Friday, March 20, 2020

Sadako (2019)

Director: Hideo Nakata
Notable Cast: Elaiza Ikeda, Himeka Himejima, Hiroya Shimizu, Ren Kiriyama, Rie Tomosaka, Takashi Tsukamoto

In terms of franchises, the Ring franchise still might now be the wildest – despite intensive efforts to continually reboot it in some wild ways. It’s a weird one, often perplexing at times, but not necessarily the strangest one I’ve seen. After a relatively successful reboot in Japan of the series with Sadako 3D and Sadako 3D 2, the franchise took a wild swing with the entertaining Sadako Vs Kayako which serves as more of a “fan service” film rather than a true part of the original or the reboot franchise. It’s not that surprising then that the latest film, under the rather confusing title Sadako, also serves as something of a soft reboot. It’s a film that attempts to go back to the original’s tone and feeling with a few new themes thrown in as it strips back the wild aspects of the newer films for something a bit more traditional. This leaves Sadako feeling a bit anemic in its narrative, repetitive and unmemorable as it runs through many of the tropes, but disregards many of the other elements that made Sadako and her films horror classics.

The big reason that fans should be intrigued about Sadako is that it marks a return to the franchise by its directorial creator, Hideo Nakata since the disastrous The Ring Two. Dabbling on and off in horror for the last 20+ years, his track record can be hit or miss, but his return does perk a lot of interest. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so shocking that the film is more akin to the original run of Japanese films (including his own Ring and Ring 2 entries) in tone. It’s a shift that certainly sounds tempting on paper – being a loose reboot that only hints at being part of the same universe as previous films. Still, the execution of its ideas seems thin at best and leaves so much to be desired.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

Director: William Brent Bell
Notable Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay

The Boy became something of a surprise success. It did some bank in the box office, compared to its budget, and generated quite the word of mouth, particularly from its finale. However, it was a film that existed too firmly in a generic blue print for most of its run time. In my opinion, even its fantastic third act couldn’t quite lift it above being a mediocre horror film. The shock of this recently released sequel wasn’t that it existed, the original was a hit, but that it took four years for it to finally come out in theaters.

The big question of the sequel is how does one follow up the first film’s reveal and still maintain the concept without diverting the idea and tone in drastic ways? If you were to judge by what Brahms: The Boy II is delivering to its audiences, you can’t. Where the first film generated a lot of fun moments with some decent performances and slick production, Brahms fails to generate, well, anything. It’s a snoozer that meanders through its formula with such a wooden sense of purpose, one would be surprised that everyone working on the film wasn’t a puppet.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Possum (2018)

Director: Matthew Holness
Notable Cast: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Simon Bubb, Andy Blithe

This 2018 English psychological horror piece is all at once confusing and terrifying, unsettling and harrowing, and vague; until it’s suddenly not. I spent the majority of this film bathed in curious resentment for the harrowing and nonlinear narratives, only to be ripped into blinding clarity in a resolution that is as uncomfortable as the rest of the film.

Director Matthew Holness makes his feature film debut in this darkly gripping story about trauma, mental illness, and freaking terrifying puppets. Prior to Possum, he had written and directed many pieces for TV, but this film seems like a stark departure from what one would generally consider “tv” type entertainment. One can only hope that we see more of his work in the future, as anyone who watches Possum, will attest that it is a novel approach to storytelling, regardless of their preference for the subject matter.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Guns Akimbo (2020)

Directed by: Jason Lei Howden
Notable cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ned Dennehey

Occasionally a film asks a question, a question that frightens you, cuts you to your core. Something that rattles your very humanity.  Guns Akimbo, the new film by Deathgasm writer/director Jason Lei Howden, is brave enough to ask such a question. What if you woke up with pistols bolted to your hands? Truly, haunting.

If the above thought didn’t make it immediately apparent, we are diving into true grindhouse cinema. After the Tarantino/Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse, a whole generation was exposed to the concept, sort of. For specificities’ sake, a grindhouse theater was a cheap theater that played, usually as double features, low-budget action, horror, and exploitation films. Exploitation, as a genre, is any film that exploits some popular thing, movement, or person and makes a low-budget (usually) horror or action movie out of it. Women-in-prison, nunsploitation, and nazi-sploitation are all prime examples of exploitation sub-genres. They also tended to be crassly sexual and gory, basically the “gutter punk” of the cinematic world... and like all counterculture movements, the quality varies wildly. A quick litmus test for you: if what I just said sounds cool to you, you’re right and it’s probably for you. If what I said sounds repulsive? You’re right, and it’s probably not for you. Casting the brief aside aside now, let’s talk about Guns Akimbo.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Witch: Subversion (2020)

Director: Park Hoon-jung
Notable Cast: Kim Da-mi, Jo Min-su, Choi Woo-shik, Park Hee-soon, Go Min-si, Choi Jung-woo, Oh Mi-hee, Daeun, Kim Byeong-ok

At this point, it might be safe to say that after Parasite swept its Oscar categories that we will – at least for a short time – be living in a post-Parasite world. A world where South Korean cinema will finally be getting some attention from more casual cinephiles and where the mainstream will keep a meandering eye on the big films from the SK industry. For our writers here at Blood Brothers and thus, our readers too, it’s an exciting time to see all of the new fans discover just how wild and awesome SK cinema has been for quite some time. Even films like The Witch: Subversion or The Witch Part 1: Subversion if you go by the original English title for the film, showcases just how dark and twisty the films can be. It’s a film with a ton of heart and mainstream appeal but does not hesitate to take its concept into the incredibly dark and violent recesses of its own psyche – particularly in a brutal and shocking third act. It’s a film that takes such a solid and impressively genre-favored turn that even its mundane narrative of the first two acts is saved. Yes, it’s a twist like this that makes me very excited for new people to discover SK cinema in more depth.

Ne Zha (2019) [Blu Ray]

One of the big surprises of the last year in theaters was Ne Zha, China’s big blockbuster animated film, which came out to some serious money in theaters. Not only did it make a massive splash overseas, but it ended up garnering quite the theatrical run in the US too. The main reason for its success is how confident and well-executed it is as a film. Ne Zha is a wild, colorful, and full immersive animated experience, brimming with family-style humor and yet slathered in traditional Chinese fantasy and littered with incredibly well-executed action set pieces. If you want more, please feel free to read through my full review of the film from last here HERE.

The purpose of this update is not to necessarily rehash the quality of the film, but to let our readers know that it’s now available to own. Ne Zha is available on multiple formats via Well Go USA. Each of the releases is focused solely on the film itself and it features both dubbed and subbed versions of the film for those who want the choice (subbed is my preferred method, but people love them dubs). For those looking for a slew of special features, then this isn’t necessarily the release for that – but the film itself is easily worth the purchase. Considering the visual style of the film, the higher the resolution than the higher the recommendation. The visual and audio focused cinephile will not complain about the quality that is on display here. This is one that is getting the UHD 4K quality release too – which includes the superior artwork anyway in my opinion.

Although Ne Zha doesn’t feature a lot of extras, the quality of the releases are fantastic. The film is worth checking out just to see the beginning of an obvious new age of Chinese animation (and its own franchise) so it comes highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Invisible Man (2020)

Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Notable cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge

Universal has been trying to modernize its classic monster lineup non-stop for two decades. They started strong, with The Mummy in 1999 and most recently ended very weakly, with 2017’s The Mummy. The weaker efforts in the interim have had a single consistent problem, which is that they were forward-looking, so focused on making their own Avengers that they forgot to make a single decent stand-alone film. The Invisible Man, conversely, is an exceptionally small story with a humble budget given to the rapidly emerging powerhouse duo of producer Jason Blum and writer/director Leigh Whannell, teaming here for the third time (after 2015’s Insidious Chapter 3, and the criminally underseen Upgrade from 2018).

One Missed Call Trilogy (2003-2006)


Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Yutaka Matsushige, Goro Kishtani, Renji Ishibashi

Miike is one of those directors that truly can direct damn near anything and make it his own and, weirdly enough, make it great. The first – and original – One Missed Call is a prime example of that talent. While many of its ilk in the J-horror boom of the early 00s focused on a fear of technology creeping into the realms of the spiritual world, One Missed Call might feature one of the silliest concepts. A ghost who uses your cell phone to call you from the near future from the period where it kills you? It’s borderline asinine. Yet, watching this film is something of a suffocating and incredibly creepy experience. Miike uses the concept to run with his usual themes of outsider feelings and the unusual existing in the ‘real’ world and the combination proves to be downright effective.