100 minutes / available on HBO and HBO Go / 4 stars
Filmmaker Miranda July specializes in tragicomic stories about the mortifying things that happen when people try to connect.
His latest feature film, released last year (2020), focuses on the Dynes, a family of scammers and thieves. When it comes to scammers, they are terrible. Father Robert (Richard Jenkins), mother Theresa (Debra Winger), and daughter Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) can barely survive.
A chance meeting with a stranger, Melanie (Gina Rodríguez), can turn your luck and alter the emotional status quo of the family.
This may be the funniest and most accessible work of July – there are no signature surreal touches like talking cats. It’s fueled by a great performance from Jenkins as the tempestuous patriarch who imagines himself to be a master of manipulation.
The House of Night (NC16)
Photos from the movie The Night House, starring Rebecca Hall (right) and Sarah Goldberg. PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY
107 minutes / now showing / 4 stars
In this psychological horror play, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone after the sudden death of her husband, the architect Owen. The beautiful, secluded lakeside home he designed is his refuge and a gruesome reminder of his death.
When your dreams are interrupted by terrifying visions, hidden secrets are revealed throughout the house.
This story combines familiar horror elements, such as the gas-lit wife from the 1938 novel Rebecca (which has received multiple cinematic treatments), with a minimalist approach that relies on drawing out fear of the invisible and the unknown: the shadows in the other. side of the lake, the emptiness that exists within a grieving soul.
The lesser approach taken by director David Bruckner (the 2017 supernatural horror play The Ritual, available on Netflix) relies on Hall’s ability to fill in the gaps with her often speechless acting, as Beth is alone during much of the movie.
The actress makes Beth, a woman forced to abandon her innocence in the face of sinister forces, an irresistible and identifiable presence.
The middle (M18)
The Middle, starring Sawanee Utoomma. PHOTO: GOLDEN TOWN
131 minutes / now showing / 4 stars
This supernatural horror play is directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, who has directed the horror hits Shutter (2004) and 4bia (2008) and comedian Pee Mak (2013). His co-writer and co-producer is South Korean filmmaker Na Hong-jin, best known for directing the acclaimed police thriller The Chaser (2008).
Na’s Korean script, which had Korean settings and characters, became Thai after she decided to go into production with Banjong.
The result of cross-cultural pollination is this hauntingly atmospheric tale rooted in the animistic traditions of the Isan people of northeast Thailand.
The film is set up as a documentary, a study of Nim (Sawanee Utoomma), an Isan shaman. She discovers that her niece Mink (Narya Gulmongkolpech) is exhibiting strange behavior, which at first means that the younger woman has the qualities of a shaman.
This movie is totally committed to its premise. From the first act, viewers are immersed in a world of angry gods and angry demons, living in a region filled with primordial energy emanating from caves, forests, and abandoned buildings.
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Kajillionaire, The Night House, The Medium