Review: Beau is Afraid (2023)


Well, it turns out the gushing about Disney Plus in my last post has aged as gracefully as melted ice cream on a sunny day. Many programs (including the recent Willow series) are due to be removed soon. The removal has been cited for cost-cutting reasons. But it ultimately paints a stark picture for the future of streaming services as the new battlefield could be your precious money versus the art that can be removed at any time. It’s sickening and sad, and needs calling out, no matter how big your platform is.

From corporate to something that at least could be artistically authentic, I’ve been eager to see Beau is Afraid for a while and so glad it has finally reached UK shores (albeit in a limited release across a scant amount of cinemas). Have you had a chance to see Ari Aster’s new movie? Let me know in the comments below.


In terms of contemporary American directors, there’s no one quite like Ari Aster. His feature film debut, Hereditary, impresses with its combination of underhanded supernatural aspects and the brewing tension of its familial angst. It felt like an heir to prestige horror movies such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist for its dramatic elements. Despite greatly admiring the ambition and scope of Midsommar, I find it does not quite come together for me. This is due to a muddled sense of pathos, resulting in its central character’s journey feeling incongruous and silly. By comparison, Aster’s third effort is a darkly pitched and surreal comedy about parental disenchantment.

Beau is Afraid is about its title character’s (Joaquin Phoenix) mad capped journey to get home to attend the funeral of his mother, Mona (Patti LuPone). Along the way, Beau encounters a nude serial killer, an amiable couple and a travelling troupe of actors.

For a certain amount of the movie, Beau is Afraid seemed quite different from Aster’s previous endeavours. This came from it feeling like a chamber piece that ratchets up the intensity of its heightened world of ultra-violence. Typically, sequences like this would exist in prior Aster films, but they often felt like exclamation points rather than run-on sentences.

With this in mind, Beau is Afraid firmly wears its surrealism on its sleeve, with Beau’s transition from one odd situation to the next carrying a sheer black comedic spirit. In fact, part of the film is bemused by the very existence of Beau. He’s someone who seems so ill-equipped to just get by in the ever-maddening world we see, that his resilience becomes an ongoing joke in itself. In his performance as Beau, Joaquin Phoenix’s stillness struck me the most, particularly in scenes when he is stumbling upon horrific truths. Patti LuPone is a formidable screen presence as a maternal figure who mixes sweetness and incandescent rage.

As the film went along, Beau is Afraid felt thematically of a piece with Hereditary. That film was preoccupied with the deep-seated paranoia stemming from a parental figure inflicting emotional and physical harm. As Afraid unravels, it’s equally concerned with this theme. But it comes from the place of a mother who feels rejected by her son. It seems, no matter how much love Mona gives, Beau will want to keep her at arm’s length. Also, like Hereditary, there’s this sense that the maternal figure is trapped in a cycle of tragedy that she feels responsible for perpetuating. There’s lip service given at the tail end of the movie where Mona bemoans the fact that her mother never gave her any love or affection.

So, in a sense, the parental disenchantment and resentment is a pattern that keeps repeating itself, despite the best intentions that Mona has. But I also think that in broad strokes, Aster is satirical in how he paints the world around Beau. Due to how heightened, frantic and crime-ridden it is (akin to an early eighties New York City) that’s had a collision with the Purge, Aster paints a picture of underlying fervent anger that comes from parental pressure. And in a quiet scene where pills are given out like a dessert at a three-course meal, Aster feels pointed in illustrating the absurdity of pharmaceuticals in soothing the underlying troubles of the soul and psyche.

Aster’s imagery also feels a piece with his other two movies. One recurring motif is the image of a tall and imposing triangle-shaped building that feels like a forbidden place where the starkest secrets of the soul are kept. And in the film’s best-extended sequence, Beau finds himself so transfixed in an outdoor theatre production that he projects himself in it. It feels like a dreamy and surreal inverse of the miniature and dollhouse imagery that permeated Hereditary. Some of the best instances of filmmaking are contained within the section. The most striking is a close-up of a younger version of Mona telling Beau how he was conceived. The face almost takes up the entire frame as shadows of dark blue and red come in and out of focus to obscure the character’s face. It reminded me of a cross between Ingmar Bergman’s use of close-up by way of the colourfully surreal close-ups of James Stewart’s character in Vertigo.

Elsewhere, Aster’s use of tracking shots that give us a portrait of a maddening city on the brink of violent collapse stood out to me. And some of the long shots were slightly comedic due to the anticipation of Beau coming into the frame based on the situation he just got himself into.

Even as I write these words, there are no doubt parts of Beau is Afraid that have slipped me by. But I found it to be one of the most thrilling experiences at the movies this year. It kept me on my toes with its gonzo spirit. Despite its many surreal turns, it has the emotional truth of a Samuel Beckett play insofar as portraying how a human being, against all hope and logic, crashes against the waves of existential turmoil. The fact that Beau can still dream of a better life (despite his circumstances and upbringing) is both moving and absurd.

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Review: Rye Lane (2023)


Well, I’ll be damned Disney Plus is indeed proving to be the best streaming service. Aside from its influx of Marvel and Star Wars fare, it’s also the place where indie British films get fast tracked. It’s incredible. But House of Mouse gushing aside, have you seen Rye Lane? Let me know in the comments below.


I’ve seen Rye Lane twice now and no doubt further viewings will be in my future. It’s a vibrant and alive piece of indie cinema about the masks we wear to hide our true feelings and vulnerabilities. Set in and around the title location, the 2023 film is about two twenty-somethings, Dom (David Johnson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah). Initially meeting in separate bathroom stalls, the pair get to know one another over a day in which they indulge in many adventures from live rapping to breaking and entering into an ex’s flat to get a record back.

In spirit, Rye Lane has two sources of inspiration in its rearview mirror. The first is Richard Linklater and most notably the Before Series, which depicts two characters getting to know each other over the course of a day (in real-time). There’s even a lovely homage to the last line of Before Sunset, in which Yas attempts to inject a sense of adventure in Dom by getting him to skip the notion of taking the last train home. At the same time, there’s something Wes Anderson-esque about the proceedings too. The quaint American auteur is felt here in bemused expressions that punctuate the awkward British humour that permeates the film.

My favourite is when Dom finds himself at a garden party in which he’s served “Wry and Nephew” rum and is given awkward looks when one of the adults he meets plays the songs he has on shuffle on his phone. The moment reminded me of the second-hand embarrassment charm that graced The Inbetweeners.

Also, much like other Anderson films, Rye Lane tips its hat to other mediums not only as a form of social construct (via Dom and Yas meeting through mutual friends at an art exhibition) but also as an equalizer via flashback scenes. These remembrances of the past are not told in a traditional manner where we get a dramatic blow-by-blow retelling. Instead, there’s a looseness to them whereby the person being told the memory has a direct interaction with them. They struck me like these casual and real-life versions of Twitter spaces whereby different speakers interact in a meaningful way.

Sequences like these diverge from the Before films but prove to be important in showing Rye Lane’s appeal. As much as establishing the forming connections between its two characters, Rye Lane is about how the world around them morphs and snakes around them, akin to an amorphous piece of performance art that’s constantly changing. From a gag involving a shopping centre cleaner saying “Boring!” to Dom’s profession as an accountant to a cinema patron shushing Yas in Dom’s memory construct, these moments are a great highlight of the picture.

Vivian Oparah is a firecracker presence as Yas. She charms with cynical, cool and seemingly transparent line readings that give way to a confident exterior that hides a highly vulnerable interior. Meanwhile, David Johnson contrasts this with a calculated sense of emotion. It sometimes feels like Dom is in control, but is often two seconds from an emotional outburst, and Johnson plays the notes of this emotional see saw with ease and intelligence.

Rye Lane bucks the trend of traditional romance movies because they often portray the male character as someone who puts on a front or makes a mistake that leads to the second act turmoil. Lane subverts this by having Yas embody these typical male characteristics with an emotional authenticity that feels tangible. Even a montage later in the film bucks a romantic comedy troupe of how forlorn the central lovers are apart, by realistically showing them go about their lives while subtly showing the effect they had on one another (via them indulging in hobbies or aspects the other introduced to them).

And therein lies the appeal of Rye Lane. It charms with its central couple getting to know each other for a day but delights in showing how exciting the world can be when sharing it with another person.

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Brief Thoughts on a Trailer: Dune: Part 2 Teaser Trailer


Well, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged about a trailer. But it feels fitting that my return to this style of post should be for a teaser that I was genuinely excited to watch. As my previous posts have documented, I adore Dune (from the book series to Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation). So, my anticipation for Part Two is sky high. But hype levels aside, have you had a chance to watch the teaser trailer for Dune: Part Two? Let me know in the comments below.

Brief Thoughts on a Trailer

In the middle of the teaser for Dune: Part Two, Javier Bardem’s Stilgar solemnly advises to Paul Atreides (ahead of attempting to ride a Sandworm) to “Be simple.” This ethos applies to teaser as a whole as it uses simple, but effective techniques to hook the audience.

The first point of interest was the footage of Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan. In the novel, many of her observations about Paul Atreides (that often are short sentences proceeding a chapter) are akin to a historical document for this central figure in the Dune universe. In the context of the trailer, they’re a snap shot of how history will remember the fall of House Atreides, contrasted with Jessica’s warning to Paul about his father not believing in revenge.

With this in mind, the theme of the teaser seems to be how Paul carries on after the betrayal of his family on Arrakis. In a sense, he does come to embody his father’s mission of cultivating desert power aka the Freman by getting them to rise up against the Imperium who have held them under their boot for too long.

Elsewhere, the colour palette of certain sections of the teaser really impressed me. In particular, the monochromatic arena battles featuring the new antagonist Feyd Rautha (Austin Butler) were wonderous in their dreamlike quality. In fact, the first shot we see of Feyd after Irulan says “What if Paul Atreides is still alive?” suggests that the character is a dark mirror of the newly minted Duke Paul Atreides.

Featuring the same music as previously used in trailers for the first Dune movie (including the chill inducing use of choral to reveal the title), the teaser for Dune Part Two captivates with arresting imagery and a brief sense of its new players. I have high hopes for this one. The sequel hits UK cinemas on November 3rd.

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Brief Consideration: Renfield (2023)


Unlike Evil Dead Rise, Renfield has been on my radar for a bit. Beyond Nicolas Cage putting on the fangs as cinema’s favourite vampire, the premise sounded intriguing and had the potential to be interesting. Does it live up to it? Let’s find out after the jump. Have you seen Renfield? Let me know in the comments below.

Brief Consideration

From Dwight Frye to Tom Waits, Renfield has been a zany and maddening harbinger that’s almost carried the tone of each respective Dracula film adaptation. Now in Renfield, the title character takes centre stage in an irreverent riff on Horrible Bosses. Introducing himself as Robert Montague Renfield (Nicholas Hoult), the familiar of Count Dracula (Nicolas Cage) now seeks to escape from his servitude when he starts going to group therapy and meets a brash cop, Rebecca (Awkwafina).

Renfield is a mixed affair comprised of limb-slicing gore and tiring zinging humour. While I appreciated the approach of the film insofar as portraying Renfield realising he’s in a toxic codependent relationship with Dracula, I felt the film surrounding this central journey to be so excessively tongue-in-cheek that somewhere the theme gets lost in the shuffle. Some of the jokes such as sight gags and calling out of the sheer ridiculousness of the Ying and Yang dynamic in the film are clever and funny. However, everything else is mostly delivered in the same stale and loud pitch that it ends up becoming excessive instead of cute.

Nicolas Cage makes Dracula his own by playing him like a broadly drawn theatrical agent who minimizes and tempts via various guises and exaggerated gestures. Meanwhile, Nicolas Hoult is a charming and nebbish presence with a dry wit that often takes chunks out of the scenery as much as Cage.

Much like The Lego Batman movie, Chris McKay directs Renfield with a frenetic verve via camera moves that vary from fast-moving single shots and exacting close-ups (mostly illustrated in a scene when Dracula barges in on Renfield’s support group). And Marco Beltrami’s score is a treat that mixes melancholic jazzy notes with a pulsating electric edge. But for all these virtues that attempt to paper over the cracks in a slick fashion, Renfield’s premise and theme never get to fully soar due to a flippant approach that often feels like it’s denigrating even when it tries to be earnest. In the end, Renfield hisses more then it bites.

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350th Post: Why I Continue Writing

Well, this is a little strange. No preamble. No framing of the discussion. And, let me see if I got this right, *checks notes*, an entire blog post that’s reflective in nature. Cue the Fry quote that’s been memed to death at this point, “I’m shocked. Shocked. Well, not that shocked.”

Ladies and gents, I tried. I really did try. I had enough ideas to mark my 350th blog post that they could be immortalized as chicken scratchings on a scrunched-up piece of paper that’s no doubt made a new home in a nearby mini bin. But for whatever reason, none of them clicked in place for me and I was essentially not feeling them.

However, I think it’s important to ruminate from time to time on the larger questions that can sometimes keep you up at night. And the question of why I continue writing has been on my mind lately. This year, I fulfilled two writing goals that I’ve had for a while. The first was the publication of an article in a UK film magazine (Filmhounds Magazine), which felt like a godsend after trying to hit my native market for so long. And the second was the publication of my first-ever video game review (via Horror Obsessive), which felt extra meaningful because it was for a remake of my favourite title in the medium.

Naturally, after any endeavour, there’s an understandable case of the blues, that kicks in because something you’ve been fixated on for a certain amount of time is gone. However, the feelings I sat with after achieving these two goals were scary. I felt akin to someone who had reached the summit of a great mountain and had no other rocky terrains to conquer. In other words, I hopelessly felt as though I had nothing else to say. This lasted about a week, and since then, more ideas (thankfully) have started to inspire me a lot.

But the central question has loomed in my mind since then. I guess the answer to why I continue writing is twofold. Firstly, I think it’s essential to my internet identity. Collectively, we all have an internet footprint that we choose to express, be it via photos or a daily account of our thoughts on a social media platform/blog. I’ve never felt comfortable about sharing my entire life on social media, so writing about films (among other things) is my way of making my mark on the world wide web. There’s a pride in developing a body of work that people can see.

And as odd as it may sound, I do think that it’s my legacy. I’ve never wanted kids. But I do think there are other ways to leave something behind. Fundamentally, my reviews and pieces that grace the blog, as well as other sites, are my way of doing that.

The second reason why I continue writing is the challenge. I never take the proverbial blank page for granted, and sometimes it is a struggle to get what you’re feeling on paper. But it’s something that I do my utmost to not shrink from at all. Self-expression (via the written word) is essential and something that requires constant attention, like preparing a well-cooked meal or looking after a plant.

More than ever, I want to thank each and every one of you who has read, commented or liked my posts over the years. It’s never ceased to be appreciated. And I hope you continue to join me on this crazy blogging ride. When time permits, I’d like to return to long pieces as well as experiment with some new segments and themed months.

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Review: Evil Dead Rise (2023)


Hey everyone. It’s really been a while since I last blogged. Apologies for that. Work has been the busiest it’s been in quite some time. And I was working on something (that I will mention soon). But the time off has given me a lot to think about. Suffice to say, I will try from now on to deliver on the posts that I want to see. It’s easier said then done but writing for others has made me lose sight of that simple notion. There’s no point in just sprucing up your house when guests come along, you have to maintain it at all times. The same could be said for my upkeep of the blog and writing (at large at the moment).

But terrible metaphors aside, let’s get to the film of the day. I tend to say this about a lot of films these days, but Evil Dead Rise has truly felt as though it has snuck up on me. While I’ve had the idea of this film in the back of my mind, it’s only in the last few weeks that I became acutely aware of its existence. I even embarrassingly forgot to include it on my top ten most anticipated films of 2023. To quote the Pharoah from YGOTAS, “Dick move, bro!” So, with that said, have you seen Evil Dead Rise? If not, are you planning to see it this weekend? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you like my ramblings on horror then you can read more at my second home, Horror Obsessive. My recent post on there is a review of the remake of Resident Evil 4. It’s my first ever video game review and a genuine labor of love for a title that’s meant a lot to me.


The Evil Dead was a formative horror movie for me. When I saw it at age 18 during my first year of University, I was shocked by its purity as a horror movie in the sense that most movies within the genre play by the rules of set-up and characterization. However, much like a rabid and rage-fueled dog, the 1981 picture unshackled itself from all that pretence and delivered an unrelenting ride of low-budget thrills and scares. Despite the infamous sequence (involving the tree) that arguably got the film on the Video Nasty list in the UK, I never found the movie to be mean-spirited or nasty for the sake of it. Instead, director Sam Raimi had the puckishness of an adolescent who wished to say he got the audience good.

It was this quality that came to define later entries. Evil Dead 2’s semi-remake nature was imbued with a comedic edge that brought a great deal of zaniness and love of early cinema. It’s an effort that greatly carries a certain history of the medium. Army of Darkness is an outlier insofar as being a vehicle for Bruce Campbell to schmooze his way through a Medieval England that feels at home in an early Terry Gilliam movie. And the 2013 remake is a slick and dramatic retelling of the first film. It’s remarkable for arguably being an elevated horror movie, with its depiction of the blurred line between Mia’s (Jane Levy) drug withdrawal and demonic possession.

The fifth Evil Dead confidently rises to the occasion of its franchise legacy with an entry that emphasizes the sheer psychological terror of its domestic and familial setting.

Evil Dead Rise tells the story of Beth (Lily Sullivan), an indie music technician who returns to see her sister, Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland), who is raising three kids by herself. They are youngest daughter, Kassie (Nell Fisher), middle child, Danny (Morgan Davies) and eldest daughter, Bridget (Gabrielle Echols). After surviving a mild earthquake, Danny finds an ancient book hidden beneath the depths of his high-rise home. Little does he know that the records of passages from the book hold a sinister curse that will bring ruin to his family.

Part of the uniqueness of the Evil Dead franchise is that each instalment is a riff on its simple premise of demons being summoned via the Necronomicon (aka Book of the Dead). Much of my delight during the movie came from sequences that played on familiar notes in new and unique ways.

From the protracted opening fast-motion demon point of view shot to the possession scene taking place in a lift, Rise easily subverts the standard tenants of the franchise. But the emphasis in the subversions made the experience interesting.

Rise has a tactile quality that makes its horror quite appealing. In fact, this aspect is best illustrated in the scenes where characters are listening to records of the Book of the Dead being found while gently massaging the center of the vinyl to keep the audio logs going. This also extends to the setting that’s creatively used.

The typical trapping of the central demon being locked in the cellar by the survivors is updated here to be outside an apartment. And our glimpse of the creature comes from a small mirror built into the front door. These point-of-view shots whereby we’re seeing the demon unleash upon unsuspecting neighbours embrace the found footage genre that ruled the early 2000s. Along with gnarly imagery later in the film that evokes the body horror of the Human Centipede, Rise is on the pulse of the horror that fueled it, much like the early cinematic comedies that inspired Sam Raimi’s 1987 sequel.

But beyond its tactile and subversive power, Rise comes closest to the psychological horror that’s lurked beneath the surface of the famed horror franchise. This comes from the domestic situation that’s presented to the audience. By having Ellie as the central victim of demonic possession, Rise plays on the primal fear of maternal harm and spurned affection. This quality is juxtaposed with Beth who is about to become a Mum and now has to rise to the challenge of looking after and protecting her sister’s kids.

In fact, in the movie’s most touching moment, Kassie says to Beth that she will be a great Mum because she knows how to lie to kids. The screenplay has many moments like this that do not talk down to kids but instead realistically shows how they can pick up on the stressed emotions going on around them. Writer/director Lee Cronin punctuates these heartfelt scenes with moments that are directed as though some of the demons are the figment of a feverish childhood dream. One memorable scene is when one of the demons (covered in blankets) floats across the space like a ghost. Cronin’s use of long shots give these scenes an eerie edge.

Cronin juxtaposes this with visceral camera moves whether it’s sped-up footage of Beth running to save Kassie that’s meant to evoke the frenetic demon point-of-view shots or shaky first-person shots that end the movie. Lily Sullivan is appealing as a determined mother to be, who will stop at nothing to protect her nephew and nieces. And Alyssa Sutherland is terrifying in her flickering states of being an attentive mother and a monstrous demonic presence.

If there’s one problem that permeates the movie it’s some of the sound design that occasionally drowns out the dialogue. And many scenes do rely on an annoying problem that plagues many modern horror movies namely using loud noises to deliver their scares. While Evil Dead can somewhat get a pass on this based on the over-the-top nature of its prior instalments, I still found it tiresome that Rise constantly attempts to break the sound barrier.

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Review: The Last of Us Episode 9: Look For the Light


Emotionally soapy preamble alert! This blog post marks my final review of The Last of Us Season 1. I want to thank everyone who has read, liked, and generally engaged with the posts. It’s been an experiment of sorts, and I’m glad you’ve all shown up for the ride. Have you seen Episode 9 of The Last of Us? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.


Given my criticisms of last week’s episode (namely the truncated run time and handling of David’s character), I approached the season finale with a mild bit of caution due to it having the shortest length of any episode. However, my misgivings proved to be all for nought. Episode 9 is a powerful and poignant ending for the series.

Joel and Ellie find themselves on the last of their journey. After a peaceful and nature-bound excursion, the pair find themselves captured by the Fireflies. Upon waking, Joel finds out a dramatic truth about Ellie’s fate and must decide whether to save her or leave her behind. The result of the latter means possible earth-shattering consequences for the remaining humans in the country and world.

The episode’s opening depicts Ellie’s mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson), giving birth and subsequently giving her daughter to the leader of the Fireflies, Marlene (Merle Dandridge), after being bitten by an infected.

Aside from being a mirror for Joel’s actions insofar as the lengths he would go to keep Ellie safe and alive, the opening is an emotionally touching piece of metatextual casting. Ashley Johnson did the motion capture and vocals for Ellie in the original game, and for her to give birth to the show’s incarnation of Ellie is profoundly moving. Johnson captures the almost feral quality of her daughter in subtle movements and physical gestures.

I’ve really liked the arc of Pedro Pascal’s Joel in the series, going from someone who closes himself off (emotionally) to someone who is almost bursting with warmth and empathy. Pascal’s quiet desperation to almost express everything to Ellie is heartbreaking to watch. It makes the violence he commits to saving her quite tragic as he’s expressing how he feels about her in the only way that makes sense to him (and perhaps the only way he can).

However, Bella Ramsey steals the episodes in a melancholic turn as a character who is burdened by the guilt of surviving an ordeal that could have saved millions of lives. In translating her character from pixel to screen, Merle Dandridge brings a steely authority that suggests a softer side to the choices she has to make.

Cinematically, the episode impressed me, whether it’s Joel’s prolonged montage of violence or a naturally lit medium shot where a ladder is dropped from a great height. Gustavo Santaolalla and David Fleming’s score was quite effective too, particularly during the Joel montage, which bridges the gap between a pulse-pounding Carpenter-esque score and a lamenting version of the main theme, which attempts to be heard through the mayhem.

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Review: Scream VI (2023)


Compared to a lot of other movies in recent years, Scream VI is a movie I’ve genuinely been hyped for. Part of this is still some post-pandemic effects insofar as still being thrilled at going to cinemas (after nearly two years). At the same time, Scream is a series that I have grown to appreciate and have a lot of affection for. With that said, have you seen Scream VI? Let me know in the comments below.

If you like my ramblings on horror movies then you can find more at my second home, Horror Obsessive.

And as alluded to in my Scream 3 review, I will very soon be having a piece published in Filmhounds Magazine about Scream VI. I examine if New York City will work for the horror sequel through the prism of other Big Apple based horror movies as well as the use of LA and Hollywood in Scream 3. Once the issue goes on sale, I’ll link to it in a future preamble.


Scream is no stranger to a larger city. Its use of LA and Hollywood in the franchise’s second sequel, Scream 3 (2000) engaged as a meta-commentary on the horrors of an industry that had hidden and perpetuated a cycle of abuse. With that in mind, the famed self-referential horror series foray into the Big Apple proves to be a mixed blessing. In fact, Scream VI does little to move the needle on commentary for the genre at large, opting instead to reflect on its internal mythology and coast on impressive set pieces.

Picking up a year after the events of Scream (2022), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega) has moved to New York for college with her friends and survivors from the last movie, Chad Meeks (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Meanwhile, Tara’s half-sister, Sam (Melissa Barrera), is finding it difficult to come to terms with her recent experiences, with a revolving door of therapists and a paranoid eye on her sister’s wellbeing. Things become complicated when a new Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) starts a murder spree in the Big Apple.

By its own admission, Scream VI is a sequel to a requel (or sequel to the legacy sequel), which is pitched as something unpredictable because it’s working within the confines of a larger franchise and no longer following traditional sequel rules. Paired with a larger setting, Scream VI should have an air of tension.

And yet it often feels like it’s pulling its punches with a lot of its deaths, often poking the audience with a prospect of finality but walking it back sometime after. This imbues the movie with a slightly campy quality that plays like a morbid and darkly comic cartoon. This is a shame, as some of the setups for these deaths are well done.

One sequence takes place on a busy subway ride on Halloween. It proves to be a tense ping-pong match of close-ups between Mindy and Ghostface (the latter hiding amongst a crowd of costumed people from different horror movies). The flickering lighting and dark blue/yellow strobe effects give the sequence a nightmarish quality. It’s the film’s standout sequence and comes closest to the dreamy European flair that typified Wes Craven’s prior instalments.

Another similar sequence comes from a simple scene about a third of the way through. The characters discover a shrine containing all the collector items that have pervaded the entire series. Rather than being an exercise in empty nostalgia, the scene instead plays like a clever bit of meta-commentary as each of the characters contends with their place in the franchise up until this point. The scene punctuated by Brain Tyler’s atonal score makes the wounds of yesterday feel present and alive in subtle and creepy ways.

Along with a scene that dissects Gale Weathers’s (Courtney Cox) place in the franchise and Scream VI engages as a movie that somberly reflects on the internal mythology that’s built the franchise. However, the movie is missing some biting social commentary that pervaded previous entries. The thread about misinformation and conspiracy theories being spread about Sam’s role in the finale of the previous movie feels more superficial than revelatory. Even when the previous instalments swung for the fences (and sometimes missed), I at least admired the reach and scope of the themes of Screams gone by.

Instead, the revelations here only feel novel in a superficial sense, with the temporary tension being wrung out of an increase in the number of killers. And the motives play like a reheat of the killers from Scream 2. This is a shame due to the shrine and the opening sequence feeling like a set-up for a larger Ghostface conspiracy.

And this is the most confounding element of Scream VI. It plays like a streamlined and more adrenalized version of Scream 2, complete with its cast imbuing a lot of charm and fun into their parts. But more often than not, the latest Scream sequel is more fleeting than haunting.

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Review: Scream 4 (2011)


I have to start this preamble with a bit of an apology. While I intended to cover all of the Scream movies as a lead-up to the sixth instalment, I’ve decided to hold off on my review of Scream (2022). The reason for this is that I’m seeing Scream 6 as part of a double bill with last year’s movie. I think this provides an invaluable experience to look at the film in the context of it being part of a newer (supposedly) trilogy of films. So, I apologize for that. So, with that said, have you seen Scream 4? Let me know in the comments below.


I adore Scream 4. And that feeling has not changed in the intervening years. In fact, since becoming more familiar with the horror genre, my esteem for it has only grown. For a series that’s had inconsistent sequels, Scream 4 represents a perfect melding of fulfilling drama and meta-commentary.

Taking place 15 years after the events of Scream, the third sequel sees Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) return to Woodsboro on the last stop of her book tour. Her sentimental visit turns into a vicious bloodbath as Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) prays upon a new generation of teenagers, including Sidney’s distant cousin, Jill Roberts (Emma Roberts).

Part of Scream 4’s appeal comes from what it does with the notion of the Final Girl. While previous movies provided shading and a credible emotional context for the concept, the 2011 movie subverts the troupe. This is done in part by posing the question of how the Final Girl leaves a mark on the people around them. In the case of Sidney, how have her traumatic Ghostface incidents affected her family insofar as her aunt and cousin are concerned?

In a way, it’s left a long and lingering shadow for the pair. In terms of Sidney’s aunt, Kate (Mary McDonnell), she believes she’s been scarred by Sidney’s attacks and, by extension Maureen’s murder. In a sense, she feels she’s been left out and quietly speaks from the sidelines of her experiences (via one line where she says, “I’ve had scars too.”).

For Jill, it’s been a burden to live in Sidney’s shadow as she’s often been cited as an omnipresent figure to idolize and be like. To this end, Jill chooses to become like Sidney by taking on the Ghostface persona to stage a series of murders where she appears to be the victim. To achieve fame, Jill believes that messed up things have to happen to an individual, illustrating the all-consuming power of social media fame. In 2011 when the film came out, shows like the X Factor were famed for their performative circus qualities, whereby a bad act was denigrated and mocked. And in a post, Tik Tok era, Scream 4’s social commentary feels even more chilling when fame is presumed to be achieved by jumping on harmful viral trends.

At the same time, the meta and personal combine to create the idea of the horror remake (embodied by Jill) directly attempting to replace the original (Sidney). Scream 4 has many of these instances, whether it’s Sidney’s final line to Jill, “You forgot the first rule of remakes. Don’t fuck with the originals,” or Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) desperately reeling every horror remake during a tense phone call with Ghostface (during the tail end of the movie).

In a film that boasts a lot of excellent performances from the young cast, Hayden Panettiere stands out as Kirby. On the page, the character is a lighthearted and playful horror geek who likes to keep some people on their toes. Panettiere illustrates these qualities with subtle gestures that go a long way to make the character quite appealing. Emma Roberts is equally impressive in a surprisingly physical performance that speaks to Jill’s unrelenting desire to be famous.

David Arquette brings an authentic sense of world-weariness to Dewey without losing his nebbish and hopeful qualities. And Neve Campbell has a quiet intensity that imbues Sidney with a lot of dramatic weight. The most meaningful scene that illustrates this is when she has a catch-up conversation with Dewey. It speaks volumes in what is not said between the characters, the subtle what-ifs and chances that have passed both of them by (throughout the years).

Scream 4 represents Wes Craven’s last directorial effort in the series, and it’s pretty effective. I’ve liked how in previous films, Craven has brought a dreamy European flair to the filmmaking. In Scream 4, there’s less of a dreamy quality, and instead, some sequences are directed as though they would not feel out of place in an Italian horror picture. The most notable is a sequence in a hospital car park. With its use of yellow (via naturally lit car park lighting), insert shots of Rebecca’s shoes and protracted medium shots, the scene plays like a scene from a Giallo movie, as opposed to a conventual American slasher movie.

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Review: The Last of Us Episode 8: When We Are in Need


We’re here at last, the penultimate episode of The Last of Us. It’s felt like it has flown by in what has been a whirlwind series so far. With that said, have you seen Episode 8 of The Last of Us? Let me know in the comments below.


In the PS4 and subsequent PS5 remake, the Winter section was a tough and brutal stretch of the story that cemented Ellie’s and Joel’s relationship insofar as the violence they would commit to protect one another. Despite being flawed, Episode 8 is still a difficult and sobering watch that ties Joel and Ellie’s bond in blood.

The penultimate episode of the series finds Ellie still watching over an injured Joel. However, this is disturbed when she finds two strangers from a nearby improvised community who are attempting to steal her food. After a tense standoff, the three agree that in exchange for some medicine, the pair can take half of her food. However, the leader of the community, David (Scott Shephard), may have other plans for the young girl.

In what has been a fantastically consistent and exceptional show so far felt like it took a step down this week. Part of this comes from the rushed approach to the story and elements where the active experience of the video game trumped the inherent passivity of the medium.

The choice of distilling several hours-long sections into less than an hour of television, the story loses something in translation. Part of this comes from the gameplay being quite impactful in what they were saying about the character. For example, the final confrontation between David and Ellie was a terrifying experience that aligns the player with Ellie’s fear. But in the show, it plays like a sped third-act sequence from a slasher movie.

The same could be said about the portrayal of David. While the character fits within the grand scheme of the show’s theme of how leaders within insurgent groups function, I think they overegged the pudding on him. Part of this does come from the mentioned rushed approach, which goes from 0-60 on the ultimate reveal. At the same time, there’s a lot revealed about David that feels like it muddies the water on what they’re trying to say about him.

He’s someone who starts as a Maths teacher, whose very logic-based, finds religion but has darker tendencies, is willing to do unspeakable things to keep his community alive, and ultimately fakes his belief to keep order. I suppose you could take all that and interpret him as someone who perpetuates a cycle of abuse and evil (within a religious context in a post-apocalyptic setting). But that feels like quite a stretch and quite a cliché in what has felt like a nuanced show so far. I think I prefer the simplicity of the character in the game whose more predatory predilections were confined to subtext rather than overt declaration.

But for what it’s worth, the performances of the episode provide some semblance of emotion that filled this section of the video game. In particular, Bella Ramsey was a force of nature in her completely dangerous edge as someone who could commit violence within a heartbeat. Pedro Pascal was incredible in conveying a subtle sense of quiet desperation. And it was great to see Troy Baker (the actor for Joel in the videogame) in a supporting turn that illustrated so much in the flickers of eye movements and still moments of contemplation.

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