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With the extremely disquieting news of all the cinemas belonging to the Cineworld chain closing in the UK and the US, it really does feel like that’s it for the major films of 2020.
While there’s still plenty of compelling films coming to cinemas (which, being in the dire position they are, I encourage you to support within whatever means possible), it looks like most engagement with film will be facilitated through streaming platforms, whether that’s new work or retrospectives.
This week leans more towards the latter, with plenty of schlocky thrills being made available in the lead up to Halloween (or during Halloween, if you consider the whole month as such).
Please note that a subscription will be required to watch.
Overlord - Netflix
The JJ Abrams-produced Overlord feels like a stealth adaptation of the first person shooter series Wolfenstein, with its pulp horror take on WWII. Set the eve of D-Day in June 1944, a group of American paratroopers fall behind enemy lines after their aircraft crashes while on a mission to destroy a radio tower in a small village near the beaches of Normandy. After reaching their target, the surviving paratroopers realise that as well as the Nazis infesting the village, there’s also a legion of the undead, as, of course, the Nazis have been tampering with the occult.
Watch: A clip from Overlord
It perhaps doesn’t realise its full potential, but Overlord is straightforwardly pleasurable in its gory action and blend of men-on-a-mission movie with Romero-esque horror. Adding to those thrills is Wyatt Russell, who is – finally – fully channelling the intensity and sardonic charm of his father Kurt, and the resemblance is both uncanny and electrifying.
A simple, blood-soaked burst of adrenaline and cathartic Nazi-killing.
Vampires Vs The Bronx - Netflix
Pitting the denizens of the Bronx against vampires that also happen to be agents of gentrification, director Oz Rodriguez’s horror-comedy is charming enough to deflect from its flaws. The film starts with and then thrives off of its community spirit, as main character Miguel, has been trying to get the word out about a block party that will help save a local bodega. In its presentation of the Bronx the film enlists appearances of New York royalty old and new – watch out for The Kid Mero of the Bodega Boys running an actual bodega, as well as Method Man as a short-tempered priest.
Watch: The trailer for Vampires Vs The Bronx
It’s a film well aware of the canon it’s getting involved with, and constantly signposts it – the world-building is jammed with references to vampire lore, with the main antagonist Murnau Properties named for the director of Nosferatu, their logo is a portrait of Vlad the Impaler, the vampires themselves resemble those from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the list goes on. Perhaps the film’s strongest element aside from the laid back comedic interjections from the adults is its approach to gentrification as a tool of white supremacy, as the vampires taunt the kids with jabs about how no one really cares about anyone in the area. That element of the film putting it in line with films like Attack The Block, right down to the zippy, Edgar Wright-like editing. A charming combination of horror, comedy, and jabs about gentrification, Vampires Vs The Bronx knows it isn’t reinventing the wheel, and that it doesn’t have to.
Also new on Netflix this week: Hubie Halloween
The Resident Evil franchise - Amazon Prime Video
Though a brand new origin story, that promises to be “more faithful” to the premise of the famous video games, is in development, Paul W.S. Anderson’s crowning adaptation of Resident Evil proved that faithfulness is not always equal to quality. If anything, the franchise’s weakest entry is Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the one that was a more straightforward adaptation of the action of Resident Evil 2 and 3.
In the films Anderson directed for the series, he knew that the most important thing to lift was the series’s unapologetic sincere bombast, retooling the mythology into whatever he felt like it could be, either mimicking the commentary of the video games on malevolent and deadly corporate malpractice, or as with Resident Evil: Retribution, creating a treatise on filmmaking itself. In the case of all of them however, the main connective thread is this: Paul W.S. Anderson is really proud of his wife Milla Jovovich, and will never pass up an opportunity to kick ass and pose in front of the camera amidst inventive set-pieces. Along with its consistently extremely creative gore and action that works even beyond its means, it’s a worthy endeavour indeed, and not one to turn your nose up at – unless you’re really that resistant to fun.
Also new on Prime Video this week: Black Box, The Lie
Things to Come - MUBI
Watch: The trailer for Things To Come
Serving as something of a counterbalance and palette cleanser for this week of pulpy horror thrills, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things To Come is calm and contemplative, as Isabelle Huppert gives a rich and sensitive performance as a woman navigating an existential crisis. Huppert plays Nathalie, a teacher of philosophy at a high school in Paris, dividing her time between her two children, former students and her very possessive mother.
The balance shifts when Nathalie’s husband announces he is leaving her for another woman, and Nathalie spends time reevaluating her life as she begins hanging out with former students, debating and joking and conversing with them in a house in the countryside. As the film unfolds over around a year of Nathalie’s life, it feels like quieter and more humble affair than Hansen-Løve’s prior film Eden, which made a transcendent journey out of French house music, but still an enticing and complex film that wonders about the inevitable.
Also new on MUBI this week: The Selfish Giant, The Other Side of Hope