Pet Sematary is a book that author Stephen King called his “worst” because of how much is scared him. And it is a terrifying story, dealing with the monstrosity that is grief. While it was adapted into a film by Mary Lambert in 1989, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer have adapted it again, in a move that made horror fans wary and begged the question: why do we need this film? But this recent adaptation, offering callbacks and homages to the original film while also creating a fresh take on a classic horror story, establishes a more terrifying tale that examines the deep psychological trauma of grief and the horrifying actions people wrapped in grief are capable of.
The film begins with the Creed family moving from Boston to the sleepy town of Ludlow, Maine. Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) has taken a position as a campus doctor with the goal of slowing down and spending more time with his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), daughter, Ellie (Jete Laurence), and baby son, Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie). Shortly after they move in, Rachel and Ellie discover a pet cemetery in the woods behind their house. They learn from their neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), that the children of Ludlow have buried their pets there for generations, making a sort of twisted ritual out of it. But something sinister lurks around the cemetery, a force that seems to feed on grief.
Continue reading “‘Pet Sematary’ Struggles with The Past But Delivers Delightfully Original Scares”
Cracking open Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in high school probably seemed like a chore. Flipping through pages of dense prose, mandatory class discussion, and inevitable reading quizzes sucked the enjoyment out of such a rich novel. There have been plenty of adaptations of the tale, but now Shelley’s masterpiece has received a 21st-century makeover in the form of Larry Fessenden’s latest film, Depraved, a deeply-sad horror film that speaks to our societally-ingrained selfishness.
Don’t worry, there’s no need to dust off those old, crinkled copies of Frankenstein from your parents’ basement to enjoy Depraved. Even those unfamiliar with the plot will enjoy Fessenden’s contemporary interpretation. Adam (Alex Breaux) is Depraved’s Frankenstein’s monster, a young man put together from different parts in a dingy lab built in a warehouse in New York City that resembles any New York millennial’s apartment. Scientist Henry (David Call), employed by Polidori (Joshua Leonard), has finally figured out how to resurrect the dead. But Henry is a veteran suffering from PTSD, trying to use his findings to help future soldiers. So on top of caring for himself, he must take care of Adam and teach him how to be a human, from eating and speaking to reading and playing ping pong. Adam floats through the world in a strange limbo of vague understanding, absorbing the world with an innocence only experienced by the blissfully naive. Yet, this all starts to fall apart as Adam begins to regain memories and learn that he is nothing more than a science experiment, meant to bring fame and fortune to Polidori’s pharmaceutical company.
Continue reading “Larry Fessenden’s ‘Depraved’ is A Mess of Limbs, Organs, and Emotions”
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s communist party, overthrew the Cambodian government and took over the country, bringing with them four years of genocide. They forced Cambodians into work camps, massacred minority populations, and preached the benefits of communism to justify their violence. Denis Do’s animated film, Funan, tells the story of a family trying to survive and stay together in the face of this fascist regime. Its beautiful animation style and honest, yet non-exploitative, portrayals of violence create a film with raw emotional power.
Continue reading “‘Funan’ Further Proves The Emotional Impact of Animation”
Two officers stand together, smoking cigarettes, and ruminating over Singapore’s land reclamation. As they gaze over the water at the towering metallic behemoths of industry on the horizon, they ruminate on Singapore’s land expansion over 30 years and how it doesn’t seem to be stopping, just like their investigation into two missing migrant workers. One asks why they are even looking for people that no one cares about. Director Yeo Siew Hua uses his latest film, A Land Imagined, to make you care about those that go ignored and those whose disappearances go investigated through a dreamy noir.
This is not the wealthy Singapore we typically see; this is industrial Singapore that is full of migrant workers living in cramped dorms. This is a Singapore that feels akin to the dystopic worlds of Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner. Police investigator Lok moves through this environment in search of a missing migrant worker, Wang. Wang, injured on a land reclamation site and suffering from insomnia, seeks some kind of relief in an internet cafe, awash in neon colors and full of a cacophony of clacking keys and whirring computer fans. He is searching for connection, for a friend, in a place where he doesn’t know anyone. But his search for friendship goes awry and Lok must try to find out just exactly what’s happening at these work sites.
Continue reading “Yeo Siew Hua Creates a Dreamy Singaporean Noir in ‘A Land Imagined’”
In most cases, a man in a leather mask masturbating while watching a young man dance would be a red flag. But at the sex club in the opening of Yann Gonzalez’s Knife+Heart, this is expected and even encouraged. The masked man and the young dancer go home together, presumably for a night of fun. However, it all goes downhill when this man reveals he has a dildo knife and kills his partner. This is Gonzalez’s ridiculously delicious opening of his queer slasher for the ages about a killer tracking down porn stars in Paris during the summer of 1979.
Anne Parèze (played by the ethereal Vanessa Paradis) is a porn producer who exclusively makes gay male porn at a discount. Her performers are constantly demanding payment, even discussing their paychecks mid-blow job. Meanwhile, Anne won’t stop drinking her pain away after a breakup with her girlfriend of 10 years, who is also her editor. Amidst this turmoil, someone begins picking off her porn stars one by one, casting a shadow of fear over the studio. But while performing her grief, Anne decides to use these crimes as inspiration for her next porno, Homo-cidal. The narrative intertwines her desire to make the next great porn film, her investigation into the killer, and her declining mental state in the face of a broken relationship.
Continue reading “‘Knife+Heart’ Is The Sexy Queer Slasher Of Your Dreams”
We all know about the American Dream. We see it in movies, we read about it history books, we talk about it all the time. In achieving this proverbial dream, we have achieved the pinnacle of success and freedom, whatever that means. In her directorial debut, Darya Zhuk paints a different picture of chasing the American Dream in the newly sovereign nation of Belarus, one that is funny, tragic, and confused.
In Belarus in the 1990s, Velya (Alina Nasibullina) is an aspiring DJ who wants nothing more than to move to Chicago, home of house music. She and her strung-out boyfriend party all night, and she survives by living at home and stealing from her mom. But, Belarus’ bureaucracy makes it virtually impossible for an unemployed woman living with her mom to leave the country. In an attempt to trick the system, she buys a letter of employment from a factory, but this backfires as she writes down the wrong phone number, which means the embassy can’t call to verify her “employment.” So, she heads to the phone number’s address in the factory town of Crystal City to ensure she gets her visa. This leads to a clash of the classes in the name of reaching that American Dream.
Continue reading “Chicago Feminist Film Festival: ‘Crystal Swan’ Tells A Darkly Comic Version of the American Dream”
We’re a society that loves serial killers, but only a certain image of serial killer: a white man with a tortured past who can easily be slapped on a t-shirt and lauded as some kind of perverse hero. Filipino director Raya Martin taps into this obsession with his adaptation of Felisa Batacan’s award-winning novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles (it was also the first Filipino crime novel). But, instead of glorifying or deifying the killer, Martin instead portrays him, and the entire case, with nuance and pain, depicting a world unseen by most Western audiences.
In a rain-soaked Payatas, reminiscent of the dreary city in Se7en, two Jesuit priests, Gus Saenz (Nonie Buencamino) and Jerome Lucero (Sid Lucero), are assisting in the investigation of a potential serial killer who is targeting young boys in the slum district. Seven bodies have been found in a local garbage dump, each missing his face and genitals. Saenz and Lucero, forensic investigators as well as priests, are working against time and the police to solve this case, fighting tooth and nail for resources. While they are investigating these murders, they are also combating the rampant sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Both men are trying to do good by the Lord, but are confronted with a more harrowing reality.
Continue reading “It’s More Complicated Than Serial Killers in ‘Smaller and Smaller Circles’”