Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Six New Indie Titles (And One Digital Series!)

With the great pumpkin holiday soon upon us all, it seems fitting that there are five horror titles via the indie outings dissected below – all with varying degrees of satisfaction.  (At least for yours truly!)  Tales mired with a myriad of twists and turns that demand secrecy, redemption in the boxing ring, stones with time travel power, dancing that leads to dark deeds, brutal bachelorette parties, gals who hold a forty year grudge and quick ‘morning after’ scenarios make up the six feature films and one digital series covered in this weeks edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny on The Dark, Glass Jaw, Silencio, Suspiria, Killer Kate!, Halloween and the digital series Waking Up With Strangers below!

(Dark Sky Films)

Any critic who dares not tread lightly in their review of this one doesn’t have a firm grasp on how important The Dark’s unpredictability power is.  (Even my selection of accompanying photo is purposely ambiguous people!)  Containing a slew of clever fake outs, twists and turns and ultimately a spectacularly spooky story you’ll never see coming, there’s a uniqueness to The Dark that all but demands to be seen and not spoiled.  (Aka go in cold film fans, but it’s a safe read here!)  Infusing typical terror tropes (blood, gore and a whole lot more!) with elements not normally associated with genre fare (how about hope, healing and heart?!) and even socially important material to boot (abuse and kidnapping), bold writer/director Justin P. Lange creates one of the most arresting and surprising feature debuts of recent years.  But the true icing on this five-star cake is by far the work of leading lady Nadia Alexander who singlehandedly shows that the craft of acting among the young is far from dead by disappearing once again into a role that steals the show.  (For the other from 2018 see her as burned boy Phil in Boaz Yakin’s Boarding School!)  For Halloween – and frankly for 2018 – this little gem couldn’t have come at a better time.  In a genre that has been rehashing and repeating more of the same, the refreshing The Dark dares to shine a light on what most mayhem movies are missing and proudly serves it up for fright fans to feast on.

(Vision Films)

To not state outright that Glass Jaw is a hero fall and rise again boxing yarn we’ve seen before would be a disservice.  But fortunately what the film lacks in story originality it firmly makes up for in both moving moments and solid performances.  Love the tough and tender bits between ailing father and his son, the colorful training sequences and quick family moments throughout.  (The final scene between brother and sister will kneecap you!)  Plus matching the new guard (Lee Kholafai and Brandon Sklenar make perfect friends and foes!) with old guard (Jon Gries, Steven Williams and especially the Mark “Private Drake” Rolston as a surly trainer!) actor wise makes for a familiar but totally watchable tale of triumph.

(Tulip Pictures/Barraca Productions)

Cool and clever concept that sees a couple of gents coming across a powerful stone in an area known as the Zone of Silence in Mexico that turns out to have time travel powers and years later after changing history fate comes calling.  The interesting sci-fi premise thankfully sustains throughout most of the film, but the third act does go a tad soft on truth and consequences, feeling more like a happy Hollywood ending than a thoughtful indie conclusion.  But with decent twist and turns and a cast that fills in all the required cinematic colors, the quality of the story of Silencio comes across loud and clear.

(Amazon Studios)

Those who claim that new Suspiria helmer Luca Guadagnino’s update of Dario Argento’s former piece of 70’s schlock looks better are frankly missing the point of the original piece.  Told with tongue-in-cheek fashion, Argento made his gratuitous fairy tale story of carnal kills at a ballet school purposely over the top, compete with loud colors and equally loud music.  (The score by Goblin is still one of my favorites!)  Guadagnino’s new vision may have cleaner camera moves and slightly showier performances (Tilda Swinton playing multiple characters still never rises above a ‘look what I can do’ level!), but at a unneeded two and a half hour run time everything gets bogged down to a snail’s pace.  So as a result any colorful set pieces that involve carnage (the early dance scene and it’s consequences are extremely memorable!), witchcraft or dark arts are bombarded on all sides by a flow that would make a turtle seem speedy – Suspiria sacrifices scares for the slow.

(Freestyle Digital Media)

While some films have a real knack for mixing comedy, horror and drama (see Shaun Of The Dead!) it’s a rare film feat that requires vision and a steady helmer hand.  The problem with Killer Kate! is all of the above is put together in such a clunky fashion that it simply feels like the film is unsure of what it wants to be.  Is it a tale of a gal unleashing her inner angst?  A comedy of errors with colorful characters well out of their murderous wheelhouse?  Or maybe just a family drama about reconnecting with siblings.  No matter what the answer there just isn’t a good mindful blend that helps this one rise above the B-movie fray – even killing requires concentration.  (Good music though!)

(Universal Pictures)

The whole idea – and I could be wrong – of taking away all the Halloween sequels and simply making this new outing a direct follow up to the first film is to start everything anew.  Be it the fate of Michael Myers, the toll on a world weary Laurie Strode or even introduce kills on a new psychological level, I was expecting this new movie timeline to show me something I had yet to see.  Problem is this ‘new’ Halloween, besides the ever-solid turn by Curtis, feels a lot like the ho-hum sequels it’s trying to replace.  Complete with dumb kills (a foot really can crush a skull!), lame characters (Haluk Bilginer’s stupid Dr. Sartain is miles away from Donald Pleasence’s engaging Dr. Loomis!) and more of the same from the shape (maybe Michael is just a regular homicidal guy who gets hit by cars…and gets up!), writers Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley and David Gordon Green prove that even with a successful background in comedy and drama, anyone can make a sequel that’s standard.




A set of eight comedic quick takes revolving around the idea of, you guessed it, Waking Up With Strangers.  Some clever (adding deflowering to the mix adds another layer of laughter!), some quirky (nothing like waking to an additional stranger’s privates!) but the best of the bunch involve seeing great characters more than once.  (Want to see the further adventures of both Greg Furman and Antoine Perry!)  Funny, but not five-star, these witty asides offer decent laughs in small doses.



I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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