• The Stylist

    The Stylist

    ★★★½

    Women in Horror M.

    What a lovely movie to end the challenge on. (Whew, this one took a while. Five months. Life has truly been happening.)

    While I love plot and this movie doesn't have nearly enough of it, it has a delectable vibe and that felt like something really precious. What you hope for in a first feature from a new director is the sense of an idiosyncratic, particular perspective and The Stylist has that. The costumes, the music,…

  • The Spy Who Loved Me

    The Spy Who Loved Me

    ★★★

    Watched with the folks. First half more charming than I remembered. I agree that Bach can't match Moore, who can put a bigger twinkle in his eye than most men. But she has charm, and the rivalry and romance between the Major and the Commander really livened things up. Losing Bach to damsel-in-distress mode (not that she ever projects much distress!) and then getting bogged down in a mini-war inside the tanker really killed the movie's momentum for me.

    Caroline Munro's entrance is perfect. There's someone who can match Moore twinkle for twinkle.

  • Black Christmas

    Black Christmas

    ★★½

    Women in Horror M.

    Imogen Poots is so great in this. She always feels 100% there and whatever her eyes are taking in becomes 100% real to the viewer. The movie cues her up as a Final Girl brilliantly. Then the ending happens.

    Same as New Year, New You, the part that slowly builds tension and plumbs the depths of the characters is pretty nice. When the movie pivots from gradually cranking up the tension, with occasional punctuations of mayhem,…

  • The Shadow Within

    The Shadow Within

    ★★

    Women in Horror M.

    In a small town in France in the 1940s, Dr. Prevost muses to her husband (who, as a teacher, missed being recruited by the army): "In the end, I am lucky, compared with almost all the women in town: my husband is here with me." The peculiar subtext in The Shadow Within is that the women are all very lonely for their husbands away at war and their loneliness gets channeled into a desire to communicate…

  • The Carmilla Movie

    The Carmilla Movie

    ★★★

    Women in Horror M.

    The Carmilla Movie was rough going for me at first, because it felt more like content than cinema: fast, visually flat, a little glib. It gradually won me over with its goofy humor, its earnest romance and some aimiably relaxed storytelling. Also girls in corsets making out (though, sadly, they do not wear chemises under the corsets, which would take the Victorian dress-up to a higher level of period accuracy).

    This is a spin-off from a…

  • The Forgotten

    The Forgotten

    ★★★½

    Women in Horror M.

    One of my favorite scenes in the whole Harry Potter franchise comes quite early in Half-Blood Prince. In an innovation crafted by screenwriter Steve Kloves, Dumbledore appears to Harry in an underground station and summons him for an adventure. Harry hesitates before going with Dumbledore, and we as the audience completely understand why, because just before Dumbledore arrived, Harry had been sitting in a tiny cafe in the station and a girl working there had accosted…

  • Watcher

    Watcher

    ★★★★

    Women in Horror M.

    Elegant, spare, pared-down thriller that finesses a wonderful trick. The trick is to wield the genre tools with the kind of delicacy that makes you reflect on the nature of those tools. Watcher dances between "this is a movie about a woman in danger" and "this is a movie about what it's like, as a woman, to believe you're in danger" for a good long stretch. Maika Monroe's Julia has to navigate her own fears and…

  • The Cleaning Lady

    The Cleaning Lady

    ★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Women in Horror M.

    Shelley (Rachel Alig) is protected from the eyes of others.

    She lives east of L.A., somewhere way off the main road. Someplace no one ever goes, even by accident. (She's been keeping a prisoner in a locked storage container near her house, for years, without ever being discovered.) She works as the cleaning lady and handyman in a rather posh apartment building, where the residents barely register her in their peripheral vision. She wears a shapeless…

  • Retribution

    Retribution

    ★★★½

    Women in Horror M.

    Not exceptional in relation to J-horror or other Kurosawa works (the alert viewer will find resonances with Ringu, Ju-On, Pulse and Cure) but exceptional in relation to the genre as a whole. I thought at first it was an awkward hybrid, a mediocre detective thriller that morphs into an excellent ghost story. But I think there was more going on in the first half than I could appreciate on my first watch.

    Kurosawa's grasp of atmosphere…

  • Twins of Evil

    Twins of Evil

    ★★

    Women in Horror M.

    The actress Debbie Rochon has said that, when she was a younger moviegoer, she was often drawn to identifying with male characters, because they tended to have the more interesting roles to play. It was apparent to her that the female characters tended to be distinguished mostly by their beauty.

    Hammer Horror films, in their prime, were a mixed bag from this standpoint. Sangster's Taste of Fear made both traditional Gothic moves of being focused on…

  • An Angel for Satan

    An Angel for Satan

    ★★★

    Women in Horror M.

    Artist (Anthony Steffen) comes to a small town to restore a cursed statue recently recovered from the lake. At around the same time, a beautiful heiress (Barbara Steele), descendant of the woman immortalized in the statue, returns to the same town. One of the last films of the hardworking director and screenwriter Camillo Mastrocinque (1901—1969). The twist ending is lame but the movie builds up a lot of atmosphere and has a lot of fun with…

  • Crimes of the Future

    Crimes of the Future

    ★★½

    One of the more endearing and memorable scenes in Crimes of the Future involves Kristen Stewart exploring Viggo Mortensen's mouth with her fingers before she lays some heavy kisses on him. For a moment, the movie warms up a bit, but then Mortensen shuts it down, apologetically rasping, "I'm not very good at the old sex."

    Mortensen clearly representing Cronenberg in this moment: sorry, I just can't do the old-school stuff any more. This is not a throwback. Cronenberg has…