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

 

 

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CHEAP THRILLS (2013)

cheap-thrills-poster-2013-pat-healy

 

How far would you go?

This is described on IMDB as a comedy thriller. The comedy is pretty much as dark as you can get; so dark as to elicit no smiles from this viewer.

There are elements here that suggest darker forces are at work but really the darkness manifests in all sorts of ways; mundane or extreme.

Pat Healy plays Craig a man who loses his job on the same day he is given his eviction notice. Craig has a wife and a baby and is at the end of his tether. He’s sat in the bar and in comes Vince (Ethan Embry who was brilliant in Brotherhood) his erstwhile teenage buddy, they sit, reminisce and meet a couple played by David Koechner (Whammy) and his wife Violet (Sara Paxton) who are clearly loaded.
The couple dare the old friends to do more and more bizarre and twisted things for money.

And there is the premise.

How far would you go if you were at the end of the road?
This pitch black thriller is definitely not for everyone especially the squeamish but it is well made, the acting is real and the script is sturdy. Everyone is excellent and convincing. This is E.L. Katz’ debut feature and doing a bit of research it seems that his genre is horror so it’s unlikely we’ll see his name anywhere different than this niche market.

My question is why would you make it?
A little bit like Prisoners, the Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal thriller, well made but to what end? Maybe it’s shock for the sake of it; no more, no less. If so, a wasted venture methinks. It does shine a light on the darker and does it in an interesting way but it could have gone further down that line of questioning.

‘For the love of money is the root of all evil’.

Dark, disturbing and borderline demonic; for true extremists only.

3/5

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