The music is sometimes dramatic, creating a camp atmosphere instead of horror, but the line between good and evil blurs. Everyone Will Burn is one of the few movies you root for the devil.
Ti West’s Pearl answers the question of what if Dorothy never went to Oz. Feeling like a deranged mix of Wizard of Oz—there is even a scarecrow scene—meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pearl combines a fantasy feel with a riveting turn with Mia Goth as Pearl and shocking bloodshed. X from Ti West was graphic, disturbing slashing horror that analyzed the patriarchal, puritanical restrictions society place on girls and women via a slasher flick.
As far as manga, there are few in touch with the darker human elements than Junji Ito. Black Paradox is comedic, morbid, and by the end, fatalistic, but though entertaining, knowing nothing about the characters makes it hard to invest in them.
Jordan Peele’s latest outing Nope critiques social media, Hollywood, and the need to frame the impossible on immortal celluloid. Nope is a science fiction story of descendants of the first Black wrangler captured on film attempting to be the first Black family to capture indisputable evidence of aliens on film. Filled with images that bring to mind UFOs, Rorschach, money, and lens, one viewing is not enough to capture all that resides in the movie. Peele is a master at crafting appealing characters, nuance, and multiple meanings in an entertaining package. Nope is no exception.
The film follows 13-year-old Finney (Mason Thames) trapped in a serial killer’s soundproof basement when he receives phone calls on a disconnected black phone on the wall from the killer’s previous victims. Though scares are in short supply, there is plenty of suspense and tension. The Black Phone is creepy, and The Grabber will make you shrink back in your seat every time he shows up.
The Liminal Zone, created, written, and illustrated by Junji Ito, is a collection of short horror stories. From Viz Media, with translations by Jocelyne Allen, lettering by Eric Erbes, and cover by Adam Grano, the stories are stand-alone without connections between characters. Traversing transition from one state to another, The Liminal Zone lives up to its title with a dreadful cohesion by a master of horror. Junji Ito can squeeze eeriness out of anything.
They Talk, directed by Giorgio Bruno, is a supernatural horror film following a sound engineer, Alex (Jonathan Tufvesson), who records voices from the dead while shooting a documentary. As Alex struggles to figure out what the voices want or are warning him about, danger escalates. The film checks some horror boxes thanks to tension and decent scares. But sadly, the movie lacks a cohesive story. There is far too much confusion and mid-road acting. At the end of They Talk, I seesawed between “this part is scary” and “what happened.”
Ty West’s X follows a group of filmmakers making a pornographic film in rural Texas unbeknownst to the elderly couple renting them the cabin. When the couple discovers the truth, the group priority shifts from moviemaking to survival. X taps into the nostalgia for classic older horror films and, through some subversion, surprises audiences like memorable classics. Ty West directs a horror that moves beyond simple slaughter. He expands into a broader discussion of religion, sexuality, and gender, thereby making X a slasher joyride with something more to say.
Parts of the film may be so bad it is good as there is a lot that inspires laughter because the effects are lackluster, the acting hit-and-miss with weak dialogue, landing this as a solid B horror film.
Slice of life mangas inspire nostalgia, joy and can reignite gusto for life. But I love when they include paranormal activity because navigating life and the supernatural combine laughter, happiness, and terror. Mieruko-chan reminds me of Kimi Ni Todoke and one of the shorts in the Tales of Terror from Tokyo and All Over Japan anthology series. The one with the guy who ignored ghosts that were literally hanging onto him. Miko’s sweetness and her adamant refusal to acknowledge the creepy things she sees is endearing. I sympathize with her because I’d go the same route and probably less effective too. Mieruko-chan Volume 3 balances the horror and hilarity with the unfolding mystery, and I am excited for what’s next.