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    “KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM” (Movie Review)

    Reviewing KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM puts one in a situation that has become depressingly familiar: Having to address the movie that’s there instead of the movie it once was, could and should have been. The much-discussed postproduction woes are abundantly evident in the final product, though the silver lining is that, for horror fans anyway, KNIGHTS gets a little better as it goes along.

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    “WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS” (Sundance Movie Review)

    Is it the cyclical nature of things that’s responsible for one of our most overexposed monsters to return in two revelatory films at 2014’s Sundance? Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE finds almost everything vampires have embodied in cinema in a lyrical, self-aware hangout led by two of our most poetic and appropriately vampiric actors, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Meanwhile, Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement’s brilliantly comedic WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS also encompasses most everything considered a vampire archetype, but in what’s easily one of the funniest horror-comedies in ages. Where plenty of morose vampires have contemplated their endless existence, these four bloodsucking flatmates in New Zealand attempt to keep up with it all, and give the viewer a gory, goofy time doing so.

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    “THE VOICES” (Sundance Movie Review)

    What’s the worst thing you’ve ever laughed at? It’s doubtful that THE VOICES tops it sure, but Marjane Satrapi’s film is playing with a similar sentiment in its pop-color focus on a mentally imbalanced man (Ryan Reynolds) spurred to kill by his talking cat. Awash with pink factory machinery, bright yellow windbreakers, chatty severed heads and cheery disposition utterly twisting the grim, gruesome content out of whack, THE VOICES is surely not for everyone. Those with a predilection for a little prodding outside their comfort zone and a willingness to chuckle at some terrible things will likely find it a tasteless, special little exercise.

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    “OUTPOST: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ” (Movie Review)

    Despite being much more imaginative and frightening than their popular subgenre counterpart DEAD SNOW, the OUTPOST films have been somewhat underrated by horror fans. By keeping something of a straight face in their depiction of undead Nazis, they mostly eschew the camp factor often associated with the concept, and perhaps are disregarded as a result. However, certain hardcore followers have stood by the series for its legitimate style and storytelling merits, and the newest addition to the franchise, OUTPOST: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ, retains those merits as it further explores the mythology behind the films.

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    “THE RAID 2″ (Sundance Movie Review)

    It’s unlikely there exists a 2014 movie with more spectacular bloodshed than THE RAID 2. Of course, that statement is a nightmare to those of a queasy nature, or with little constitution for ultraviolence. But anyone fearful THE RAID itself could not be topped, or that its sequel ballooning to a 147-minute runtime would do it a disservice, should begin to feel something in their shoulders. Not hype per se, but more like the thrilling anticipation that permeates the entire movie, as if gearing up to do something truly heart-pounding. As if the movie itself is an opponent. As if you’re waiting for its first punch. You’ll never see it coming, nor the second, or third, or the hammer, or the bat. THE RAID 2 forces its viewer to feel it all, leaving us bruised, exhausted and elated.

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    “LIFE AFTER BETH” (Sundance Movie Review)

    Somewhere, perhaps even at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, there is a film that’s like LIFE AFTER BETH, but with no zombies. That version is likely anyone’s idea of a “Sundance” movie; essentially, an indie about a devastating break-up. When you consider that alternative, it makes the unique, intimate LIFE AFTER BETH even better and its slot in the festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition truly satisfying. With horror— at least to this writer and I imagine many readers—is the best way to tell this type of story. Instead of a drab stab at realism, we’re treated to the sometimes sweet, oftentimes icky, intensely funny and cutting chronicle of getting on.

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    “24 EXPOSURES” (Movie Review)

    After his impressive and darkly comic horror debut with a segment of V/H/S, many horror lovers wondered when mumblecore auteur and occasional genre actor Joe Swanberg would tackle feature-length horror filmmaking. With his bent toward atmospheric, character-driven storytelling and associations with genre filmmakers like Adam Wingard and Ti West, it was only a matter of time before Swanberg found a horror story of his own to tell—yet fans of his V/H/S piece may be surprised that Swanberg opted out of startling, high-concept scares for the slow-burning dread of 24 EXPOSURES.

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    “COOTIES” (Sundance Movie Review)

    COOTIES may very well have one of the great opening title sequences. An exhaustive, repulsive and painfully up close document of the process that makes a chicken a chicken nugget, its nature may also very well prime the viewer for something COOTIES doesn’t seem too interested in being outside of the introduction: subversive and gross. And while the film is at points a very funny one, the ever-present reluctance to deliver on true carnage or amplify the bits of satire peppered throughout also make it a lacking one.

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    Notes on “COLD IN JULY” and “THE GUEST” at Sundance

    While “genre-heavy” in lineup, the 2014 Sundance Film Festival is not particularly confined to horror. In fact, a couple of this year’s most highly anticipated films see two of our brightest “new” horror filmmakers transition from one slice of pulp to another, carrying previous themes and aesthetics over to energizing, high quality thrillers that will be of no less interest to their, and our, fans.  Directors Jim Mickle and Adam Wingard, and their respective partners-in-crime (an apt term, here) Nick Damici and Simon Barrett have crafted two synth-driven, colorful, Carpenter font-using pictures that inadvertently turned into a fantastic double feature in Park City.  

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    “THE BABADOOK” (Sundance Movie Review)

    THE BABADOOK is absolutely fraught from its arresting opening sequence, in which single mother Amelia recalls, in nightmare, the car accident that took her husband Oskar away. The only thing that eventually pulls her from the aggressive dreamscape is an unrelenting shout from her son Samuel, who in turn was pulled out of Amelia on that very tragic day. More than an introduction to the stylish, aurally assaulting and often tremendous feature debut from Jennifer Kent, THE BABADOOK’s beginning serves to reveal that Oskar’s demise is still very much at the forefront of Amelia’s mind, with Samuel’s distant cries for help not a close second. Her son’s very existence comes with baggage, and as soon as the audience is hip to such, we’re primed for Kent’s exploring of how to reconcile the natural sentiment of sometimes just not liking your kid.

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    “DEVIL’S DUE” (Movie Review)

    Has the found-footage genre become so commonplace that moviemakers no longer feel the need to justify why anyone keeps filming? DEVIL’S DUE joins this month’s PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES in presenting scenes from the point of view of cameras whose owners should have long since abandoned the idea of capturing the moment.

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