Movies Till Dawn: Horror Business (The New Blood)

A Quiet Place II” (2021, Paramount Home Video) Inevitable sequel to John Krasinski’s well-made 2018 creature feature is more of the same in regard to plot, but also delivers a similar degree of tightly ratcheted tension as its predecessor. Emily Blunt is the nominal star of the film, but much of the heavy lifting is done by Milicent Simonds and Noah Jupe as her children, who are put into harm’s way at every time by the movie’s fiendish alien invaders, as well as a host of untrustworthy human survivors, including such dependable players as Cillian Murphy (a post-apocalypse vet after “28 Days Later”), Djimon Hounsou, and Scoot McNairy. Krasinski’s plot mechanics will be well-worn to anyone who’s sat through the last half-century of alien invasion/end of the world movies, but his trump cards – the unique sensory wrinkles of the creatures’ biology, and his talent for set pieces that anchor on slow-boiling tension – remain the picture’s chief selling point (the film’s flashback opening shows that he’s adept at full-scale mayhem, too). Paramount’s Blu-ray bundles both “Quiet Place” films with a digital copy and a handful of making-of featurettes for both titles.

Jakob’s Wife” (RLJE Films, 2020) Clever riff on vampires that also manages to address the more stifling aspects of religion and marriage from the perspective of a long-suffering minister’s wife, played with obvious relish by Barbara Crampton of “Re-Animator” fame. Saddled with second-class status as the wife of a hardshell preacher (played by horror writer/director/actor Larry Fessenden), Crampton’s housewife finds something like freedom after being bitten by the Master (Bonnie Aarons of “The Nun”), which affords her not only increased strength and sexual appetite but also the awareness that her half of the marriage equation is tilted against her. Director/co-writer Travis Stevens gives Crampton a stellar showcase, which she shoulders with both abandon and real emotion, as well as a darkly wry take on the push-and-pull that occurs when a relationship undergoes a sea change; that he’s also able to deliver a fairly grisly and stylish horror film is equally impressive. RLJE’s Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and a making-of doc.

Tailgate” (2019, Film Movement) The titular driving offense puts aggravated suburbanite Jeroen Spitzenberger in the crosshairs of Willem de Wolf, who is his equal in terms of vehicular self-righteousness and snap personality judgments, with one small wrinkle: he’s a homicidal maniac. Writer/director Lodewijk Crijns keeps the suspense element of this Dutch/Belgian thriller clamped to uncomfortable levels and does well in illustrating how extreme behavior stains everyone (Spitzenberger’s wife, played by Anniek Pheifer, and two daughters, suffer the most here), but errs in the same manner as another recent Dutch thriller, “The Columnist,” by making Spitzenberger such an insufferable jerk that it becomes hard to sympathize when he becomes de Wolf’s primary target. Film Movement’s DVD is subtitled and widescreen.

The Deep Ones” (2020,123 Go Films/Alliance Entertainment) Writer/director Chad Ferrin, who makes ambitious and challenging horror movies on a budget most studios reserve for their craft services department, applies his aesthetic to the H.P. Lovecraft mythos in “The Deep Ones.” Though the source material is clearly “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” Ferrin sidesteps a direct adaptation in favor of an uneasy examination of upscale California coastal life; the focus here is couple Gina La Plana and Johann Urb, who find that the owner of their beautiful AirBNB residence – veteran character actor and Ferrin regular Robert Miano  – is part of a larger community of wealthy home owners who maintain their status with the help of some unholy underwater dwellers. Envisioning the Shutters on the Beach scene as a monstrous cult would seem like a soft target, but Ferrin keep viewers on their heels by contrasting the suffocating atmosphere of the community (the CA elite’s obsession with surveillance is well skewered here) and the freak-flag eccentricities that fester under privilege. He doesn’t shy away from the gruesome side of the cult’s activities, but both sides are well balanced. 123 Go’s DVD includes a making-of featurette, cast and crew interview (via Skype) and a wealth of deleted scenes.

The Stylist” (2020, Arrow Films) The stylist in question here is wallflower Claire’s (Najarra Townsend) who develops what she believes to be a symbiotic relationship with a certain section of her upscale clientele; they, however, may have a different take on the connection, but since she’s drugged and then scalped them (and adopts their more outgoing personas by wearing said trophies in her creepy home), they have less to say about the matter. Unsettling psycho-drama (with the emphasis on the former) from writer-director-producer Jill Gavargizian, who expands on her equally troubling 2016 short (also starring Townsend) to probe a bit deeper into Claire’s deeply sad waking life and hideous dream/fantasy world; we get no real explanation for her proclivities, but instead a troubling sympathy for such a lost figure in a world devoted to making the fabulous seem more fabulous (though her means of navigating the world are shown for what they are, in bold and grisly detail). Arrow’s Blu-ray includes commentary by Gevargizian and Townsend, a making-of featurette, two short films by the director, including the original “Stylist” short, a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and the Kickstarter video that helped fund the film.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury, and George Newall, who created both "Schoolhouse Rock" and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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