Category Archives: mystery

Dark (season 1 and 2) – Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese (2017/9)

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I do not have much luck with films on Netflix, especially not “Netflix original” films. This “Netflix original” series are excellent though.

In spite of the English title, “Dark” is spoken in German. The first season starts with the mysterious disappearance of a boy. We learn that 33 years before something quite similar happened.

Initially there are some (torture) horror elements which are quite unnecessary and do not really have a function in the story either. I guess it is to raise an atmosphere in which the ‘bad guy’ can be pinpointed so that the viewer can be put on the wrong foot later on. Especially the first season is moody and fairly dark. The mystery that surrounds the village of Winden with its nuclear power plant slowly becomes clear. From then on, and particularly in the second season, this red thread is constantly twisted and turned.

The characters of the series get new faces often, which in some way makes clear what is going on and makes you ponder the underlying idea of the series. Scenes go from surprising to unlikely, but the atmosphere remains very strong. There is a minimalist soundtrack that consists mostly of just low noises and drones. Here and there is a scene with wonderfully surprising use of music.

The second series mostly stretches what we already know and at the end a new angle to the story is given with a massive cliffhanger. Hopefully the series will not be milked out into a seven season series…

Try to not read too much about the series before watching it. It is enough to know that they are dark, slow, minimalist, surreal and pretty good.

Annihilation – Alex Garland (2018)

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The film being categorised “horror” I thought this would be a spectacle, but “Annihilation” is more like “Arrival“. Something weird, unearthly, happens and men are going to investigate.

Somewhere in the USA a “shimmer” occurs which slowly grows larger. This “shimmer” looks like a rainbow waterfall. People who enter to investigate do not come back, until one soldier does. For a new approach it is thought to send a group of female scientists to see if they can find out the cause of the “shimmer” and perhaps even remove it.

The film has a nice, surrealistic atmosphere. The “shimmer” has some strange elements. Naturally some of these are scary, hence the “horror” tag, but these are bit small elements in the film. Similar to “Arrival”, things slowly become clear and the viewer is taken into the investigation and the past lives of the main characters.

Towards the end you get some nice, psychedelic and vague scenes. The end is a bit weak, but overall the film is quite nice.

Les Revenants (series) – Fabrice Gobert (2012/5)

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These series have been on my watch-list for a while. Not too high though. They seem to have two international titles. My box says “Rebound” and IMDb has the series listed as “The Returned” which the literal translation of the original French title. There are only two seasons which I find a good thing.

In a remote mountain village a tragedy occurs when a bus with school children drives off a mountain road. This is obviously not the first tragedy. The village lays beyond a dam, a brake caused the village to be flooded.

In the beginning of the series, people that have (long) passed start to return to their own houses, apparently without knowing what happened. Since they missed eight to 35 years, things get clear quickly. Of course returning dead can lead to nothing good, so towards the end of the first season, we move towards darker times.

Then in the second series we have made another of the many jumps in time for a variation of the story. Also there are sub-story-lines that are revisited. Some elements are only mentioned very late and referring back to early in the series, which, looking back, I think I did not get all. This does make the story more interesting and calls for a rewatch at some point.

“Les Revenants” make a descent series with a nicely surrealistic atmosphere and a psychological peek into a community in which something out of the ordinary happens. There is also a lot of drama, especially towards the end.

A Field In England – Ben Wheatley (2013)

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This film has probably been on my wishlist since it came out, but was not too easy to find. It was worth the wait though!

In some British war, an unlikely combination of three men drop out of the fighting and try to make their way to an ale-house one of them saw. Two ruffians and a more nerdy type working for a mysterious master. On their way they run into the person the nerd was after, a dark magician (alchemist) who took off with something that belongs to his master. The magician has other plans with the party.

In a particular field, he hopes to find a treasure and he manipulates the three men into finding the spot and digging it up.

The film looks much older than it is, more like a black-and-white 1950’ies film with rough dialogues and weird characters. The film contains highly amusing dialogues with a lot of black humor. As the film continues there are a couple of very vague hallucinatory scenes. There are some other elements which are not clear if they are meant to be real or imagined.

Indeed, a strange, moody and very enjoyable film.

Upstream Color – Shane Carruth (2013)

What a weird film! In the first scenes a woman is abducted, drugged and hypnotised apparently for some experiment. The kidnapper seems to have other strange experiments. Later we find Kris back at her house where it soon becomes unclear if the events actually took place.

After this she runs into a young man. Was he her abductor, was he a victim of the same man or is the whole film built of suppressed memories of either of them?

“Upstream Color” appears to be a collection of scenes that either or not have something to do with each other. The film does not really appear to tell a coherent story. I usually do not mind that, but in this case I have the feeling that there might be a story that I fail to grasp.

The film is slow, meditative and fairly minimalist. It is alright, but the vague impression it made, prevents me from saying that it is good. Perhaps I should just watch it again some day.

Mother! – Darren Aronofsky (2017)

There was so much attention for this film, that I did not think it would be so strange.

Aronofsky made a couple of great films in a variety of genres. “Mother!” is hard to put a genre on though. It starts as a drama with slightly weird elements, but it slowly becomes a thriller or maybe even horror and the story gets stranger and stranger too. Where some other Aronofskys are very strong emotionally, “Mother!” did not work for my like that. It is entertaining though. The film gets so weird that I need to watch it again some time to figure out what the director actually wanted with it.

The story in short. A young woman lives together with a much older man in a gigantic and remote house that she is refurbishing while he is trying to revive his career as a writer. He is a very social person, continuously inviting people to the house, much to the demise of his wife. This inviting of people runs out of hand and then Aronofsky comes with a strange twist at the end.

Certainly not bad. Perhaps a bit too odd to already say if it is really good or not.

Predestination – Michael Spierig (2014)

This film takes the time-travelling concept to an extreme, but the result can be rather described as ‘annoying’ than ‘interesting’.

We follow agents who are sent back and forth in time to fight crime. We follow the recruitment of new agents whose stories are told throughout the film. Every time a new ‘circle’ is added to the film with a new explanation. Towards the end this gets pretty tiring.

Timescape – David Twohy (1992)

An early take on the time travelling genre.

In this very 1980’ies looking film, the single parent Ben takes a few weird people into his house. The group says to be tourists and as the story unfolds, they are not from another place but of another time.

The fairly descent story gets somewhat weird in the second half, but of course ends with Ben doing the obvious and becoming the hero.

Not bad, but also not a must-see.

Mr. Nobody – Jaco van Dormael (2009)

Van Dormael made one of these Hollywood ‘new vague’ films. Think of a pretentious and strange, cut up story like that of “Interstellar” but with the soap of a film like “Magnolia“.

Mr. Nobody is an old man looking back at his life. This is shown in confusing montage. The same (young) man keeps dying and does not. It appears that the (senile?) old man tells different versions of his life, versions how things would have been, would he have made other choices.

The film contains well done adolescent (failed) romance, scifi, pompous philosophy and, like I said, confusing montage. Do not expect an easy film, but an ununderstandable clutter memories. This is done with a more than descent atmosphere.

Indeed, a ‘difficult film’. Not a bad one either.

American Gods – Bryan Fuller & Michael Green (series, season 1) 2017

I found this series because Ian McShane is in it who is brilliant in “Deadwood“. The series seemed strange enough for me to like it. And I did!

Let me start with a down part. The season is only 8 episodes and it looks like half a story. The series is based on a book by Neil Gaiman, so my guess is that the whole story has been divided over two seasons. Had I known that beforehand I would have waited until the entire series are available before watching it.

To the series then. It is not clear to me why a man named Shadow Moon has such a big part in the story, but coming out of jail, he is picked up by a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday, but people who know him call him Grimnir. I leave it to you to guess who he really is. With the identity of Mr. Wednesday in mind, the series make a whole lot of fun.
What Mr. Wednesday represents is one of the Old Gods (a bit out of place in America though) and he is looking for other old Gods to get the influence back that they used to have. There are many, many references to all kinds of mythologies and religions, sometimes obvious, sometimes vague. The story is not about the fight between prechristian religions and Christianity, Mr. Wednesdays opponents are of the like “Mr. World” (a god of globalization?) and “Media” (Gillian Anderson).

In this manner there is plenty dialogue about the demise of wonder and religion in modern man and critique to modern society. This is done in witty dialogues, with good humor and with both subtle references and blunt statements.

And so we have a fairly vague, at times pompous series with elements that make only little sense and elements that start to make sense as the series continue. My guess is that a few things will only start to make sense in season to and I wonder if the story is going to be milked out in an 8+ season series or if the creators will stick to the book.

Season one is very promising and made an interesting watch.