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  • Writer's pictureMaxwell J.

June 2023 Review: The Best Movies I Saw Last Month

In another shocking turn of events, June was also a rough for me in what is shaping to be a rough year. Thankfully, I have made several changes to my life that should make it easier on myself. Part of this includes moving apartments and taking a new position at work. I am very thankful for these changes and am looking forward to other ventures I will be pursuing later this year. To celebrate the move, I did decide to go back to my roots and re-watch the first After Dark Horrorfest to christen my new place. While I couldn’t watch every single film, I managed to watch 7 of the original 8, which made the month particularly nostalgic.

As it stands, last month was busy so I only watched 14 new films and rewatched 9 films. Here is the best of the best!

Re-Watch Highlight: The Abandoned (2006); Director: Nacho Cerdá; Spain/United Kingdom/Bulgaria

Nearly 40 years after her adoption, a woman returns to Russia to better understand the family that left her behind under mysterious circumstances. After traversing across Russia for several days, she finally ends up at the dilapidated property where she was born. Only, she discovers she isn't alone. In a race against time, she must uncover the secrets that have haunted her all her life if she hopes to make it out alive. I enjoyed my first few watches of The Abandoned growing up but for some reason it never really stuck out to me as great until now. Perhaps age makes it easier to appreciate the haunting beauty of this stripped-down supernatural horror story, but there is so much to The Abandoned that makes it special. Impressive cinematography, a chilling location and set design, and strong performances make this indie film a deceptively engaging and thoughtful watch. It all straddles a lot of different subgenres of horror that make it a captivating watch, as you never quite know which direction it is going. For fans of unique, low-budget offerings from the early 2000s, The Abandoned is one gem to quickly add to your watchlist.

Previous Rating: 6/10

New Rating: 7/10

BEST #6) Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988); Director: Michael A. Simpson; United States

Five years after the brutal slaying of several campers at Camp Arawak, Angela has returned to the world of camping after intensive therapy. Unbeknownst to her employer, she has hidden her identity so she can take on this role as camp counselor. Everything seems fine, except Angela has issues with the way that her campers approach summer camp. Determined to rid Camp Rolling Hills of misbehaving campers, Angela “sends them home” the moment they break the rules. Except, they never make it home. About as quality as the first Sleepaway Camp, this sequel trades scares for side-splitting laughs. There isn't much to the plot or characters that can't be found in any other similarly set slasher, but Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers manages to charm viewers just enough to justify its stepped towards becoming a franchise. Angela's new personality is unhinged in the best way, and her taste for violence is as creative as ever, making for some truly entertaining B-grade slasher entertainment.

Overall Score? 6/10

BEST #5) Calvaire (2005); Director: Fabrice de Welz; Belgium/France/Luxembourg

Marc is a traveling entertainer who has an uncanny effect on those around him. After one of his latest gigs, Marc finds himself with car trouble and in need of overnight lodging at a small-town inn. There, he meets a lonely fame obsessed man who is drawn to his knack for performance. Hoping to appease the man's desire for entertainment, Marc finds himself agreeing to a series of odd requests before discovering the sinister truth behind the man's intentions. Calvaire is an odd French gem born from the extremity movement of the 2000s. Focusing more on vibes rather than a fully intact story, Calvaire rapidly descends into something truly barbaric and frightening by the time it reaches its third act. Well it doesn't all land, Calvaire certainly is an uncomfortable ride exploring the true extent of the brutality of man.

Overall Score? 6/10

BEST #4) Marionette (2020); Director: Elbert van Strein; Netherlands/Luxembourg/United Kingdom

After moving overseas to start fresh after the death of her husband, a therapist finds herself drawn to the mysterious force behind one of her clients. This child believes that he can make things happen based on willpower alone and begins testing her to prove his abilities. Shaken, but determined to find a rational explanation she begins to unearth a web of mystery behind his state. She discovers that his previous psychologist attempted self-immolation and was sent away to a mental hospital. Soon, he begins interfering in her life, much like his therapist before, and he is determined to exercise his control by any means necessary. Marionette is a deceptively intriguing mystery film with plenty of horror influences to keep its rapidly evolving plot fresh. It boasts strong performances from its main cast, but Thekla Reuten and Elijah Wolf carry the weight as the therapist and powerful child. What makes Marionette most haunting is its commentary on power and control, especially when dealing with topics of the mind. It may be obvious in the end but that doesn't stop Marionette from presenting and overall engaging and thoughtful commentary on trauma.

Overall Score? 6/10

BEST #3) The Blackening (2023); Director: Tim Story; United States

Please check out the full review here.

Overall Score? 7/10

BEST #2) Brooklyn 45 (2023); Director: Ted Geoghegan; United States

Please check out the full review here.

Overall Score? 8/10

BEST #1) Influencer (2023); Director: Kurtis David Harder; United States

Please check out the full review here.

Overall Score? 8/10

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