April Film Reviews

Harry Moore

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Set in the summer of 1979, a group of filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas. But when the elderly and extremely conservative owners of the ranch they’re filming on catch them in the act, the cast and crew must fight for their lives in order to see the morning. The latest horror movie from A24 draws more from the slasher movies of the ’80s than from their more usual arthouse fare. Ti West, director of The House of the Devil and In a Valley of Violence, returns to feature filmmaking after a six-year hiatus that saw him working mostly in television. West’s direction here is assured, as it is clear he knows exactly what type of film he wants to make and executes it with great style and interesting choices. The film lives up to its premise, making its cast of hopeful adult film stars feel grounded and likable (which is aided by the cast who are all on the same page and bring their characters to life)—and their inevitable demise all the more dread-inducing.

Mia Goth leads the film as Maxine, a runaway from a religious cult who finds empowerment as an adult entertainer. She gives a strong performance that sidesteps the usual pitfalls of being the scream queen in a bloody slasher film. Jenna Ortega, who was seen in this year’s Scream reboot, may have to do more of the heavy lifting in the shrieking department as Lorraine, the initially silent boom mic operator. Brittany Snow and Martin Henderson are both terrific in their parts, making a pair of seasoned smut peddlers absolutely charming. Scott Mescudi, better known as rapper Kid Cudi, gives the best performance of his acting career to date. And appears to have found a much more mellow West to collaborate with.

X is a sex- and gore-filled thrill ride that has a higher caliber of filmmaking behind it than your usual splatter film. A crowd pleasing horror that won’t be easy to forget. In theaters.

Deep Water
The erotic thriller is a genre that ruled multiplexes for decades with a new rendition of an over-sexed, salacious crime story (often starring Michael Douglas) being released like clockwork to insatiable audiences thirsty for more. But for the better part of the last 20 years, the lurid sub-genre has been dried up and spent, only rearing its head for direct to Redbox offerings and the occasional Basic Instinct parody.

But in Deep Water, released by Hulu and produced by 20th Century Fox, the genre rises again thanks to the guiding hand of Adrian Lyne, the director behind Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal, and its perfectly cast leads, Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas.

The film drops us into the middle of a fraught and destructive marriage between Vic (Affleck) and Melinda (de Armas). Vic, who made a fortune designing a microchip that aided drone warfare, is hopelessly in love with Melinda, who has become bored with Vic and wants a divorce. In order to keep his marriage intact, Vic allows Melinda to engage in a string of affairs, so long as she comes back to be with him and their young daughter. However, Vic soon becomes the prime suspect when his wife’s lovers start to go missing.

By no means is this a good movie, but it is a wonderfully entertaining one. Affleck runs back his Gone Girl performance, bringing that same sense of detachedness that allows the viewer to project their own belief of his guilt or innocence until the moment the truth is revealed. Affleck is an actor who has really found himself in middle age, delivering performances that have much more nuance and internalization than in the work he did in his 20s and 30s, making a consistently engaging screen presence. As Vic he is at once quietly menacing and kind of sympathetic, as he watches with palpable sorrow his love flirt and drape herself over other men far younger than him. De Armas, who was last seen stealing James Bond’s thunder in No Time to Die, is as good as you’d expect her to be—and as she always is, frankly—in the role of Melinda. She is very believable as someone you couldn’t walk away from, even if she is actively showing you how much she hates you. Following her breakout performance in 2019’s Knives Out, de Armas’ career has faced some setbacks due to COVID-19 delaying several of her projects an extended period of time, but her role in this and in the upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic, Blonde, should see her back on track.

Deep Water is a very trashy but fun film that is best watched after a couple glasses of wine. The two leads carry the film through its nonsense plot and editing—which felt as though it was being interfered with by someone other than the filmmaker. Maybe not one to watch with the whole family though. Available on Hulu.

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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