My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.
This week focuses on three 2022 releases on Shudder.
Speak No Evil (2022)
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Christian Tafdrup’s new film is smarter and more philosophical than most of the nihilistic horror movies I’ve seen in recent years. That doesn’t mean it’s any less grim or disturbing. In fact, it has haunted me since I saw it a few nights ago.
Whereas many horror films pretend to be a comment on society, Tafdrup’s movie doesn’t posture, it produces. Through a careful, tense build up, he explores different lifestyles and ways of seeing the world. He doesn’t simplify and the portrayals of these characters only get more complex as the film goes along. Unlike the recent Watcher (also on Shudder), he successfully plays with paranoia, making us wonder if the couples’ suspicion of their hosts is well-founded or just middle class hysteria.
The acting in the picture is phenomenal, especially from Morten Burian who I hope to bring stateside someday. But the entire cast, adults and children, reminded me that European performances approach acting in a far more grounded, naturalistic way. This makes the horror of the story all the more real and terrifying.
“Because you let me” is the key line of the movie. I’m still thinking about.
Watched on Shudder
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
I admire this film’s slow burn and the way the filmmakers build tension over time. Playing with elements of Rear Window and other stalker thrillers, Watcher is a smart mystery with some memorable suspenseful moments but it’s ultimately undermined by a very conventional third act. The last thirty minutes turn what could have been a stellar film into a routine genre exercise. It’s too bad because what those behind the camera and actress Maika Monroe create is a paranoid existence where we’re not quite sure what is true and what isn’t or who really is the “watcher”.
Watched on Tubi
A Banquet (2022)
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
This Shudder release shows so much potential in its first half. I did not care for the stylized shooting/editing from the start; the extreme close-ups of food, mouths, and textures are over the top and never justify themselves. Being close to someone who has a sensory disorder, the film could have explored such a condition and how the smallest thing can be unnerving for some people.
Instead, it gets lost in a barrage of ideas including apocalyptic visions, possession, and ultimately ends up just being a loud, overwrought family drama. There’s a lot of good intention here at the start but the execution is just a mess.
Watched on Shudder