What makes a thriller? Is it a consistent sense of dread? Or a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety? A thriller in the sense of this film relies on the terror of two grandparents and a week-long visit between them and their two grandchildren. What this film centers around is more than just dread, it’s focused on the family and their connections, the tragedies between them, and the occasional bit of scatological humour that surprisingly works. But no matter what it is, M. Night Shyamalan has written and directed his latest film about these things in The Visit.
As someone who loves metal music and has really grown to appreciate horror, it would make sense that the former’s satanic history would mix really well with something dark and ominous. Sadly, most horror directors can’t seem to incorporate metal without some heavy-handed winks and nods, and extraneous amounts of gore. The films that nail the mix do it sparingly, and can’t seem to go longer than one scene before turning into schlock and over-the-top violence. The Devil’s Candy marries the two arts in something that not only works as a really great exercise in tension and horror, but also as a companion piece to the loud and rumbling hum of a low-tuned, distorted guitar.
I never wanted a sequel to 2012’s Sinister – it never really warranted one either, I found. There was maybe a couple more things I could imagine illuminating in its mythology, but it never felt like something I needed to find out. Sinister 2 sounds great behind-the-scenes, though. Maintaining the writing team of Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill ideally leaves the series in a place where it will iterate as opposed to repeat. Keeping James Ransone on board as the one character that has a personal connection to the events of the first film is smart, if also a little bit of a stretch. Most importantly, a director who has proven himself with paranoid characters (Ciaran Foy) gets to tackle an already established franchise and put his stamp on it. Sinister 2 has all these hopes attached to it, but still manages to feel slight, and at times, illogical.
Joel Edgerton has been an actor on the rise for some time. With his breakthrough role in David Michod’s debut feature, Animal Kingdom, he showed a charisma that was incredibly infectious and showed that charisma through his other roles in Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty, and various other entertaining, and some not so entertaining films. While he is credited with co-authoring the story for one of my favourite films of last year, The Rover, The Gift is his first major foray into writing and directing a full length feature film, but damn if he doesn’t succeed in creating one of the best thrillers this year.
While James Wan is busy rolling in Vin Diesel money from Furious 7 and preparing to tackle the insurmountable challenge of working in the DC universe and making Aquaman into a character people don’t just laugh at, his Insidious franchise has been left with one of his long-time partners: Leigh Whannell. He may not have had directing experience prior to Insidious: Chapter 3, but it doesn’t show as often as one might expect from a first-time director. The James Wan touch still feels present, even if it is considerably toned down. Whannell proves he has learned how to create tension and dread out of a situation, in what is probably the best film in the horror franchise yet.
Jakob (Michel Diercks) didn’t want to hunt the wolf that was terrorizing the village he polices. Instead, he fed the wolf. What that means about who he is as a person is the entire provocation for what is one of the most surreal and well-realized fantasy horror experiences I have had in recent memory. The Samurai is a fever dream that doesn’t let up until its explosive conclusion, which brings thoughts of zany movies like Holy Motors and Borgman to mind, but more deftly handled than the latter.
Oren Peli may not have directed any film outside of Paranormal Activity, but his hand has been present on many horror projects that emulate a similar approach to the genre. While found footage existed prior to the prolific horror franchise, it wasn’t until Paranormal Activity‘s efficient use of the camera that the series and the entire found footage genre catapulted to new heights. It was an effective use of subtlety in a frame that gave a renewed sense of tension and dread. Peli’s return to directing horror has been much-anticipated by horror fans, but his newest project feels like someone who has been watching other found footage films from the sidelines and didn’t want to rejuvenate the genre, but attempt to make slight incremental improvements.