Nightmare Alley (2021)

The full-circle final scene of this moody morality tale doesn’t fully repair the separation between the first act and the rest, and there are other script stumbles too (see the Carlisle-carny tension that goes nowhere), but every piece compels in spite of the whole; the cinematography and design is showstopping, the cast’s got panache a-plenty, and the violence and deception is shut-eye(s) thrilling (“When a man believes his own lies… people get hurt… And when the lies end, there it is”).
7

JWM SPOOKATHON 2020: The Sixth Sense (1999)

A boy who communicates with spirits seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist. (IMDb)
Less a suspenseful thriller than a delicate drama that captures in whispers and patient takes all the agonizing horror and supernatural spookiness of loss, loneliness, grief, and fear. Great turns by the main four players make for many memorable scenes of dialogue (see Lynn and Cole in traffic; Malcolm and Anna at the end) that anchor a satisfying plot and a twist ending that makes sense in the best possible way. The chilly and transitional season of fall makes for a perfect setting for it all.
7.5/10 (Really Good)
CREEPY QUOTE: “I see dead people.” – Cole Sear
SPOOKY STILL:

Knives Out (2019)

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A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. (IMDb)
An engaging and hilarious whodunnit with one of its biggest twists being an early reveal and a shift in the point of tension that works wonderfully well and adds a good heaping of heart to the already whip-smart script (see the knife line tie-in at the end, the return of the mug in one of the best final shots I’ve ever seen). The final twist is well-drawn but a little drawn-out, but that’s the only misstep in this marvelously decorated, cleverly edited, and perfectly acted mystery/family drama.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

Hereditary (2018)

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After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets. (IMDb)
A truly torturous twisting of unbearable family drama and bone-chilling horror, with the strength of the former (great performances all around) providing a deep sense of dread to be accented by the terrifying visuals of the latter. Starts to unravel a bit in the final act, but it’s no less riveting thanks to the continued strong cinematography and sound(track). Superbly directed (I don’t think I’ve ever been more on edge or left more horrified then I was with that pivotal accident scene).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Tammy (2014)

After losing her job and learning that her husband has been unfaithful, a woman hits the road with her profane, hard-drinking grandmother. (IMDb)
McCarthy is the only highlight here; her trademark blend of self-deprecating slapstick and decidedly “unfeminine” and unaware mannerisms produces lots of laughs throughout. Elsewhere, Sarandon is awfully awkward and forms a terribly miscast three generations of women with Janney and McCarthy. The rest of the oddly stacked cast flounders amidst the film’s weak attempt at being a romantic dramedy, with its contrived storylines and insubstantial characters. Some good comedy here but not much else.
5.5/10 (Poor)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The masterful opening sequence and lengthy dinner scene give us an immediate feel for each character and dynamic and set the stage for the achingly beautiful and authentic family portrait/road trip movie to follow. The drama and comedy blend seamlessly together in favour of natural story and character development instead of cheap laughs and sentimentality. Life is hard, life is hilarious; it’s a dead relative and crushed dream one minute, a dance party the next. Perfectly written and performed.
10