• Maxwell J.

April 2020 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month

Updated: Feb 6

Well here’s to April! Another month has come and gone at last. I enjoyed the extra time I was able to spend watching movies. This last month I watched 53 movies and have surpassed 1300 total movies viewed! The quality of films on average was on par with March, but I found plenty of gems that made it worthwhile. A fun fact about my top three is that all three are in languages other than English! Obviously, I do not plan for things like that, but it is always nice to see great cinema from outside the U.S! Without further ado, here are my favorite and least favorite horror films I watched last month!

WORST #3) Spiders (2000); Director: Gary Jones; United States

A young college journalist and her two friends who set out to cover a space shuttle launch find themselves at the mercy of a government experiment on spiders gone wrong. Spiders is typical low budget sci-fi/horror schlock. The problem with Spiders is that it really didn’t need to be like that. Its script is painfully long and drawn out. Scenes that should take seconds stretch to minutes, which makes my next point even more valid. The acting is atrocious. Again, expectations shouldn’t be high, but man was everyone in this film phoning it in big time. It doesn’t help that all of the characters are cardboard cutouts that only just vaguely resemble human beings. Side note– if I never see another plucky college journalist who will do anything to get the scoop of a lifetime, I’ll die a happy man. All of this could be forgiven if Spiders proved to be entertaining or even remotely frightening, but unfortunately, it waffles between attempting both and rightfully failing. If you are a fan of mockbusters, or Syfy original movies (not that Spiders is either of these), this movie will definitely be up your alley. Spiders lacks the bite to be frightening or fun and just ends up flat.

Overall Score? 3/10

BEST #3) The Platform (2019); Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia; Spain

A man wakes up in a vertical prison where prisoners are fed via a giant stone platform that descends from the top all the way to the bottom level every day. In order to survive, he and the other prisoners must abide by the strange rules and culture or resign to death. Expert worldbuilding and great dialogue elevate The Platform into both a deeply philosophical and dark survival horror. We meet many decently developed characters in The Platform, but Ivan Massagué’s Goreng is by far the most compelling. Vacillating between hopeful idealist, stark pessimist, and champion of the forgotten, Goreng is easy to cheer on as he navigates his stay in the hole. Director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia expertly squeezes out tension while slowly easing the audience deeper into the darkness of the script. The Platform is a peculiar and riveting story that is rich with social commentary on economics which allows audience members the opportunity to examine how their belief systems line up with the events in the film. It’s actually not as clear cut as people assume. With themes of sacrifice, justice, bureaucracy, and ambiguous morality, The Platform scintillates the visceral senses in addition to the mind. I appreciated The Platform for its boldness in storytelling and its innovation in set design and visuals. I wish it had been released in the U.S properly last year so I could have included it in my Best of 2019 list. Gritty and cerebral, The Platform will satiate anyone hungry for thought-provoking horror.

Overall Score? 7.5/10

WORST #2) Parasites (2017); Director: Chad Ferrin; United States

Three college kids get attacked by a group of impoverished people without homes when their car stalls in Skid Row. I wasn’t expecting much from Parasites when viewing it. It was free, I saw some favorable reviews online, and figured it couldn’t hurt to give it a go. It was painful. Beyond the opening sentence, there is not much plot to Parasites. It’s a whole lot of running around dark streets with some murder peppered in here and there. The entire film felt like it was stretched way too thin on its weak premise. Scenes are artificially prolonged often to comical heights, the dialogue is repeated almost like characters are in a time loop, and unnecessary characters emerge only to be dispatched minutes later. By the end, I found myself wondering, what was the point of it all? Anything Parasites ultimately said felt bitter. Did it really care about racial injustice or was it trying to shock us at the end? Why were the characters facing homelessness conjured as antagonists when statistically speaking they are the ones more likely to be victims of violent crimes? Even moments where it felt like the filmmakers were trying to say something, it always felt like a cheap shock tactic. Whatever. This movie sucked. It’s boring, politically toothless, and derivative of better survival/action horror. At best tasteless and at worst exploitative, Parasites is an empty cinematic experience devoid of substance, tension, or merit.

Overall Score? 2/10

BEST #2) Audition (2000); Director: Takashi Miike; Japan

A widower helps create and participate in an audition process for a fake movie in order to find a new wife. After seemingly finding the woman of his dreams, he finds himself feeling less sure of his choice when he learns more about his new lover’s past. Audition is a slow-burn horror drama that pulsates with mystery and intrigue before climaxing into a violently hypnotic third act. Shigeharu and Asami are fantastic characters that are given depth and drive which makes Audition an especially tense experience. It is impossible to discuss Audition without mentioning the final act. It is hard to make me uncomfortable watching a film, but Audition succeeded in both shocking and revolting me with the action depicted onscreen. It was brutal yet never felt over the top, which is a hard line to walk. Director Takashi Miike takes his time developing his characters and increasing the suspense, so by the time we get to this scene, we are already deeply invested in the outcome. A timeless piece that remains sadly relevant given the current #metoo movement, Audition dissects the themes of gender roles, misogyny, and power structures. The difference being, Audition makes it ambiguous on who you should be rooting for, as they both do inexcusable things. A J-horror classic, Audition will get under your skin and leave its mark on you permanently.

Overall Score? 9/10

WORST #1) Clickbait (2019); Directors: Sophia Cacciola, Michael Epstein; United States

An indie film propped up by free streaming on Amazon Prime and inflated ratings on Imdb, Clickbait attempts to satirize internet culture by showing how far an influencer will go for fame. Clickbait is painfully amateur at every junction. By the eight-minute mark, I was already begging for the movie to end, but I persisted out of principle. I never ditch a film I am watching, no matter how bad it is or makes me feel. A weak script and over the top performances blunt any chance of Clickbait rising above its budgetary constraints, but several directorial choices including the decision to intersperse no less than six fake commercials at random intervals throughout the feature really killed any chance this movie had of being enjoyable. Stylistically, Clickbait is devoid of creativity and depth while simultaneously sporting production values that deteriorate the venture to just a cut above a high school film project. Pacing and tonal inconsistencies pop up throughout Clickbait signaling that directors Sophia Cacciola and Michael Epstein had little sense in where they wanted to move forward. I’m sure there is something “deep” and “thought-provoking” within the film that proves Clickbait introspectively deconstructs the complexities of social media or influencer culture. The film, however, is such a painful experience that no one should stick around to find out. Banal, cynical, and joyless, Clickbait desperately tries to seek your attention and fails, just like 99% of the social media influencers it attempts to satirize.

Overall Score? 1.5/10

BEST #1) Noroi: The Curse (2005); Director: Kôji Shiraishi; Japan

Noroi: The Curse follows a documentary filmmaker over the course of several months as he investigates a series of paranormal phenomena. What starts as a typical ghost story evolves into an unnerving supernatural mystery seeping with atmospheric, apocalyptic dread. This film is scary. I was actually afraid to fall asleep after watching this film. Director Kôji Shiraishi does a fantastic job creating such a complex and horrifying tale of demons. Our main characters are charming and genuine, and always seem to enter these dark situations with respect and grace, which makes their situation even sadder. Predating the likes of Paranormal Activity, Noroi: The Curse takes its cues from similar Asian horror films made before it, in addition to The Blair Witch Project. Many viewer’s aversion to found footage films can stem from the valid critique of “why would anyone keep filming this?” Noroi: The Curse does a great job of balancing realism with the cinematic liberties it chooses to take to visually tell its story. Shiraishi does a great job of gradually elevating the tension as the movie goes along while throwing in truly frightening scares in between. The horror is multifaceted and thus more effective in Noroi: The Curse than in many of its contemporaries. If you ever find yourself wanting to be scared (and you aren’t one of those people who have an aversion to subtitles), please watch this film. I promise you will not regret it.

Overall Score? 9/10

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