• Maxwell J.

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

Updated: May 8, 2021

May was a month. I made it a point to break from actively writing for this blog to focus my attention and energy on the conversation surrounding the protests of police sanctioned racial violence that has been at the forefront of the United States’ attention in the past few weeks. Addressing inequity can and should be done in a variety of avenues. I plan to infuse that energy into this blog by continuing to amplify and elevate art made by Black creators: writers, directors, actors, etc.

In the month of May, I watched 61 movies (and absolutely unreal number, I know). While I was pleased to see a high number of films, I was even more excited to see a large number of high-quality films. Of those 61 movies, I would consider 15 to be great, which is honestly remarkable in my opinion. Here are my selections for the best and worst movies I saw in May!

WORST #3) The 16th Episode (2019); Director: Jérôme Cohen-Olivar; United States

A team of social media stars travels to Morocco as a part of their series of videos depicting adventures in “dangerous” places. Before we move on, we need to name the fact that the whole premise of this movie is essentially three whiny Americans filming themselves in different countries (only choosing to show Brazil and Morocco) for the sole purpose of shocking other insulated Americans. Five minutes in and we are already rooted in racism and xenophobia and spoiler alert: it never gets addressed! Anyway… Shockingly, it doesn’t get any better from there. Between a threadbare plot, insufferable characters, and some bizarre twists, The 16th Episode is an excruciatingly dull and lifeless exercise in found-footage. The 16th Episode wants to be too many things at once, showcasing severe tonal inconsistencies. This happens repeatedly whenever Writer/Director Jérôme Cohen-Olivar attempts to inject satire into the script. It feels cheap, tired, and unearned. Overall, The 16th Episode left a rotten taste in my mouth. Bland, unexciting, and lacking much of any technical merit or skill, The 16th Episode is a retread of many superior, and average, films before it. Whether its cults, demons, or foot-footage, there’s a more invigorating and better-crafted film than The 16th Episode to terrify you.

Overall Score? 3.5/10

BEST #3) The House at the End of Time (2013); Director: Alejandro Hidalgo; Venezuela

This supernatural mystery follows a mother before and after she is convicted for the murder of her husband and the presumed killing of her son. The House at the End of Time shows Dulce, played by Ruddy Rodríguez, do whatever it takes to solve the mystery of her son’s disappearance and husband’s murder. A beautifully tragic tale of the supernatural, The House at the End of Time brings audiences thrills and chills with a few twists. While the script isn’t flawless, the characters are genuine and the suspense is excellent. I really did appreciate the non-linear approach to the story. It is always refreshing to see the events of a film play out in ways other than a traditional format. While the “ending” is spoiled pretty early on, it is an incredible ride experiencing the why and the how. I cannot praise Rodríguez’s performance enough. It was raw, passionate, and at times heart-breaking. Director Alejandro Hidalgo executes his vision with flair. I enjoyed the creative ways he used the house’s location to make for an even more disorienting and creepy experience. The House at the End of Time is a heartfelt and heart-pounding piece of emotional horror drama that will leave you satisfied with the time you spent watching.

Overall Score? 8/10

WORST #2) The Midnight Man (2016); Director: Travis Zariwny; United States/Canada

While taking care of her ailing grandmother, a college student discovers a mysterious box in the attic. Inside is a game that, once played, unleashes a horrific supernatural entity known as the Midnight Man who will stop at nothing to kill them using their worst fears. The Midnight Man is a mess of a film. Nothing really makes much sense, with characters making stupid decision after stupid decision without any regard to logic. Normally, I am fine with a few stretches here and there, but The Midnight Man really abuses this. Furthermore, The Midnight Man falls into the trap of making its villain talk too much. What could be a threatening force of mayhem and evil quickly deteriorates into a second rate version of Freddy Krueger lost in the lore of an insipid, internet-inspired copypasta, ironic considering the film features Robert Englund. The only bright spot is Lin Shaye, who finds herself in yet another miserable ghost story. For someone so talented, Shaye somehow manages to star in the worst films. Here’s to her finding better management so she can find her next Insidious trilogy. The Midnight Man is the half-baked version of almost every supernatural horror film without any of the charm, terror, or panache that makes the subgenre worth investing in to warrant a watch. It’s best kept in the attic with the other things in your life that are best left forgotten.

Overall Score? 3.5/10

BEST #2) Antibodies (2005); Director: Christian Alvart; Germany

A serial killer who preys on young boys is apprehended mid-kill in a seedy Berlin apartment complex. A small-town cop is certain that he has something to do with the killing of a young girl a few years back. After a surprisingly illuminating and successful interrogation session, the rookie officer forms a bond with the killer and attempts to extract as much information from him as possible. The problem is, the more they talk, the less clear the crime becomes. Antibodies is an incredibly tense and thrilling serial killer horror film from Germany. The horror from Antibodies is primarily drawn from off-screen violence, which comes through descriptions and reactions. Normally, this feels like a cop-out, but due to the nature of the violence, it feels both tasteful and completely horrifying. Writer/Director, Christian Alvart, does an excellent job of making every moment feel tense and uncomfortable. Alvart gives his audience enough information to solve the mystery on their own, while still showing restraint until the big reveal. André Hennicke, who plays the killer Gabriel Engel, delivers a fantastic performance. He constantly vacillates between revolting and enthralling, while taunting not only the protagonist and the rest of the investigative team but the audience as well. The German answer to The Silence of the Lambs, Antibodies is a twisted film that will unsettle all of your senses.

Overall Score? 8/10

WORST #1) The Source (2002); Director: Steve Taylor; United States

The Source tells the story of a group of high school misfits that stumble upon a mysterious energy that give them mystical powers which they inflict upon their unsuspecting high school campus. Within the first five minutes, I realized that The Source was going to be an endurance test. Very much a relic from the early 2000s, The Source boasts an incomprehensibly mundane plot, absolutely cringe dialogue, and some of the worst acting I’ve seen from a low budget indie. Between gaping plot holes and profound leaps of logic, this cautionary tale falls flaccid when doubling down on its message of the dangers involving misuse of power. An unintentional comedy for most of its runtime, The Source is an exercise in what not to do in making a successful horror movie. Silliness and camp can be fun when it's backed by charming characters and an interesting script. Sadly, The Source lacks any redeemable qualities outside of its laughter-inducing mediocrity. Furthermore, the budgetary constraints of the film are quite evident upon watching. The effects are awful, the cinematography is plain, and everything feels so pedestrian. Not even suited for the 3am slot on the SyFy channel, The Source is best left to collect dust in a dilapidated Blockbuster store.

Overall Score? 2.5/10

BEST #1) Jacob’s Ladder (1990); Director: Adrian Lyne; United States

A man attributes the bizarre visions that are troubling him to his time in the Vietnam War but soon discovers that there is something far more malevolent afoot. Jacob’s Ladder is an excellent allegory for PTSD, both fresh and relevant at the time of its release. A subject that’s still not broached with the same skill and dexterity since, made Jacob’s Ladder an even more encapsulating viewing experience. Tim Robbins stars as the titular Jacob, who feels his entire world crashing down around him. Robbins does an excellent job of capturing the paranoia, fear, and spiraling of Jacob as he learns more about his condition. Elizabeth Peña’s portrayal of Jezzie deserves credit for edging the lines between sinister, seductive, and sinewy. Director Adrian Lyne does an excellent job of building tension and elevating the terror throughout the picture while simultaneously keeping the mystery alive and elusive. For a film made thirty years ago, Jacob’s Ladder has some pretty impressive visual effects. The cinematography is well-done, with brilliant hallucinatory images during the dissociation scenes. An exceptionally wavy and frightening experience, Jacob’s Ladder absolutely deserves the praise and accolades it has racked up over the years. A haunting and socially reflective film, Jacob’s Ladder is the perfect flick for anyone into conspiracies, psychological horror, or films full of mystery.

Overall Score? 8/10

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