US (2019)

us

 “Who are you?”

“We’re Americans”

A scathing attack on the polarising, binary state of American (and many other countries’) politics and today’s society or just a straight up horror film? You decide.
Commentary on class, race and privilege is on show here but never gets in the way of a good ‘ole scare.

It’s clear Jordan Peele has lots to say and chooses to do it via the often maligned or nichey, horror genre. Not usually the normal route for the passing on of opinion and criticism, although George A Romero did it brilliantly with ‘…the Dead’ zombie series as did John Carpenter with They Live and it’s attack on consumerism. Any shopping mall within the world at the moment doesn’t seem so different from the zombie overrun one in Dawn of the Dead and looking at the way the advertising hordes are after your mind and your money, how far are we really away from many aspects of They Live?

Peele delivered a cutting commentary of the deep wounds of racism and the current effects of the race relations in the magnificent Get Out and now he tackles the ‘Us and Them’ opposites of the way the country is in the uber-relevant midst of in 2019.

The film begins in 1986 with Adelaide Wilson, a young girl on holiday with her parents in Santa Cruz. She strays away from them and enters a funhouse that will forever change her. Cut to present day and now played by Lupita Nyong’o, she is heading to her old family vacation home in Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide is apprehensive about returning to the place of the disturbing incident from her childhood but tries to get in the spirit of the trip. They meet their aspirational friends Josh & Kitty Tyler (Eric Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss) and their twin daughters, Becca (Cali Sheldon) and Lyndsey (Noelle Sheldon) at the beach close to the eerie funhouse from Adelaide’s childhood and things take a strange turn from here.

I will not reveal anything more about the plot. I had been excited about this for a while and stayed away from any information about the narrative or even the set up.

No trailers, no reviews, no nuttin’. Recently I’ve been trying to see films with as little information as possible to maximize my own enjoyment. I managed to do so pretty well with Captain Marvel. Again, not trailers, no reading, no nuttin’. No mean feat. It’s a fun experiment.

Hands across AmericaHands Across America

There is commentary here about the duality in humans and shadow and light plays a big part, the fear of the other and the self adorned illusion that these are separate and not two sides of the same coin. This division is happening in America and across the world.
We seem to be in an “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” place and this is definitely on show here.

Lupita Nyong’o continues to shine and add to her stellar collection of work and it’s great to see Winston Duke getting a bigger turn and more coverage, his comedy chops are on display here and his star is also on the rise. Elisabeth Moss (always brilliant) and Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric fame) who owns the best named boat in film to date ‘The B’Yacht’Ch’, have a LOAD of fun as the protagonists friends and the two main kids (Joseph & Alex) feel rooted in the world, as crazy as it gets.

There are plenty of scares and eerie tones at play and the soundtrack by Michael Abel works very well with the images. Anthem is especially strong as a creepy theme. Not to mention the killer tunes and beautiful placement in the film.
Luniz, anyone? N.W.A., anyone?

Whilst not as tight or sparky as his debut, his sophomore effort shows that Peele is no fluke. His knowledge of cinema and horror films, and referencing amongst others, Hitchcock, Kubrick and Spielberg, is real and I’m looking forward to watching this new director’s work as he traverses through the map of this business called film-making.
And all this from one half of the mighty Key & Peele sketch comedy duo.
Who’da thunk it? I had 5 on it.

It’s not about drugsIt’s a dope song.”

4/5

 

 

DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD-Død snø 2 (2014)

ds2

‘The sequel you did Nazi coming’

They’re back; the Nazi zombies who still want their gold.

Tommy Wirkola returns to direct the sequel to the bat-shit crazy ‘Dead Snow’.

The budget is slightly larger than the last time and so there is literally no time for the audience to wait for the zombies to appear, they are present from very early on which turns out to be a lot of fun.

Starting with a recap of the first film, a la Evil Dead 2, to which this film, and its prequel, owes a great debt. The homages are wonderful, Wirkola takes Ash’s arm idea and runs with it, giving this sequel a great (Captain) hook.

Vegar Hoel reprises his role as Martin, the lone survivor from the original and really goes for it.
It ain’t easy pretending to be loopy and Hoel does a great job of convincing us he is at the brink of madness. Unfortunately, several of the other cast members act as though they are in a b-movie. They are not wrong but it detracts from the piece by being too knowing. The introduction of the Zombie Squad, three Americans who are ‘experts’ comprising of the very funny Martin Starr (Freaks and Geeks/Party Down), Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas, is a nice touch, allowing for a multi-lingual cast to show their chops.

Stig Frode Henrickson returns from the original as a new character, Glenn Kenneth, and has a lot of fun with his character, as does Ørjan Gamst returning as the Nazi leader, Colonel Herzog. Hallvard Holmen and Amrita Acharya (Game of Thrones) play the small town police who have to try and deal with the zombie outbreak and have some very funny lines and chemistry. Kristoffer Joner plays the zombie sidekick and the homage to Bub in Day of the Dead is clear in his performace.

The last battle on a playing field has elements of a low budget Lord of the Rings battle but manages to be fun even without the money.

The gore is extreme in a ridiculous comedy style and the story has some fun elements to it, what stops it from becoming a classic is a looseness in the script and story-telling aspect and the shifting tone of the acting. It switches from being a lot of fun to plain ridiculous. Of course, the idea of Nazi zombies is a ridiculous one but one with potential comedic merit, which works well at times and not so much at others.

If you’re a fan of the zombie/horror/comedy style you’ll love this one, but if you love your films with quality control, you may be frustrated.
It must be said, though that this sequel is definitely more Dead than Snow.

3/5

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