Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Satanists, Demon Contagion, and a Science Vampire

October 31st, 2023 | 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.


El Vampiro Negro (Film, Argentina, Román Viñoly Barreto, 1953) Publicity-fearing nightclub singer (Olga Zubarry) runs afoul of a severe prosecutor (Roberto Escalado) when she declines to assist his hunt for a compulsive child killer (Nathán Pinzón.) Remake of M relegates the killer’s story to a subplot in a film noir tale of shaded morality packed with arresting expressionist imagery.—RDL

Ready or Not (Film, US, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett, 2019) Woman (Samara Weaving) marries into a wealthy family of board game manufacturers, little suspecting that a wedding night tradition gives her a one in thirty chance of being hunted down for Satanic sacrifice. Weaving strikes the requisite balance between resourceful and terrified in this tongue-in-cheek single-location pursuit thriller.—RDL

Roald Dahl Quartet (Films, US, Wes Anderson, 2023) Anderson films four Dahl short stories (“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” “The Swan,” “The Rat Catcher,” and “Poison”) as literal expressions of story telling, the cast (including Ralph Fiennes as Dahl, Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar, etc.) narrating the stories right through the fourth wall as the effects and stagehands switch out backdrops, props, etc. Somehow the combination of the completely literal and categorically abstract works, and evokes the same ironic flavor of humor as Dahl’s text. —KH

Thirst (Film, South Korea/US, Park Chan-wook, 2009) Turned into a vampire by an experimental vaccine, priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) re-enters the life of his childhood sweetheart Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin) to bad effect. A slowly accelerating burn punctuated by compelling combos of image and music, Thirst is a great vampire film and the weirdest adaptation of an Emile Zola novel you’re ever likely to see. —KH

When Evil Lurks (Film, Argentina, Demián Rugna, 2023) Two brothers who work a farm in a remote area trigger a demonic plague when they help to dump a possessed individual on the site of a rural road. Existentially and viscerally disturbing blend of the contagion and possession sub-genres superimposes cosmic indifference over the spooky Christianity associated with the latter. Its depiction of a pervasive supernatural menace that society has uneasily adjusted to puts it on the film inspiration list for The Yellow King Roleplaying Game: This is Normal Now.—RDL


Blue Hour: The Disappearance of Nick Brandreth (Film, US, Dan Bowhers, 2023) Documentary filmmaker Olivia Brandreth (Morgan DeTogne) investigates the disappearance of her photographer father (Nick Brandreth). Found-footage mockumentary can’t seal the deal with the ending and only occasionally hits the uncanny it endlessly invokes, but Bowhers deserves credit for taking a big conceptual swing. —KH

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Film, US, John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, 2023) Not-entirely-useless bard (Chris Pine) and strong female barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez) break out of prison and seek revenge on their weaselly rogue ex-comrade (Hugh Grant, once more absolutely masticating a villain part). Delightful Forgotten Realms tourism, a zippy fantasy heist, and legitimately funny and clever bits make this easily the best D&D movie, which is not a high bar. It would have been even better if any of its story or character beats had come as a remote surprise of any kind. —KH

Spectral (Film, US, Nic Mathieu, 2016) DARPA weapons researcher (James Badge Dale) embeds with a special forces unit fighting a revanchist insurgency in Moldova to investigate killer skeleton ghosts. If it had a modicum of characterization and an authoritative visual style, this novel mash-up of the war and SF horror genres would rate minor classic status.—RDL


The Great Magician (Film, Hong Kong, Derek Yee, 2011) Stage magician (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) arrives in 1920s Beijing to save his fiancee from an insecure warlord (Lau Ching Wan.) Leung and Lau give a masterclass in the profundity of movie star action to a colorful comedy that isn’t particularly looking to accommodate emotional depth.—RDL

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