Of all the movies for Blumhouse to put their name on. Whether as a marketing tool or a way to distinguish its film from others with the same title, the production company that brought us the great Get Out and the very good Happy Death Day just last year, is flaunting ownership of one of their worst movies. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare is an excruciatingly bland, scare-and-fun-free exercise that has difficulty conveying even the simplest ideas of its serviceable high concept.
Any movie that opens with the great Brad Dourif telling a creepy folktale is bound to grab your attention. Fritz Böhm’s Wildling certainly does; it just can’t keep it. The concept of the fable – and the film – are intriguing. Despite some seriously bizarre developments and gory violence, this narrative is flat, and technical deficiencies make it difficult to engage with to any extent. Dourif’s story is well-told; Wildling isn’t.
The fringe abstractions and inherent creepiness of cults make them a popular hook for genre thrills. We’ve seen many horror and suspense films with cults as the backdrop, either on-site at a commune or pulling strings in some shadowy or supernatural way, but there’s never been one quite like The Endless from directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. It contains several recognizable characteristics of unconventional sects, only to destabilize our expectations and beliefs about where things are headed.
A Quiet Place is scary and engrossing largely because of its minimalism, but it’s not slight. The lean 90 minutes is dense, with director John Krasinski establishing a distinct mood and sense of place. The terrifying sensory experience promised by the high concept is delivered, as are relatable familial bonds and friction.
Had Ryan Prows’ Lowlife been released 20 years ago, it could’ve gotten lost in the collection of late-’90s, post-Pulp Fiction Tarantino derivations. In 2018, the energetic, violent film feels fresh and timely, despite the observable influences. It combines exploitation cinema with themes of exploitation, specifically that of immigrants and the downtrodden by the brazen and depraved, along with a blood-soaked stew of revenge and redemption. Lowlife is a wild, entertaining ride, lo-fi warts and all.
Transitions during the formative teenage years can be hell to get through. Changing bodies, raging hormones, a desire for acceptance, and seemingly unsympathetic power structures make for a volatile, anxiety-inducing mixture.
The instability and alienation also provide fertile grounds for thematic exploration that marries coming-of-age distress with the horror genre. Blue My Mind, the striking debut feature from Swiss writer/director Lisa Brühlmann, does this with great effect. To varying degrees, it tackles material covered in films like Carrie, Ginger Snaps, and last year’s Raw, but stands out thanks to a deliberate pace, arresting cinematography, and Brühlmann’s keen vision that blends the real and relatable with the fantastic.