Alright, you beautiful and complete strangers, I’m going to try something a little different around here since I’ve been slacking in this department for quite a while now. Because I haven’t been reviewing movies lately — mostly due to a severe lack of free time — I thought I would start doing a monthly round-up of sorts where I give you my thoughts on the new horror films I watch each month. Although these won’t be in-depth reviews, hopefully this will act as a quick guide for your genre picks throughout the year.
Because there’s a shit ton of words below, let’s just jump right into this shall we? June was a pretty solid month for horror, offering up an interesting mix of genres — two violent revenge films, a throwback anthology, and a quasi-biopic. Let me know what you think of this format for reviews and share your thoughts below on what you’ve been watching.
The Aftermath – June 2020
SHIRLEY is one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, so… what exactly did I miss? Outside of some great performances — of course Elisabeth Moss kills it — the film felt flat and tedious. And I’ll admit, I think a lot of that had to do with where my expectations were at to begin with. If you watch the trailer, it’s clear that the marketing strategy for Shirley was to lean into the genre (a lot) and it didn’t help that many horror sites were toting this one as a… you guessed it, a horror film.
That being said, it is most definitely not something I would categorize as horror; sure, there are some disturbing psychological elements that deal with mental health, but I don’t think it was ever the film’s intention to be scary. For me, horror is created by the film’s atmosphere and intention — Shirley is much more interested in telling a very slow, dramatic story about a troubled woman who happens to write some fucked up stories. That’s about it. A fantastic score and the cinematography — and of course Elisabeth Moss — are enough to give it a look, however. Just go in with the right expectations I suppose (so basically the opposite of what I did). Your mileage may vary with this one (again, it has been very well received by critics), but I ultimately found this one dull and a little boring.
JUDY & PUNCH is, for my money, the biggest surprise of the year so far. A big reason for that is the fact that no one is really talking about it, which is strange because this is usually the type of movie that generates a lot of hype. It has all the things you want in a revenge story, only Judy & Punch tells it in such a freakishly unique way that I really don’t even know how to describe it.
The movie just doesn’t seem to exist in any kind of reality, yet it’s so perfectly absurd and simultaneously grounded that you’ll have a hard time deciding if you should laugh or be in horror… or just laugh in horror. It’s such a damn good time and I love that it has this… almost fantasy-like quality to it that although it’s telling a story we’ve seen many times before — you can only do so much with the revenge genre, after all — it feels entirely fresh and unexpected. The way it blends dark humor with brutal violence and horror is like capturing lightening in a bottle. Don’t miss this one.
SCARE PACKAGE is a film that has been generating a ton of hype and for good reason. It’s a gnarly anthology that you can tell was made with the kind of attention to detail that only horror fans would have — it’s a total crowd pleaser. So much of this one is covered in gooey practical effects and wonderful nods to our favorite horror movie tropes that, as a horror fan, it’s really hard to complain about anything here.
That being said, the film does struggle where practically every anthology does and that’s in its inability to balance tone and pacing with each new short film. At times it’s a little clunky, and not every short totally worked for me, but man… there’s enough “holy shit” moments in this one that it’s absolutely worth your time. Anthologies are always hard to review because… do you review it based on each short… or how they tie into the overall arc… or what? I don’t really know, but I can say that it absolutely lives up to the hype if you like your horror to be very wet and splattery and gross and awesome.
BECKY, or the one where Kevin James (!) is a psychotic murderer, was… actually pretty good. So this one is basically just like every single generic home invasion movie, but it’s at least entertaining and Lulu Wilson was surprisingly dope as a Kevin-McCallister-except-at-a-lake-house-in-the-summer knock off — her character is kind of annoying at first, but once she starts murdering people all is forgiven.
Again, there’s not much to review here. It’s a pretty basic home invasion flick with the most interesting part having absolutely nothing to do with its story, but rather the fact that it stars Kevin James as a white supremacist — sadly, despite a convincing performance, the film doesn’t really allow his character to be anything more than your standard “bad guy”. That was enough to get me to watch it, though, and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of violence in the film. The entire thing is a bit silly — don’t even get me started on that damn Nazi key — but if you’re looking for an easy-to-digest thriller with some fun violence then this might do the trick.
Movie of the Month – Judy & Punch