatch their own soldier (Hugo Weaving) to hunt down Feeney.
But a film that chronicles one of the darkest hours of Irish history could use some levity, if anything just to get the bleak message across in a more palatable way. Clearly comedy has been deemed too insensitive, horror seems obvious but may pale in comparison to the historical horrors of the period, and frankly, I don’t imagine many people were falling in and out of love in serendipitous ways as they were starving to death. So what does that leave us with? Levity in the form of a quasi-western revenge thriller featuring bloody, brutal, white knuckled action scenes.
And in this exclusive clip from Black ‘47, that’s exactly what you get.
Black 47 - Clip 1 I HD I IFC Films - YouTube
What stands out to me most with this scene is how raw the fight feels. Typically in modern fight scenes the choreography is evident, because that is our focal point. We want to see the close calls, the death defying stunts, and the gloss that comes from modern action. But Black ‘47 is clearly eschewing all of those trappings for visceral realism. Because of the claustrophobic room, you feel each hit as our lead escapes his confinement, using his environment to his advantage.
Black ‘47, directed by Lance Daly, and featuring James Frecheville, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rhea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene, and Jim Broadbent is in select theaters September 28th from IFC Films!
A pretty unique horror anthology series is joining the ever-growing list of scary television shows, and its mission is essentially to make a horror short for almost every single holiday. Produced by Jason Blum and David Alexa Faigen, Into the Dark will have a 12-episode run on over the course of a year. During this year-long run, the show will take on the ambitious task of making each and every episode based on a different holiday, bringing the scares to previously uncharted territory. No holiday or celebration is safe.
Besides the usual holiday-horror route of Halloween and Christmas, the more out of the box holidays include Easter, Mother’s Day, Earth Day, and even Thanksgiving, according to the new teaser. Check out the eerie Easter Bunny in the clip below:
Into the Dark: Teaser (Official) • A Hulu Original - YouTube
The official series synopsis reads:
In partnership with Blumhouse Television, ‘Into The Dark’ is a horror event series from prolific, award-winning producer Jason Blum’s independent TV studio. The series includes 12 super-sized episodes, with a new installment released each month inspired by a holiday and will feature Blumhouse’s signature genre/thriller spin on the story.
Clearly, this is going to be one ambitious project. Not only is Blumhouse TV attempting to make obscure holidays like Flag Day scary, but they are enlisting the services of all new writers, directors, and actors for each episode. Into the Dark sounds more like a strict horror version of Black Mirror in terms of the variety and unique feeling of each episode as a result of the different talent working on each.
This is quite the follow-up to Blumhouse TV’s most recent horror television venture, the Netflix miniseries Ghoul. The Indian horror production featured an intriguing sci-fi setting, where a supernatural being lurked amongst the inhabitants of the dystopia. Original ideas like these are in abundance over at Blumhouse, it seems.
It makes sense that Blumhouse TV’s next project will be relatively experimental just like Ghoul, though Into the Dark truly takes the cake on having a double-take worthy premise. It goes without saying that this series is wholeheartedly granting the wishes of horror fans who wish they had scary content all year round, instead of just during the months of September and October. The first episode, which logically will be the series’ Halloween-set chapter, will be written and directed by Paul Davis and Paul Fisher. Cryptically titled “Body,” it centers around an overconfident hitman with style and panache, hunting amongst the “selfie culture” of LA on Halloween night.
This inciting episode stars Tom Bateman (Murder on the Orient Express) and Rebecca Rittenhouse (The Handmaid’s Tale). Following this Halloween-set premiere, Into the Dark will feature (naturally) a Thanksgiving episode that’s sure to carve up some pretty original scares. Called “Flesh & Blood,” it’s not hard to imagine the direction the events of this particular holiday are headed. Scream and My Bloody Valentine editor Patrick Lussier is set to direct this ravenous second episode, which stars American Horror Story Season 1’s Dermot Mulroney among other talents.
As for the other holidays that make up the other 10 episodes, one can only guess what the series has in store for us. Some of the most challenging in terms of actually making the episode scary are likely Flag Day and Earth Day. Obviously, there will be a sinister take on the Easter Bunny for Easter, and Christmas shouldn’t be too tricky. What would be really fun would be if Blum and co. took the holiday horror genre’s most familiar companion, Christmas, and showed us something we’d never seen before in that setting.
Grandparent’s Day, also advertised in the teaser, automatically brings M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit to mind, but maybe Hulu will create something a little more outside the box than just confused and murderous grandparents. Perhaps an epidemic of horrifying rapid-aging, or a sci-fi tale about the ritual killing of the elderly in the name of population control instead. Who knows?! There are an endless amount of routes they could take with so many arbitrary holidays at their disposal! In short, this could very easily be either the greatest horror series to ever grace streaming television or a humorously cheesy attempt at experimental horror.
Into the Dark will premiere on Hulu on October 5th with “Body,” and “Flesh & Blood” will creep up not too far behind on November 2nd. As all 12 episodes will be stretched out over a year, it’s likely the third and fourth chapters of the anthology series will center around Christmas and New Years Eve. Let’s hope Krampus doesn’t make an appearance.
Finished Iron Fist yet? Well, Marvel and Netflix are certainly counting on it, as Daredevil is set to return in under a month. If you’re currently feeling a little overwhelmed by the onslaught of Marvel Netflix shows in recent months, I feel your pain. And if not, the first teaser for the third season of Daredevil may be just what you’re looking for:
Marvel’s Daredevil: Season 3 | Date Announcement [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
After two years off the air, Netflix’s original Defender is back in action, and he’s going to some dark places this season. The trailer starts with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) standing in the darkness, a light swinging by to reveal his bloody face. “You can suffocate evil, starve it,” Murdock whispers, as we see him laying defeated on the floor.
He then takes a walk in a high-security prison (as we all do), as an unseen inmate grabs him from the other side of the bars. Clearly, someone’s made some enemies. “But it will find a way to come back even stronger,” he then says, as we get a glimpse of the return of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). The light flashes over Murdock’s face once more, before we see the Kingpin himself looking over his fancy collection of cufflinks and straightening his iconic white suit.
“There’s only one true way to end evil, to finish it for good,” the voiceover ominously says, before we see the return of the old Season 1 proto-Daredevil suit. Matt’s going back to basics, fighting dirty to bring Fisk down for good. He cracks his knuckles and heads into battle, beating on various bad guys.
Murdock then comes face to face with the devil inside him, as he wrestles with letting him out. He may be back from the dead, but he’s coming back a changed man. His final moments with Elektra left him broken, and the person that came out of that collapsed building may be someone very different.
He watches over the city from a rooftop, in the way all good Marvel Netflix heroes do, before heading back into the boxing ring, a reminder of his past. He faces off against a group of heavily armed henchmen before fully embracing his dark side. “Let the devil out,” he says, as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen lets out a smirk, closing out the teaser.
Well, that was intense. It seems as though the third season will be coming full circle, bringing back a number of elements from the first. First off, it appears that Fisk will return to being the Daredevil‘s big bad, after appearing in only three episodes last season. D’Onofrio absolutely nails the role, striking a terrifying balance between reserved and ready to explode. His performance gives the character such a raw, unpredictable edge and I’m always here for more of him.
Second is not only the return of the old suit, but what it represents. In Season 1, Matt was known as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, not becoming the hero known as Daredevil until the final episode of the same name. Throughout the season, he grappled with conflict over whether he should put Fisk down for good, and how that relates to his Catholic guilt. And if the voiceover is anything to go by, that conflict will be rearing its head once more. The use of the swinging light is a particularly nice touch, with Matt’s face constantly shifting between light and dark, before he fully embraces the devil.
As exciting as this all is, it’s a little jarring to have this drop so soon after Iron Fist‘s second season. With the Marvel movies going up to three a year with little sign of slowing down, the Netflix shows are now up to four a year. Which, considering the shows are all relatively similar in terms of setting, structure, and tone, is a lot. I’m a fan of these, but honestly, the events of each one do blur together in my mind somewhat. And this is hardly going to help that feeling.
The third season of Daredevil drops on October 19th, and while Marvel does risk overloading us with this many shows, I can’t say I’m not excited to have this one back.
Lately, horror films have contained more and more socio-political relevance as a reflection of our own nation’s current turbulent climate. Movies like Get Out and The First Purge have heavily featured themes like race relations in America and the tensions between law enforcement and the black community. Obviously, one film mastered the balance between social commentary and horror much more effectively than the other. However, the point remains that we are entering a new kind of subgenre in horror, where these themes are infused into what makes the movies scary and are explored through the actions of their characters.
Paramount Pictures is clearly joining in on the burgeoning subgenre with their upcoming film Body Cam, which centers around an unfortunately familiar story we see much too often in the news today. According to Deadline, the movie is about the killing of a young black male at the hands of the LAPD, who then try and cover up the crime by getting rid of their body cam footage. This is where the gritty, realistic aspects of the film disappear, however.
Following the burying of evidence, the cops find themselves the target of an evil, vengeful spirit — no doubt one directly tied to the recent tragedy. Body Cam then transforms from a drama and family tragedy narrative to a bonafide haunting flick. This is a much more direct approach than other social commentary horror films, and seems to have a foot in both doors genre-wise. It also features a pretty varied cast, curiously with more than one coming from a musical background.
The most notable cast member in Body Cam is singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige. Besides her extensive music career, Blige has experience in film and television, most recently in 2017’s Mudbound and the show Scream: The TV Series. As the former deals largely with racial tensions in the Jim Crow era South, and the latter is a horror series, it would seem the acting side of her career is finely tuned towards her role in Body Cam. Her character has not been revealed, only the name “Renee,” but it seems likely that she will play the more prominent role of the mother of the deceased.
Another musically-inclined actress was recently announced as joining the picture: Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose (The Princess and the Frog, Dreamgirls). I have to wonder if Body Cam is secretly a horror-drama-musical mashup, but let’s hope not. I’ll never say no to a good musical, but in this case, that may be a little much considering the heavy subject matter and the addition of supernatural elements.
The curious cast also includes Nat Wolff (Paper Towns) as “Danny,” Theo Rossi (Luke Cage), and Dexter actor David Zayas as “Sgt. Kesper.” While Rossi seems fit for a cop role like Zayas, Wolff is a more interesting addition, as it’s unclear at the moment where he fits into the story. While his brother Alex recently starred in the impressive horror flick Hereditary, Nat’s filmography consists much more of YA romantic fare like Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars. However, it may be more accurate to say his more popular films have been romances, as he did in fact star in the poorly received live-action Death Note remake. Clearly, the elder Wolff is seeking redemption from this role and is exploring more thrillers and dramas, such as his upcoming films Rosy, Mortal, and The Kill Team. Perhaps Body Cam will be the first step in proving himself capable of these kinds of roles.
It’s not obvious which way Body Cam will lean more, towards the drama or the horror side of things. No matter which aspect it decides to focus more on, it definitely has something to say in terms of the way we as a nation are processing current events like those in the film. The Black Lives Matter movement and discussions about police violence are so prevalent in the news and online, but have we become used to seeing these kinds of tragedies so often that they lose their inherent horror? In other words, is it no longer shocking and horrifying enough to see black people killed by cops in such large numbers, that we now have to add an element of supernatural horror to replace or reawaken the horror of the real-life occurrence?
What Body Cam should, and hopefully will, do is make sure they do not hinder the seriousness of these issues when they turn this familiar narrative into a ghost story. Instead, maybe the malevolent spirit pursuing the cops responsible needs to serve as a supporting or minor plot point while the true horror, the death of an innocent, is kept at the forefront. The themes of revenge and righting wrongs are important and relevant right now, but I do hope that in the future we can make and enjoy horror films with black protagonists without there also being an element of racially-motivated violence.
Body Cam is currently filming and is directed by Malik Vittahl (Imperial Dreams) and written by horror filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) and writer-producer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave and American Crime).
In anticipation of a looming production start date slated for January 2019, Cathy Yan‘s Birds of Prey is currently in the midst of testing several promising actresses for its roster. The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that Warner Bros. is sifting through an array of fantastic performers to find the perfect girl gang to accompany Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the DC Comics adaptation.
Most notably, non-white actresses have read for the role of Black Canary, one of the de facto leaders of the Birds of Prey. The character is known to be white in the comics and has been played by Katie Cassidy in DCTV’s Arrowverse. However, Birds of Prey is looking into the possibility of Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) or Jurnee Smollett-Bell (WGN’s Underground) filling the role. THR further notes that Warner Bros. has shown interest in Janelle Monáe (Moonlight), although whether she actually tested for the part is uncertain.
The masked vigilante Huntress could be played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane), Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers), or Cristin Milioti (Black Mirror). Deadline addsSofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) into the mix, but her inclusion has been contested by THR’s Borys Kit on Twitter. Meanwhile, Justina Machado (One Day at a Time) and Roberta Colindrez (I Love Dick) are apparently up for the role of Gotham City Police Department detective Renee Montoya.
The mute assassin Cassandra Cain is the sole piece of the puzzle left up in the air. She is reportedly being re-envisioned from her comic book counterpart into the guise of a 12-year-old girl. Asian actresses are being tested for the role. That said, no specific names have been attached at this time.
None of these actresses are confirmed for Birds of Prey, but simply acknowledging their imaginable connection to the material inspires more excitement for the movie as a whole. Throughout development, Birds of Prey has done an excellent job of keeping us on our toes, taking intriguing liberties with the core team lineup and drawing from disparate comics lore to incorporate Batman mainstay Black Mask as the group’s primary adversary.
These new casting whispers continue that pattern of creative freedom. Furthermore, each of these actresses has absolutely proven their mettle on screen. In all honesty, any of them would make a great case for their assigned roles.
Mostly known for her skilfully affecting dramatic portrayals in Belle, Black Mirror, and A Wrinkle in Time, there’s no way to keep the charismatic Mbatha-Raw from rising. She has marginally branched out into the realm of genre cinema, too, with roles in The Cloverfield Paradox and Jupiter Ascending. Finding her superhero breakout in Birds of Prey seems like an ideal next step for her ever-expanding profile.
Smollett-Bell can count successes on the big and small screens, although more consistently in the latter. Features such as Eve’s Bayou and The Great Debaters are certainly of note. However, she took up regular roles in sitcoms as a child actor (On Our Own) before moving on to the likes of Friday Night Lights and Underground, which continued to let her hone her skills as a formidable dramatic actress. Birds of Prey could align wonderfully with the high-quality work on her resume and boost her feature presence considerably.
Monáe practically had a fairytale start in Hollywood, but all the praise she garners is much-deserved. She displays ethereal warmth and tenacity in two game-changing movies: Moonlight and Hidden Figures. She dabbles in the sci-fi themes that have permeated her music for years by appearing in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams and releasing a 46-minute narrative piece to accompany her third studio album, Dirty Computer (one of the best films of the summer). We ought to welcome this unstoppable force in the blockbuster arena.
Winstead is probably my favorite Huntress hopeful at the moment, and that’s all thanks to her existing onscreen career. Between an early start in the superhero genre in Sky High to horror movies like the prequel/remake of The Thing, the indie drama Smashed and excellent franchise installments such as 10 Cloverfield Lane, Winstead performs exceptionally in practically every genre. She has produced a suitably wide breadth of work to encourage an implicit level of trust in her ability to impeccably translate a darker superhero like Huntress to the screen.
Qualley has a comparably smaller filmography but has done noteworthy work in spite of it. She is most well-known for playing the daughter of Justin Theroux’s protagonist in The Leftovers. Her feature films can also be celebrated, particularly Shane Black’s acerbic action comedy The Nice Guys. Qualley appears in the Death Note remake as well, which might not be a movie that inspires praise as a whole. However, she works with what she’s given with absolute gusto.
Grammy-winning Broadway actress Milioti has a budding onscreen career. She does her most high-profile work in Black Mirror‘s “USS Callister,” taking the episode to new heights by balancing out its indulgence and critique of its sci-fi premise. It’s easy for us to root for her in this particular Black Mirror chapter. Her other notable portrayals include Jordan Belfort’s first wife in The Wolf of Wall Street and the Mother in How I Met Your Mother; these are frustratingly thankless roles, though. Huntress definitely offers a different and thrilling opportunity.
However tenuously Boutella is attached to Birds of Prey at this point, there’s no doubt that she would have no trouble mastering the physicality of a superhero. She had her cinematic breakthrough moment as the agile antagonist Gazelle in the first Kingsman movie. Eventually, Boutella has managed to move on to showcase a keen ability for dramatic nuance, even in blockbusters like Star Trek Beyond and The Mummy. We could rely on her to get the job done well in another action-heavy role.
Both hopefuls for Renee Montoya round out this shortlist fantastically. Machado is currently owning the small screen in Netflix’s One Day at a Time. The comedy-drama is a decidedly heartwarming TV turn that starkly compares to the bleakness of an earlier success of hers — HBO’s Six Feet Under — but that surely only reinforces her talent. In between, Machado’s filmography is peppered with memorable offerings, including Final Destination 2, The Purge: Anarchy, and Jane the Virgin.
Finally, Colindrez is a theater actress whose biggest credits comprise the musical Fun Home (the first Broadway musical to feature a lesbian protagonist) and a modernized version of Hamlet (wherein she plays a genderbent Rosencrantz). On screen, she has made the most salient impression in the Amazon series I Love Dick. Colindrez is outstandingly fun in the show, bringing a healthy dose of lively optimism to the proceedings.
Now do you see how easy it is to get attached to any or, indeed, all of these casting options? Birds of Prey could be a worthy vehicle pushes these women into the spotlight a little more. Official casting decisions for the film are expected to be made in the coming weeks. Judging by this list of contenders alone, WB keeps on the right track for a killer movie.
Chosen. One girl in all the world, plucked from an ordinary existence to become something greater, to shoulder the weight of the world. To fight the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer, and these are the monsters who fear her presence.
In 1997 writer/director Joss Whedon unleashed Buffy Summers unto the world, and nothing was ever the same. After a frustrating attempt at a feature-length film, Whedon allowed himself to be talked into trying to adapt his project into a television show and was thus finally given the creative freedom he desired to properly execute his story about a pretty girl backed into a darkened alley who turns the tables on her attackers. Add one Sarah Michelle Gellar and a heavy dose of the 1990s and you’ve got Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the most popular TV programs ever aired, led by one of the most inspiring female characters ever conjured.
Set in Sunnydale California, it’s easy to understand why someone would want to vamp up this story about an everyday girl endowed with superpowers that give her the ability to fight monsters and save the world, and given the recent confirmation of a reboot, this writer would say there’s a lot here to chew on here – and not just for the vampires. Therefore, in honor of the reimagining and as a shout-out to the O.G., we’ve compiled a list of the best baddies to ever put on their “grr face” and dare take on the foolish task of challenging the Slayer to a duel. Those who were wise enough to leave Buffy alone were five-by-five, but as for the rest who so boldly attempted to call out the girl who monsters have nightmares about, it’s pretty safe to assume they’re now a pile of ash – and not the kind that a Time Stone could possibly bring back in a sequel.
40. Natalie French
Willow might not have labeled Xander a “demon magnet” until season four, but Alexander Harris began showing his tendency toward evil women all the way back in season one, episode four when he took the phrase “Teacher’s Pet” to new and alarming heights. It all begins when the substitute science teacher Miss French asks awkward virgin Xander for directions to class, and he struggles to stutter out a reply. From that moment onward, Harris was hooked, and his foolish teenage hormones would lead him all the way to Miss French’s house after class for private tutorials, and even all the way down into her basement after his naïve self-downs of her GHB-riddled cocktails. Now, trapped in a cage beneath Miss French – or, as it is revealed, the She-Mantis – ‘s floorboards, Xander has to hope against hope that the Scooby gang will find him in time. Otherwise, this “Virgin Thief” will take a bite out of her latest victim, and Xander will only be remembered by the fertilized eggs he leaves behind.
39. Moloch the Corruptor
Kids today might not remember, but back in the late ‘90s/early 2000s when the internet was just getting big – heck, when personal computers were just getting big – there used to be a fear shared by all parents and world wide web noobs alike that “going online” meant entering into a dangerous place. In the case of season one episode eight, “I Robot…You Jane”, those fears were caught, contained, and shoved into one very limited PC, which is where Moloch the Corruptor resides when Willow Rosenberg logs into the school chat room. Willow, who has always experienced some difficulty communicating with in real life, finds some comfort in speaking to an avatar without a face. However, as she’ll soon come to learn, sometimes people aren’t always the same person as they present themselves to be online. This is especially true when one lives on the Hellmouth, and it turns out that your new instant messenger crush is actually a five-hundred-year-old omnipotent demon named Moloch the Corruptor who was accidentally released onto the internet when the ‘Circle of Kayless’ book was scanned onto the Sunnydale High School computer system. These poor kids just can’t catch a break.
38. Chaos Demon
Perhaps the greatest thing about the Chaos Demon is how we’re introduced to the character. At first, we only hear about the creature by rough description. In season three episode eight, “Lover’s Walk”, Spike rolls back to Sunnydale a drunken mess, crying over Drusilla, kidnapping Willow, and demanding that she cast a love spell on his behalf. Sobbing onto Willow’s shoulder, Spike recalls how he caught Dru making out with a Chaos Demon, remarking sourly “Have you ever seen a Chaos Demon? They’re all slime and antlers, they’re disgusting!” It’s a funny little moment, not only because it feels so absurd to see Spike in such a vulnerable state, but also just because it’s hilarious picturing this fungus coated creature sweeping the crazed Drusilla off her feet. The gag becomes even greater in season five’s “Fool For Love” when the joke is called back and we finally get a glimpse at the gooey humanoid, elk-man. It’s hard not to laugh watching him awkwardly back away and out of sight as Spike and Dru bicker it out loud on the street.
37. Ghora Demon
Every person who has ever experienced loss understands what it’s like to bargain. To try to reason with death. To try to offer up some sort of trade, some meaningful exchange in which you get to spend five more minutes with the one who left too soon. But what happens when you live in Sunnydale, and such fantasies become attainable? What do you do when a spell for restoration and all of the necessary ingredients lie within your grasp, just five minutes away at The Magic Box? If you’re Dawn Summers, you sneak out of your house, team up with the local vampire with a soul, and head to the cave of the Ghora Demon – a three-headed dragon-like beast whose giant eggs just happen to be the key element to bringing back Dawn and Buffy’s mother from the dead.
Joss Whedon must really have a thing for snake monsters, as made evident by the many times he’s depicted them throughout the series on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whether it be Machida in season two episode five “Reptile Boy”, The Mayor in season three episode twenty-two’s “Graduation Day Part 2”, or the delightful season two Halloween episode “Band Candy”, Whedon manages to squeeze some sort of special affinity for the serpent man in to quite a few of his storylines throughout the run of the show. Even season five sees Glory conjuring up a cobra demon to help her track down her key to her dimension. However, as clear as Joss’ unbridled enthusiasm for legless reptiles may be, the one thing that really separates Lurconis from the others, and arguably makes him the most menacing snake monster of all – he eats babies.
35. The Trio
It’s hard to think of a timelier gang of miscreants on Buffy the Vampire Slayer than ‘The Trio’, a.k.a. Warren, Jonathan, and Andrew – a posse of geek trolls who spent most of their high school years fawning over scantily clad female action figures rather than actually conversing with women in real life. Now, unable to properly communicate with the opposite sex – or anyone other than each other, really – this couplet relies on their increasingly high IQs and incredibly desperate need for attention, coupled with their affinity for comic books and James Bond characters ultimately come up with a plan to team up and take over Sunnydale. Although laughable at first, their silly antics doing little else besides putting the Slayer on edge, in the end, their time loops and freeze ray guns evolve into something much more dangerous – misogynistic, malicious murder. Together, this little trio kills two women and nearly Buffy herself as well, after Warren shoots Buffy and Tara at Buffy’s very own home, right in her front yard. It’s a brash wake up call for men who claim their antagonizing ways are harmless, because as the show effectively demonstrates, what starts out as an angry boy who can’t get the girl he wants eventually turns into outright killing in the name of control.
34. Kathy Newman
We’ve all had that one terrible roommate experience – heck, some of us are still experiencing it. You know the one. They hog the TV, stink up the kitchen with strange smelling foods, hide the toilet paper – okay, maybe this writer is relying a little too heavily on her own personal experience, but the point is, either way, we’ve all lived with someone we didn’t quite mesh with at some point in our lives. For Buffy, that point comes her freshman year of college, in the form of one Kathy Newman. Blaring Cher’s “Believe” on repeat and clipping her toenails loudly in bed, Kathy is anything but pleasant, but of course this is Buffy’s world, so when she deems the girl a demon because in her words, “she irons her jeans, she’s evil”, it turns out that the Slayer is right yet again. It’s a playful spin on the annoying roomie trope and an episode worth watching if for no other reason than Joss’ cauldron zinger.
Chances are if Xander is attracted to someone, that girl is a demon. Such is the case with Lissa, or as kids of the early 2000s know her, recording artist Ashanti. That’s right, you remember that “What’s Luv” song she did with Fat Joe – we all do. Or what about that “Always on Time” song she did with Ja Rule? Well, now, our little Ashanti is all grown up and going out on dates and sacrificing boys so that their blood may awaken ancient vampires to help carry out the ending of the world. Yup, it totally checks out that Xander would make puppy eyes at this girl. Between Miss French, Anya, the Inca Mummy Girl, and, even arguably, Dracula, it only makes sense that a shape-shifting snake ultimately winds up trying to bleed Xander would be his next pick for a possible relationship. In his defense, she can really rock a mini skirt.
32. Hansel and Gretel
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” – it’s a biblical phrase that no one in Sunnydale really cared much about until the day Hansel and Gretel came to town. Yes, you read that right. Some shows may reference old movies or even try to replicate what other television programs have done, but this is Joss Whedon we’re talking about, which means there’s going to be less ripped off hallway fight scenes and more callbacks to Grimm fairy tales and other classic fables found in children’s books. One of these is of course Hansel and Gretel, which serves as the main source of inspiration for the episode, except now, the story about two kids getting cooked alive when they eat the wrong witch’s house has turned into a terrifying tale about two ghost kids who persuade Joyce Summers to burn her only daughter at the stake.
Said to be the perfect organism, Adam is part demon, part human and part robot. Birthed by Professor Maggie Walsh, Adam may have started out his life as a member of the Initiative alongside Riley and the others, but when his human life ends, Walsh quickly seizes the specimen for her Frankenstein project and doesn’t look back. To the government, Professor Walsh is capturing demons, holding them underground in a secret shelter, and performing experiments will hopefully help curve their violent behavior. However, the truth is that this tough love teacher by day and military maiden by night has been concocting her very own bio-mechanical demonoid monster child for quite some time now. Stitching together pieces from the demon bounty their teams bring in each night. In the end, ironic enough, Maggie Walsh creates something through science that’s much deadlier than anything the Hellmouth could spit out. With his Polgara demon bone skewers, uranium power core, and heightened self-awareness, Adam is virtually unstoppable – and in a way, represents the ultimate Karmic retribution for the Initiative’s crimes.