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thriller

Leave The World Behind – Sam Esmail (2023)

The hard working Amanda (Julia Roberts) spontaneously books a house for the weekend, leaving immediately. The house is not too far from the city of New York where the family lives and it proves to be a villa with a swimming pool.

Settling in, the first evening the doorbell rings and two people are outside claiming to be the owners of the house and asking if they can come in. The film grows into a psychological drama. Are these two really the owners of the house? The house is so big and they are black. Also, the man seems to know something about the fact that the internet is down.

The psychological drama becomes a thriller when it starts to dawn on the people in the house that there is something going on in the world outside. TV only broadcasts emergency messages. Animals act strangely, there are awful sounds, planes crash. Is the world falling apart while two families who did not yet know each other are stuck in the villa?

“Leave The World Behind” is descent thriller with a Stephen King type story. The alienation and rising panic of the people involved is well portrayed and people’s weaknesses are enlarged.

Then the film suddenly stops as if it is only half of a story.

Money Monster – Jodie Foster (2016)

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A couple of Hollywood old-timers joined forces. Foster as director, George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the main parts.

Clooney is great as the ADHD money-TV-show-host Lee Gates who tells his viewers what stocks to buy and what not. The company of one of his recommendations looses an astronomical amount of money and a viewer who lost his money, comes to the studio to get redress.

Gates is taken hostage live on television and Kyle Budwell tries get those responsible for him loosing his money say that they fooled the investors. In doing so Budwell criticizes ‘the system’ and the role that Gates and the big money companies play in this system.

What starts with fear, grows to sympathy and the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. “Money Monster” is an alright thriller with a contemporary, but not too interesting story.

The Killer – David Fincher (2023)

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Thanks to Filmofiel for notifying me to a descent film on Netflix. A Netflix original even.

We follow a killer for hire on a job. In long monologues the killer tells the viewers about his job, his methodology, his state of mind and the world. His hit goes wrong, though, and he hurries back to his house in South America. There he finds his partner dead. Obviously somebody is after him for the job gone wrong. He decides that is is better to strike first.

Now you may expect a John Wick type explosion of violence, but “The Killer” is actually a very slow, minimalist movie. Nothing we have not seen before, but Fincher worked it out well and the result is a slow and moody action thriller.

The Order – Heaton & Erikson (series 2019/20)

A fairly weak Netflix series that holds the middle somewhere between “Harry Potter” and “Stranger Things”.

Jack Morton lives with his grandfather close to a prestigious college. At this college a secret order is active, the leader of which caused the death of Jack’s mother. The grandfather is obsessed with taking down the order, so Jack not only has to try to get a place at the college, but also to find his way into the secret order.

The members of the order speak quite openly about their secret order and it is basically a school for magic with teachers as teachers and students as students and the students are the “Stranger Things” age.

Jack also gets recruited by another secret order, making him both suspected on both side and a double agent. Of course there is a nascent romance in which both parties are tossed between responsibilities.

The “Grand Magus” has big plans with a powerful magical book and members have to take sides.

Signs – M. Night Shyamalan (2016)

This is actually the first Shyamalan film that I do not dislike. Quite a feat!

James McAvoy plays a person who houses 23 personalities. Speaking of split personality. Or are they 24? McAvoy’s character kidnaps three young women who he holds captive in some basement. The three women (including Anya Taylor-Joy) are presented with different personalities of their kidnapper constantly. A calculated kidnapper, a man with mysophobia, a nine year old boy. They try to play out the personalities against each other in order to get out, but this keeps failing. The wait appears to be for another character, but it remains unclear if this is actually another person/being or yet another personality within “Dennis”.

We also follow “Dennis” as he goes to his therapist, tries to live his life, but also while he tries to reach the goal of the plan with the girls. McAvoy is good in his rapidly shifting characters.

Not the greatest movie of all times, but on the scale of Shyamalan, certainly a descent one.

The Menu – Mark Mylod (2022)

And again I picked a film featuring Anya Taylor-Joy and again she is to play the pretty girl. She gets to play alongside Ralph Fiennes.

Margot (Taylor-Joy) and Tyler go on a hyper exclusive diner. Chef Slowik (Fiennes) has the world’s most expensive restaurant on an island. The richest of the rich take the boat to the island to immerse themselves in the most exclusive food and wine.

The first part of the film is mostly ‘food porn’. Dialogues about the exquisiteness of the cuisine. Then it becomes clear that chef has other plans for the evening than his guests expected and the movie goes from drama, to thriller to horror, of the moralistic kind as well.

Better to not know too much beforehand, but the atmosphere is claustrophobic (as it plays mostly in just one room), bleak and calculated.

Not the greatest film ever, but somewhat original in approach and the result is enjoyable.

Don’t Look Up – Adam McKay (2021)

Listed as ‘comedy’, “Don’t Look Up” has a dead serious message. Student Kate Dibiasky discovers a massive meteorite that is heading straight to earth. The result of the crash will be catastrophic. Together with her professor Randall Mindy, Kate tries to convince the world that the earth has but six more months to live.

The American president finds the timing off. There are elections coming up, so there is no time for bad news. Dibiasky and Mindy decide to use the media. News has so be light, funny and empty, so their message falls dead to the ground; it did not generate enough ‘internet points’.

Slowly but surely the two manage to change the tide and the American president decides to take action. An attempt is made to blow the meteorite out of its course. Then commerce sets in. There is actually money to be made by this meteorite, so let us not blow it up.

Meanwhile the larger audience starts to be divided between people who ‘believe’ in the meteorite and those who do not. It is all fake news of a few rich people who want to take away our freedom after all.

The film has quite a cast. Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet, Ron Perlman, Ariane Grande. The link to the climate crisis is obvious. Is the ‘high end cast’ to try to get the point across? Surely that will fail. We are too much like the people in the movie.

Spiderhead – Joseph Kosinski (2022)

I did not have high expectations of this film, but it is even worse than I expected.

Prisoners can opt to be be transferred to a facility where drugs are tested. This facility has more freedom than state prison. The facility is headed by “Abnesti”. Test subjects have some sort of module on their backs which are used to administer drugs that induce love (or actually: lust), hunger, fear or whatever. Abnesti uses these tests to make a drug that will rid the world off hatred and anxiety. Or so he says.

We mostly follow prisoner Jeff who is subjected to different tests but -of course- sees through the immorality of the system and looks for a way to rebel.

Boooooring.

Archive 81 (series) – Rebecca Sonnenshine (2022)

My girlfriend read something about these new Netflix series. When I heard about involvement of the “Saw” crew, my interest dropped even further than after the initial comment that it is a horror series. But we did watch it.

In eight episodes we follow the story of Dan who restores video material. He is assigned to a job to restore material that survived the fire in an appartement building. For that job he is transferred to a remote building. So, video, a comparison to “Ringu” a remote building and a reference to “The Shining” and did somebody say “Blair Witch Project“? We all know where this is going to. Or do we?

During his restoration work, Dan becomes acquainted with Melody, a film student who goes to an appartement building to make a documentary about its inhabitants. These inhabitants are said to be a close knit group. This is pretty clear from the beginning.

Melody is actually looking for her mother and while poking around in the building and the people who live there, something uncanny starts to rise to the surface. We follow the story by Melody’s film material and Dan watching it all with a friend as backup to find background information.

As we continue, everything seems to be connected in some odd way. Dan did not get the job by accident. The material did not pop up many years after the fire by accident. The fire in the building was not an accident.

The series have an alright atmosphere. It is by far not as scary as some want us to believe. The story is worked out fairly well. The last episode is somewhat weak.

In my opinion not the instant classic that some people make of it, just an alright thriller series with some horror elements.

Inexorable – Fabrice du Welz (2021)

Because of the great “Calvaire” (2004) I still associate the name of Du Welz with dark and weird movies. That is certainly not something I can say about “Inexorable”…

The famous writer Marcel and his wife and publisher Jeanne move in to the massive estate of Jeanne’s recently deceased father who was a successful publisher of books. The day they move in, they meet the young woman Gloria.

Gloria proves to be a fan and obviously tries to work herself into the family. Can you guess too how the film will evolve?

With no surprises “Inexorable” unrolls its story with here and there some tension.