March 2020 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
I feel really bad for not updating this blog at all last month. My hope is with this additional time staying home that I will be able to write more articles and create a backlog, so I always have content to post. I also am in the process of tweaking and creating new systems to make managing my viewing and writing schedules easier. The goal is to make more interesting and creative content in the future! It’s shocking what weeks of self-isolation and social distancing will do!
Anyway, enough about how I plan to keep this blog interesting and fun. I have so much to say about March! This month I watched 34 movies, the most in a very long time. While the quality dipped slightly from February, I am very happy with the movies I chose to watch. I hope you enjoy!
WORST #3) The Barn (2017); Director: Justin M. Seamon; United States
A group of friends venture out to the countryside to celebrate Halloween and begin getting picked off by the demons who haunt the nearby town every year. The Barn attempts to be a fun and quirky throwback to slasher films of the ’80s. For as much as The Barn tries, not much can be done to inject life into the low budget venture. The Barn doesn’t have the charisma or charm of its predecessors and offers nothing innovative or compelling to compete with its modern peers. Subplots materialize and fizzle out without explanation, oftentimes making the entire narrative choppy and confusing. There is little sense of direction in this project, which is disappointing because it could have been something really fun, in the right hands of course. It is clear that the team behind its production are fans of the genre and were fervently trying to create something that captures the energy of the era of films that inspired them. They fell significantly short. The result is a shoddily put-together film amalgamation of the worst clichés and techniques of the 1980s and 1990s using the cheapest effects and filmmaking technology money could buy in the 2010s. Hokey dialogue, dated effects, and uninspired action sequences make The Barn less of a film that could pass as a hidden ‘80s gem and more of a relic that should be left forgotten.
Overall Score? 3.5/10
BEST #3) Bedevilled (2010); Director Cheol-soo Jang; South Korea
Abused by her husband, underappreciated by her community, and neglected by Hae-won, the only person she would call friend, Kim Bok-nam, played by Yeong-hie Seo, finally decides to seek her revenge on her tormenters. She does this after a failed attempt of running away from the miserable life she has in the secluded island community. Hae-won, played by Seong-won Ji, is quite possibly one of the least likable yet intriguing protagonists I have seen in a horror movie in recent memory. Normally this protagonist would be a turnoff for me, but there was something compelling about the dynamic between the two main woman characters. After refusing to testify against a man who murdered a woman in front of her, Hae-won spirals out of control at work, eventually attacking a colleague and being sent on mandatory vacation. This leads to her trekking to her family’s island home, the same community her childhood friend Bok-nam still lives. What transpires is nothing short of a gut-punch of emotionally charged horror, as Bok-nam snaps from the pressure of the daily humiliation and back-breaking manual labor subjected upon her. Both Bok-nam and Hae-won receive fully fleshed out character arcs that drive the narrative of the film to its tense conclusion. Every character decision feels meticulously planned and executed to realize not only these two complex female characters but the communities that shape them. Beautifully filmed and featuring incredibly moving and real performances, Bedevilled examines poverty, womanhood, and colorism in a violently artful and breath-catching horror spectacle.
Overall Score? 7.5/10
WORST #2) One of Us (2017); Director Blake Reigle; United States
Fresh off her latest hit story as an investigative journalist, a young woman ventures out into the southern Californian mountains to track down a missing friend. She soon learns that her friend might have fallen victim to a secretive commune with a charismatic and duplicitous patriarch.
I love a good story about a cult. Horror movies centered around cults feel particularly real since we see the effect cults have had in our culture and the psychological effects, they have on individuals touched by their menace. They also have the ability to truly be inventive and creative with their story and whatever message they are trying to share. One of Us, unfortunately, takes a rather pedestrian approach to the subgenre. It offers nothing new or interesting while simultaneously boasting lackluster performances, set pieces, and atmosphere. It’s an empty experience. The motivations of the characters are paper-thin and feel almost insulting. The final twist that comes up in the last twenty or so minutes is tired and worn. What is most disappointing about One of Us isn’t anything that it did but what it chose not to do, and ultimately that is what could have made it a more compelling feature. Take it from me and don’t catch One of Us the next time it plays on whatever rip-off Lifetime channel is desperate enough to show it.
Overall Score? 3.5/10
BEST #2) Daniel Isn’t Real (2019); Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer; United States
Growing up Luke had an imaginary friend named Daniel. That changed after an accident, which almost claims his mother’s life, was blamed on Daniel’s influence on Luke. Luke’s mother asked him to lock Daniel away in a dollhouse in their home. Years later, Luke is a college freshman in therapy when his counselor suggests he open up and let Daniel back into his life. Luke follows his advice and reunites with his childhood best friend, not realizing the consequences of his actions. Daniel Isn’t Real is an incredibly fresh film. Gorgeous imagery and interesting visual effects abound in both the real world and imaginary realm Luke creates. It is a genuine pleasure to watch both Miles Robbins and Patrick Schwarzenegger, who play Luke and Daniel respectively, spar throughout the film both literally and figuratively. They play off each other’s energy well and their presence is the bedrock of the film. This rings even more true when the unnerving body horror portions of the film surface and allow for Robbins to really flex his acting chops. I am rarely shocked by movies, but Daniel Isn’t Real caught me off guard several times and even left my jaw dropping at several of the sucker punch scenes it threw in its dense 100-minute runtime. I must add as a quick disclaimer that horror as a genre does a pretty poor job of handling the issue of mental illness, but Daniel Isn’t Real goes the extra mile to not demonize mental health issues. Daniel Isn’t Real is a dark and imaginative thrill ride that’s absolutely worth taking.
Overall Score? 8.5/10
WORST #1) Muck (2015); Director Steve Wolsh; United States
Muck begins in medias res, following a group of attractive twenty-somethings screaming about escaping a terror in the swamps of Cape Cod. As the film progresses, it turns out the unlucky group is being tormented by humanoid demon creatures(?) that emerged from an ancient burial ground. Muck is as trashy as it is senseless. Funded partially by Kickstarter, it views like the wet dream of a particularly horny teenage boy with a proclivity for violence living out his own dark fantasy. Here’s a selected highlight reel of why: the main hero is some loudmouth bro type that drops a sexist, racist, or homophobic joke every other line, the “nice guy” character stops to peep on a woman changing for almost an entire minute when he was supposed to tell the group help is on the way, which just seems entirely illogical, and Kane Hodder, who could have been the only saving grace, is severely underutilized. It’s nonsense. I can forgive a movie with dumb characters that make poor decisions as well as characters that are not “good” people because those people exist in the real world. I cannot forgive creating an entire script filled with vapid, uninteresting, and unbelievably stupid characters. In addition to my issues with the project as a whole, the creatures were lame, the acting was atrocious, and the dialogue was cringier than what even I can normally tolerate. Muck is a mean-spirited and cynical endurance test for anyone with any sense of taste; it’s better left rotting in the deepest pits of the $1 bargain bin at Walmart.
Overall Score? 3/10
BEST #1) The Invisible Man (2020); Director Leigh Whannell; United States/Australia
Elisabeth Moss leads The Invisible Man in a standout performance as Cecilia, a woman who leaves her abusive husband in the middle of the night days before he kills himself. Or is that what he wants you to believe? Cecilia is convinced that her husband, Adrian, has found a way to fake his own death and torment her for leaving him, prolonging the abuse she fought so hard to escape.
Another entry in the subgenre of psychological horror movies that see women gaslit, deemed irrational, and shrugged off for bringing attention to the distressing horror they are experiencing, The Invisible Man is an incredibly tense exercise in amazing special effects, engaging set pieces, and creative directorial choices. While the physicality of any horror film can be frightening enough, the true terror of The Invisible Man is watching Cecilia’s support group winnow down as Adrian works to destroy her sanity and credibility by inciting a psychological war on her life. Starting fires, editing emails, and attacking friends is only the beginning of his sinister attack on Cecilia. It’s even more disturbing and disheartening to think about the millions of cases of domestic abuse in society. How many Cecilias are out there, dealing with similar circumstances with no end in sight? How many Cecilias do we know enduring this horror and are afraid of the repercussions of leaving? Furthermore, how many Adrians have tricked us into thinking they are upstanding citizens yet are the horror in their homes? How many Adrians have been outed but suffered no consequences and continue their terror at home, all the while we make excuses or conjure up the perception of their character rather than the reality? I hope The Invisible Man can be both cathartic and empowering for those suffering similar tribulations. In the end, we have a duty to support survivors. As pulse-pounding as it is intelligent, The Invisible Man thrives in unrelenting psychological tension and terror.
Overall Score? 9/10