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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Halloween Brings Werewolves, Innsmouth, a Demon, and Girls’ Gymnastics

October 30th, 2018 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

The Pinnacle

Burning (Film, South Korea, Lee Chang-dong, 2018) Aspiring writer obligated to return to his dad’s crummy farm loses his new girl to a mysterious rich dude (Steven Yeun.) Sublime and ambiguous suspense film that keeps the viewer questioning the nature of its central mystery. Yeun’s casual, collected menace makes him a bad guy for the ages.—RDL; Seen at TIFF; now in theatrical release.

You Will Know Me (Fiction, Megan Abbott, 2016) A hit and run killing turns the screws on a suburban family organized around the daughter’s potential Olympic gymnastics career. Taut, precisely observed examination of the noir heart lurking in the American success drive.—RDL

Recommended

Bad Times at the El Royale (Film, US, Drew Goddard, 2018) Four guests (Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson) check into a shady hotel on the Cali-Nevada border in 1969; retro quasi-noir ensues. Another B-picture on an A-budget, this near weightless film doesn’t feel 141 minutes long any more than it feels actually set in 1969. But everybody (especially Bridges) does their damn job, and Michael Giacchino turns in another great score, and that’s just enough to edge it over the state line to Recommended. –KH

Border (Film, Sweden, Ali Abbasi, 2018) Customs officer whose ability to smell fear and shame makes her a standout at her job feels a powerful attraction for a traveler whose Neanderthal-like features resemble her own. Beguiling weird tale framed, lit and edited in the style of a social realist drama.—RDL; Seen at TIFF; now in theatrical release.

When Animals Dream (Film, Denmark, Jonas Alexander Arnby, 2014) Shy teenager in a remote fishery town undergoes a strange physical transformation connected to the condition that has paralyzed her mother. Plays for much of its run time as a realist social problem drama, where the social problem is lycanthropy.—RDL

Good

The Endless (Film, US, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, 2017) Two brothers return to the cult compound they left a decade ago, where they discover that a bizarre space-time anomaly has their former community in its thrall. Non-Euclidean weird tale has its engagingly head-bendy moments, but by casting themselves in the leads the directors lose the acting punch they need to deliver their emotional arc.—RDL

Lovecraft’s Pillow and Other Strange Stories (Fiction, Kenneth Faig, Jr., 2013) This collection of (mostly) Lovecraft-related tales by a pre-eminent Lovecraft researcher only really hits a weird note in the first two “Tales of the Lovecraft Collectors” and in “Gothic Stories,” but most of the rest at least remain interesting, especially to those of us with strong opinions about (or interest in) Lovecraft research. “Innsmouth 1984” and “The Squirrel Pond” hit a sort of realist Ramsey Campbell horror note that Faig shies away from in the other tales. –KH

Noroi: the Curse (Film, Japan, Kōji Shiraishi, 2005) In his final documentary, a paranormal researcher reveals a sprawling case concerning a psychic child, eerie baby murmurs, and a man in a tinfoil hat. Ambitious found-footage horror constructs some genuinely creepy moments but could use a tighter edit..—RDL

Okay

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (Film, Italy, Francesco Barilli, 1974) Disturbing visions of repressed childhood trauma assail an overworked industrialist (Mimsy Farmer.) Stylish visuals and a a jittery, fawn-like performance from Farmer elevate this blend of giallo and old-school Freudian surrealism. But there’s more to surrealism than not making sense, and the script fumbles the alternate, non-linear logic necessary to the style.—RDL

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