The Last Voyage of the Demeter
The Last Voyage of the Demeter feels like a movie from a different era. To a point, it is—writer Bragi Schut first drafted his adaptation of the 'Log of the "Demeter"' sequence in Bram Stoker's Dracula in the early 2000s. It's a capital letters Hollywood Creature Feature—a grimmer straight horror cousin to 2004's action/horror hybrid Van Helsing. At its best, it's an admirably gnarly monster flick—bolstered by sturdy craft from director André Øvredal and consistently good performances from a game ensemble. At its worst, it loses confidence and resorts to bumbling attempts to guide its audience by the hand—most notably in its prologue and epilogue. Continue Reading →
John Wick: Chapter 4
The John Wick films are, simply put, the standard-bearer for American action in the 21st century. When the first came out in 2014, it shook the foundations of what we felt was possible in a Hollywood action landscape predominantly concerned with CGI energy blasts: It put stuntwork front and center, crafted labyrinthine mythology as dense and unnecessary as it was innately compelling in its flavor, and -- most importantly -- brought Keanu Reeves back to the public consciousness in a big way. Basically, it's some of the few times American action movies can even hope to compete with what comes out of Eastern Europe and Asia. And now, that saga comes to a close with John Wick: Chapter 4, a film that took two years after completion to come out, and feels like a final exhale of relief after hours of unrelenting, inventive action. Continue Reading →
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Oz Perkins' latest, unceremoniously dumped into January, is a revisionist Grimm story as atmospheric as it is thin.
The original fairy tales documented by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were often bloody, dark stories. As time passed, and we decided that children were too fragile for the originals, we reshaped them into toothless Disney stories of romance and happy endings. And as society began to critique the passive nature of these saccharine protagonists, the 2010s gave us badass butt-kicking makeovers for our heroes, like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.
At the dawn of the century’s third decade, however, we see fairy tales leaning harder into their older, more folkloric elements, crafting stories that mine terror out of feeling decidedly old and out-of-step with our understanding of the world. It happened with The Witch, and now we’ve got Gretel & Hansel, directed by Oz Perkins (son of Anthony), which opts for an eerie atmosphere and a decidedly dark interpretation of its source material.
The movie opens with one fairy tale framing another: Gretel’s favorite childhood story of a young child, beset by illness in their infancy. In a desperate bid to save the child’s life, her father takes her to a local witch. While the witch saves her life, she also gives the child the power of prophecy and witchcraft. As the child grows, so does her power and evil, until the townsfolk have little choice but to exile her to the woods. Continue Reading →