Not much to say in the build-up to the latest round of Netflix and LOVEFiLM streaming choices really. One thing you might want to make a note of is that on April 19th, Eli Roth’s Hemlock Grove makes its debut on Netflix. All episodes will be available at the same time allowing you to marathon your way through the ten or twelve of them that same week. At the moment this show is promising, coming across as American Horror Story meets Twin Peaks. The werewolf transformation sequence they have been showing online from the series shows that the concept and execution has masses of promise.
Anyway this week sees some frankly amazing and not so amazing titles make their streaming debut and here they are:
The Cabin in the Woods (2012) – Netflix
Last year’s best horror film still manages to entertain and delight even though I must have watched it 6 times by now. Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s brilliant deconstruction of the horror genre simply must be seen even by those who might watch one horror film a year on Halloween night only. The film is really well thought out with inventive production design and as much care and thought going into the monsters as the protagonists and their realisation of the truth behind the cabin. A must see.
Black Swan (2010) – LOVEFiLM
It’s interesting how when this was released the film was primarily promoted as a drama and the focus seemed to be on how Natalie Portman suffered for her art which lead to awards glory. When you actually see the film it feels like a psychological horror film through and through pitched somewhere between Lynch and De Palma. Portman does give an incredible performance as she struggles with a possible eating disorder, a demanding mother and her dark side as she learns to unleash it to play the black swan in the famous ballet. The last thirty minutes in particular are a tour de force of acting, directing and disturbing imagery that will stay with you for a long time.
Chernobyl Diaries (2012) – LOVEFiLM
Last summer’s found footage horror film; Chernobyl Diaries didn’t quite deserve all the critical bile thrown at it. It’s not as bad as some made it out to be but still it’s far from a good film. It’s kind of like a found footage version of The Hills Have Eyes and although there are a couple of moments where the film comes to life, it never quite lives up to the promise of its premise. Still better than the last Paranormal Activity film though.
The Woman (2011) – Netflix
Lucky McKee’s third feature as director that didn’t have any meddling producers involved is an amazing film. On its surface this is a tale of a family who take in a feral woman with the intention of domesticating her. Under the surface this is a savage, blacker than black comedic satire. There was some controversy when it first came out from people who just didn’t like the fact that the film held up a mirror to Middle America and they didn’t like the reflection. As a result the film hasn’t really yet got its due two years after it came out. There are some very disturbing elements in this film but far and away the most disturbing thing is Sean Bridgers as the most messed up all American family man you have ever seen. It’s as chilling a portrait of evil as I have ever seen. I can’t wait for Lucky McKee’s next film, the intriguingly titled All Cheerleaders Must Die.
Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012) – LOVEFiLM
Despite a fairly lame title, Cockneys vs. Zombies is a far better film than you think it’s going to be. This totally should have got a wide release last year because it happened to be the best zombie film for a while. Like all the best zombie features, it has all the inventive kills and gore you could hope for and also social subtext about the decline of a subculture that seems to be disappearing completely thanks to globalisation and the media. Not only that but for a low budget feature, Cockneys vs. Zombies has tons of scope and feels suitably epic. Perfect for a beer and pizza Saturday night.
The Raid (2012) – Netflix
Although not typical Starburst fare, The Raid is one of the most insane and violent films you will ever see, so you could well class it as ‘fantastical’. Most of what you have heard about this film is true, it’s full of energy, hyper violent and one of the most thrilling and kinetic films ever made. What people seem to lose sight of however is that a lack of character and plot holds it back from being a masterpiece. Watching this for the first time is reminiscent of the first time you saw a John Woo film and this will likely be a massive influence on the action film for the next decade. Would make a pretty good double bill with the above film if you just so happen to subscribe to both LOVEFiLM and Netflix.
Rango (2011) – Netflix
Gore Verbinski’s animated western is delightful and completely out of left field. Most of the CG animated kid friendly entertainment that comes out of Hollywood is colourful, friendly and has no sharp edges. Verbinski’s film is ugly, focussing on the creatures at the very bottom of the food chain with not one character even approaching attractive and its all the more effective for it. At its core this is a story of mistaken identity and learning to be a hero and take responsibility, not really anything new but it’s done with such wit and invention that it simply works far better than most.
Judge Dredd (1995) – Netflix
Whilst we all enjoy Dredd on Blu-ray and pine for a sequel that will probably never come, Netflix have pre-empted this and put the Stallone version out. If you can get past the fact that Dredd removes his helmet then this is actually quite enjoyable. It is a film all about the production design that tries to take in as much of Mega City as it can and therefore ends up in a bit of a mess unlike the short and focussed Dredd last year. Despite this there is some fun to be had and if nothing else it’s a fine example of what Hollywood was doing with comic book properties before Blade and X-Men changed the game.
Reign of Fire (2002) – Netflix
Rob Bowman’s monster and Mad Max mash up was fairly ignored on release which is a shame because it was one of the most thrilling big monster films to come along for a while. It’s still quite a thrilling and epic feeling film which stars a pre-Batman Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey before his recent career renaissance. Most importantly the dragons that have destroyed the world are nightmarish and powerful forces of nature that feel huge and terrifying and so most of the battles we see feel suitably impactful and dangerous.
Cool World (1992) – Netflix
Cool World is not a good film by any stretch of the imagination but it has always fascinated me. As originally conceived this was a horror film where a human had sex with a cartoon and ten years later the half cartoon and half human offspring comes to our world looking for revenge. Of course this film we never saw. Cult maverick animator Ralph Bakshi came on board and the film was moulded into a reverse Who Framed Roger Rabbit where humans go into the cartoon world rather than the other way around. The plot has Kim Basinger’s sultry Holly Would trying to seduce Gabriel Byrne’s creator into bed and therefore making her human, this leads to some nonsense about Vegas and the two worlds melding. The tone is all over the place, flitting between melancholy tale of obsession and family comedy with a great soundtrack. A bigger problem is that there is nobody to root for, Byrne’s character has just gotten out of prison for murder and Brad Pitt’s character is too much of a moral James Dean doing noir cut out to ever engage. It hardly matters anyway because Bakshi is more interested in his nightmarish, surreal Cool World dreamscape with lunatic Looney tunes on acid animals beating each other senseless at the expense of any drama. Worth watching only to see how studio interference affected films twenty years ago. Nothing quite like this has ever been made before or since.
Goemon (2009) – Netflix
Although not as impressive as Casshern released five years earlier, Kazuaki Kiriya’s follow up Goemon, a kind of Robin Hood in Japan, is still a very impressive and thrilling film. The problem is it is too long and like Casshern it lacks a bit of focus. If you are in the mood though for something entertaining on a purely aesthetic level then this is probably a good choice. It has just enough action, fantasy and romance to keep your attention on a cold wet Sunday afternoon.