This ultraviolent contagion apocalypse movie is an unhinged joyride through genre madness that will unsettle your guts and your brain. That’s a no-joke warning and an enthusiastic recommendation.
Jim (Berant Zhu) and his girlfriend, Kat (Regina Lei), wake up one morning and spot a bloodstained woman on a nearby roof, one of many ominous clues that a virus is about to overwhelm Taipei. It doesn’t take long before their fellow citizens turn into grinning, flesh-craving fiends, including a creepy older businessman (Tzu-Chiang Wang) who becomes one of the film’s many slur-spewing, socket-seeking sexual assailants.
When Kat winds up at a hospital under siege, she meets a demented virologist who mansplains to her how bad men — misogynists, corrupt politicians, virus deniers — are successfully undermining a good society. “Everything must be politicized,” he explains. “There can no longer be truth.”
When the Canadian writer-director-editor Rob Jabbaz showed it at Fantasia, a genre festival that’s not for lightweights, the program included a rare trigger warning. If that sounds like a transgressive badge of honor, this fearless, feminist, furious film has your name on it.
Clementine (Susan Priver) is a medium with actual clairvoyant powers, a skill that comes in handy in her job at a psychic hotline. One night during a call with a masked, raspy-voiced man, she has a vision of him violently knifing a woman — sure enough, he goes and does it.
As the masked maniac stalks Clementine in her dreams and in person, his identity comes into focus, and her powers become a blessing and a curse as she tries to put an end to his grisly depravities.
This deliciously lurid film from the writer-director Chad Ferrin is such an unapologetic throwback to 1970s exploitation cinema and ’80s golden-age slashers, you can practically smell the grindhouse. Ferrin’s affection for psychosexual horror, especially the films of Brian De Palma, saturates his smartly crafted story, although some folks will not take kindly to the cross-dressing aspects of the killer’s back story that recall De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill.”
Thumbs up to Kyle McConaghy, the director of photography, for making a grainy film that looks like he recovered it from a long-locked projection booth in sleaze-era Times Square.
‘A Ghost Waits’
So far in this column, it’s been wall-to-wall grotesqueries. To the rescue comes this winsome romantic horror comedy.
Jack (MacLeod Andrews, so affecting in “They Look Like People”) gets a job cleaning out a house whose occupants left suddenly. He decides to sleep there, and that’s when he meets Muriel (Natalie Walker), a ghost and a star employee at a house-haunting agency. No matter how much Muriel tries to scare him, Jack isn’t frightened. In fact, he courts her with questions about the existence of God (she doesn’t know) and whether Johnny Cash is a ghost (she doesn’t know who that is).
This doesn’t sit well with Muriel’s boss, who sends in a replacement ghost — or spectral agent, as they’re called — to make Jack leave the house. But she’s no match for Jack and Muriel’s blossoming connection.
Adam Stovall’s oddball film is an analog charmer, thanks to finely-tuned performances and a surprisingly touching script; it reminded me of “Lace Crater,” another lo-fi meet-cute ghost story. Madeline Winters’s dime-store scary makeup design is downright bewitching.
Craig Zobel’s damning, pitch-black horror-comedy, about wealthy elites who track and kill “deplorables,” is now free on the streaming service formerly known as IMDb TV.
A group of Americans — from red territory like Wyoming and Staten Island — wake up gagged and left to fend in an open field with a cache of weapons (and a little pig). As they race to figure out why they’re there, they’re picked off in brutal fashion by assassins who turn out to be liberals out for the blood of people who don’t get their news from NPR.
What these privileged killers don’t know is that one of the hunted is Crystal, a car rental employee and Afghanistan vet, played with unyielding resolve by Betty Gilpin. With mercenary combat skills like a suburban-mom Rambo, she butchers her way to the home of Athena (Hilary Swank), the group’s affluent mastermind, for a hand-to-hand battle to the death.
Fans of “Squid Game” and other people-hunting movies will get a kick out of this jarringly comic (and controversial) film. Don’t get comfy with the characters or its politics: Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof’s script is full of twists that indict the left and the right, but also, as Crystal puts it, anyone in power who is “smart pretending to be idiots or idiots pretending to be smart.”
I have to admit, I’m not sure I understand what happened by the end of this character-driven psychological horror film from the writer-director Sebastian Godwin. But during its efficiently creepy 71 minutes, I was glued to it.
Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill) takes his new wife, Holly (Aisling Loftus), to his ex-wife’s rural home, where he introduces Holly to his three kids, including the young birthday girl Anna (Raffiella Chapman).
But right away Holly suspects something is off. Anna’s brooding older siblings, Lucia (Hattie Gotobed) and Ralph (Lukas Rolfe), give her stank face and the creeps. And what’s making those sounds from behind the cellar door? Why do Lucia and Ralph play so roughly in the pool? Where is Richard’s ex-wife? And who, exactly, is Richard?
Godwin keeps you guessing as he signals, with help from Sergi Vilanova’s sinister cinematography, that wickedness is afoot. Where some critics thought the film was flimsy, I found it elliptical and eerie. Horror fans who love stories that leave behind clues, not answers, will enjoy walking its enigmatic path.